Antonio Mireles is a man of few words. The Des Moines, Iowa native, a promising heavyweight recently signed to Split-T Management, looks set for an explosive introduction to professional boxing, but when speaking to him, you’d assume his chosen discipline was surfing or something far safer. It isn’t so much what he says though; it’s how he says it, with conviction, without doubt.
When speaking to Boxing Social, the winner of the US Olympic Trials in 2020 explained his decision to turn professional: “I sat and thought about it for a while. Of course, the Olympics was a big thing but even though I won the trials, I still came up short being picked for the team. And therefore, I considered waiting around for the next few years and going for 2024. After talking to coaches and my family, I understood that I didn’t have much desire to wait around and stay amateur. That’s when I really decided I’d be turning pro.
“I was ready [to step up to the Olympics]. Definitely. I trained with the USA team for a little bit and before that, I wasn’t so sure. Back home, it wasn’t easy for me to get sparring and there wasn’t a lot of fights, but then once I got out there and I got to train and work with guys of higher experience, I realised I could easily hang with them and outperform some of them. I’ve only got about 32 amateur fights; I wanted to get a little bit more, but it’s harder to get them out there [in Des Moines]. There’s nothing there. We knew we had to get out of Iowa and go with someone who has that experience. The boxing scene in Iowa is almost non-existent; it’s a big reason why I don’t have as many amateur fights as I’d like.”
The towering talent dubbed ‘The Lincoln Giant’ has been described by new manager David McWater as “a tremendous star of the future” with the respected head of Split-T explaining he is as excited by Mireles as he’s ever been when sealing a boxer’s services. When asked if that adds pressure to his professional journey, the first-generation Mexican-American agrees, welcoming the additional weight on his shoulders: “That’s what I like: adding pressure. I thrive off that, I feel like I need it and that it puts things into perspective for me. I feel like these guys [Split-T Management] see some potential in me and I want to capitalise and show them they’re not wrong.”
“It’s a great feeling,” the six-foot nine-inch heavyweight continued, “Like we said, with the number of guys they have and the amount of talent, it’s very exciting to know that he feels that way. I got a lot of respect for David because he’s had his eye on me for a while – even before I won the trials. He kept in contact with my coach, and we really started getting into serious talks last summer. He jumped on that, and I definitely feel like I made the right decision going with them.”
The winner of the 2020 USA Olympic trials and the 2019 National Golden Gloves and Eastern Elite Champion, Mireles knows about high expectations following recent successes. His record of 28-4 with 10 knockouts as an amateur demonstrates ability but finding himself left on the American Olympic shelf refused him the chance to find his ceiling in Tokyo. So, the journey now truly commences, and Mireles – one of five siblings raised by a wonderful single mother back home in Iowa – is certain he’s ready.
“This is a whole different ball game for me. All I’m rooting for is getting my first professional fight here in LA, and after that I would like to stay pretty busy. That’s important for me. Once I get one [fight], let’s keep the ball rolling and see where I can go from there. Obviously, my main goal is to one day become world heavyweight champion and even unifying the division. Maybe I win all the belts; I’m number one, I’m the best. Not even that, but I just want to be an exciting fighter. I want to be one that people watch, one that people talk about, that’s it really.”
“Back home, my gym [in Des Moines], it’s not really [a pro gym]. I’m the only adult there, everyone else is kids looking for something to do after school. I come out here to Robert Garcia’s and everyone in my gym is world-level talent, world champion. You feed off that; you realise that’s what it takes. If you can hang with them, well, that’s a real confidence booster,” the 24-year old explains, enjoying taking his first steps in Oxnard, California with Garcia’s world-renowned stable. He has been doing bits of work with Garcia, and with Vergil Ortiz Sr, settling in nicely.
The heavyweight division is bursting with young talent at present, with Efe Ajagba squaring off opposite Frank Sanchez on the undercard of the WBC title scrap between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, and with names like Filip Hrgovic, Daniel Dubois, Tony Yoka and Murat Gassiev lingering in or around the Top 20. It’s a good time to be a giant. Mireles knows the road to titles will be long and beset with obstacles, but by feeling comfortable under pressure, and by guaranteeing excitement when climbing the rungs of this new ladder, he could very well have everything he needs.
Main image: Split-T Management.