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It's been talked about so much that it’s almost cliche now. The era of fighters who were raised in the sport is upon us. Fighters are realizing at a younger age that they want to be fighters or that they can take the martial art they specialize in and add to it.
Miguel Baeza is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Baeza took his first fight just before his 19th birthday. He rattled off a handful of wins and turned pro at 22-years old. While that is young to get into the sport, it could almost be expected with how young the seed was planted.
“My uncle introduced me to boxing when I was a kid. He was an amateur boxer back in Puerto Rico,” Baeza recalled of his early childhood. “When we were kids, he’d have us put on the gloves and box with each other or do drills. It wasn’t something that we did every day, but every time we saw each other, we’d get into boxing otr talking about boxing and I loved it. I loved doing it.”
From hearing stories of his uncle’s career and seeing the crowd’s reactions to professionals like Felix Trinidad, Baeza felt pulled towards the sport. Despite feeling that love though, he never really had thought of being a fighter until he saw that seminal event.
“I just never really thought I’d be a fighter, but I knew I loved fighting,” Baeza admitted. “And then I think I was 11 or 12 years old when I saw the first Ultimate Fighter, and when I saw that, I knew I’m fighting - I’m going to be a fighter.”
Although it wound up a dream that day, he knew he couldn’t divulge his new career goal to everyone.
“I never said it out loud to anybody because, you know, you tell your mom you’re going to be a fighter and she’s probably going to be like ‘yeah, okay. You’re going to college,” he said with a laugh. “So I kept it to myself.”
And according to Baeza, his mom and dad never suspected that those early boxing lessons would lead to anything. He figures that they saw it as a playful hobby with a family member.
“They thought it was just what he does with his uncle… it was just something they just have a good time doing,” he said. “Boys being boys punching each other, you know? Little did they know he was grooming me.”
Baeza notes that his mom and dad, while not immediately into the idea of their son getting punched in the face for a living, now attend every fight of his they can. They won’t be able to catch him in the Apex, but they’ll be watching him put his years of mitt work with his uncle to good use.