Jesse Walters was the ring bearer at his uncle Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters' wedding many years back. Thursday, Jesse will be bearing punches inside the ring in his professional boxing debut.
But as Jesse Walters, 18, has shown in several years of amateur boxing, his opponents usually have a greater difficulty bearing his punches.
"Based on his skills that he has shown in the amateur boxing ranks, when he is committed and training 100 percent, he's a tough guy to beat," said Zach Walters, owner of Jungle Boy Boxing in Duluth. "He's punching super hard and super fast. The foundation is there."
He even has a nickname like his uncle — "Primo" is stitched into his boxing trunks.
The card begins at 7 p.m. at Myth Live in Maplewood, Minn. Danny Huffman (2-0 with a knockout), another pro fighter from Jungle Boy Boxing, is on the card. Jesse "Primo" Walters weighs 133 pounds and will fight in the lightweight class.
"In the gym he's dropped guys that are 170 pounds," Zach said.
Jesse's journey from gym rat to amateur boxer and finally professional pugilist began when he was 6. But the sport didn't stick to him for long before he ventured into other sports. Hanging out and watching his uncle Zach make a name for himself locally and in the Upper Midwest helped draw him back to boxing by the time he hit sixth grade.
"I thought to myself, 'I can do that.' I fought all of the time outside of the gym," the younger Walters said. "I decided that I wanted to come back to the gym and give it a try. (Zach) got me a bunch of fights when I first started fighting and I caught up with a lot of the guys who already had fights."
Jesse fought nearly 70 times as an amateur and amassed a 58-11 record, including competing in seven national tournaments.
"But some of those 11 (losses), I went back and beat those guys," Jesse said. "All of the guys I rematched I did beat. The second time around it was a different story. It was competitiveness — 'No, I'm not about to lose again.'"
"Some he put a bad whooping on them," Zach said of the rematches.
Earlier this year, Jesse won his weight class at the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, where he was also named outstanding boxer for the entire tourney. Not long after that, Jesse graduated from Denfeld High School and set his sights on a professional boxing career.
Now he ditches the headgear and age brackets of the amateur ranks for the wild frontier of pro boxing.
But Zach says Jesse is prepared for those changes ... both in what the uncle will tell his nephew about his own boxing experiences and in training style.
"Ultimately I want to bring Jesse to a world championship fight. That's something that I got really, really close to," Zach said. "I trained him accordingly with good defense and an emphasis on power punching — punch accuracy and power."
Jesse's bout is scheduled for four three-minute rounds against 28-year-old Mark Slyter, who is 4-2 as an MMA fighter and 1-5 in boxing.
"(Jesse's) opponent is a tough guy. I've watched him fight twice," Zach said. "For his size, Jesse punches really hard. Once somebody feels that, they start thinking differently about their approach to fighting."
And the plan is for Jesse to land those power punches early in the fight.
I'm counting on Jesse connecting on a couple of hard shots in the first round and making the opponent think twice about coming in hard," Zach said. "Once that guy tries to box and move with Jesse, he's done."