Local fighter wins world championship

Echevarria hopes his story can inspire more young people to achieve their goals.

Local fighter wins world championship
August 18
13:46 2021

Noel “The Holy Fire” Echevarria defeated former world champion Rodrigo Guerrero in a lightweight fight to win the vacant Universal Boxing Organization World Light Title in Atlanta, Georgia, on Aug 14.

“The fight didn’t go exactly how I planned, because I wanted to take him out a lot earlier,” said Echevarria about the fight. “We train for the best and prepare for the worst and we were kind of in the worst area by having to go the distance with him. He came as a former world champion and he definitely brought it.  

“I tried to knock him out between rounds three and four, but once I saw I wasn’t going to knock him out, I had to out-box him. I out-boxed him and won a unanimous decision.”

Echevarria, a native of Puerto Rico, relocated with his family to Winston-Salem from Pennsylvania when he was a teenager and now trains in Kernersville. Echevarria has battled many demons throughout his life to reach his goal of becoming a world champion.

“When they said that I was the champion, even now I am speechless, because I am sitting here looking at a world title and it’s mine,” he said. “I cried tears of joy and all I could think was ‘Thank God,’ because of how much work we put in to get to this point.”

Echevarria became interested in boxing after a suggestion from a friend’s mother. As a youth, he was involved in a lot of fights and the friend’s mother thought boxing would be a great way for him to channel that energy into something positive. He soon made his way over to the 14th Street Recreation Center to start boxing.

“I always had a fighter’s heart, because I would always get into trouble for fighting when I was younger and messing with gangs and stuff like that,” he said. “I started early with drug habits and gang affiliation in Pennsylvania. I was super young, but I was always the meanest, so I already knew I had that in me to fight, but I didn’t know about boxing.”

Never one to hold his tongue and always confident in his skills, Echevarria was thrown into a sparring session with a professional fighter on his second day and was defeated badly. He learned that there was more to boxing than just having the will to fight.  

From that day forward, he was determined to learn the art of boxing. After training for six months and learning what it would take to become a pro, Echevarria knocked out the same guy in a sparring session, letting him know he had what it took to become a professional himself.

Echevarria showed a lot of promise as an amateur, winning the Junior Olympics in 2010. He made his professional debut a year later. Echevarria would go on to win his first 11 bouts and was well on his way to a great career until it was derailed by succumbing to the influence of drugs.  

He would go on to lose six consecutive fights while battling his drug addiction until one day he chose to not let his addiction win. He gave his life to the Lord, kicked his addiction, and got back into the gym that allowed him to get into peak shape to box once again.

“God, to be honest with you,” Echevarria answered when asked how he overcame his addiction. “In 2015, I overdosed and I actually died, and they finally resuscitated me. I was in a coma from that Friday and woke up that Sunday. When I woke up, I said I had to turn my life around.”

After leaving the hospital, Echevarria entered into a rehab facility to address the issues he was dealing with mentally. He left the facility, but soon went back to doing drugs once again. Echevarria hit rock bottom when he was living in a tent, homeless. He became fed up with the way he was living and finally quit drugs cold turkey.

To help with his recovery, Echevarria began working two jobs and started working out once again. He was able to afford a car and then met his future wife along the way. He feels he finally has kicked his bad habits for good and has the proper support system around that allowed him to win his current world title.

“To be honest, I really didn’t think I would get here so quickly,” he said about his recovery.  

Giving back to the next generation is very important for Echevarria. He currently trains several young boxers and gives them words of wisdom so they can hopefully avoid the mistakes he made in his life. He also has a goal to start a business in the city that will allow him to employ troubled youth to get them off the streets.

“I train a couple of young’uns now and I say to them all the time that ‘if you think it’s going to be easy, you’re already losing, because it’s not going to be easy,’” he said. “As long as you don’t give up, it’s worth it in the end and once you get your hand raised and you get that belt strapped around your waist, that hard work makes it all worth it.

“That’s what I tell every single one of them and to make sure they put God first, because when you put God first, He will make sure doors are unlocked and all you have to do is walk through that door.”

Echevarria takes no credit for his remarkable recovery. He gives all credit to God, his family and friends. He says without them, he would not have made it to this point.

“They always keep me motivated and they always keep me humble and grounded,” he said about his loved ones and mentor.

Echevarria feels blessed to have made it through all the mistakes he made as a young man. He has friends that were not fortunate enough to survive. That motivates him to continue pressing forward and promoting positivity to the young people around him and showing people outside of Winston-Salem that there are great athletes here. Currently, Echevarria is ranked in the top 35 lightweights in the United States and top 10% in the world.

For more information on Noel Echevarria, please visit his website at 

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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