Enmanuel Guerra moved to Miami Beach from Cuba in 2012 and quickly got the attention of the local boxing community.
“There is not a fighter in the world who would not have a hard time with him,” said Mickey Demos, Guerra’s boxing trainer. “He’s a banger.”
Guerra is 15 years old.
When the 5-foot-11-inch, 150-pound teen hits the bag, it sounds and feels like a baseball bat. He bloodies and bruises his knuckles during workouts even though his hands are taped and he wears gloves.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“I am at the pro level,” said the soft-spoken Guerra, who has a bit of Ali in his confidence. “By the time I am 18, I will have a world championship.”
Guerra grew up fighting bigger kids in a fight-club type setting in the hills near his hometown of Barrio Capiro, near Santa Clara, Cuba. No referees. No protective gear. Old T-shirts used as boxing gloves.
Today, Guerra throws such devastating punches that kids his age are no match. Instead, he spars with older and bigger professional fighters.
“As long as he stays focused he will be a world champ,” said Courtney “CJ” Jackson, 27, of Homestead, an undefeated professional boxer who often spars with Guerra.
During the week, Guerra said he enjoys school as a freshman at Miami Beach Senior High School. One of his goals was to learn English and he has become fluent in just a few years.
After school, Guerra’s father scurries him across the bridge to an Upper Eastside boxing gym for a grueling five-hour workout. There he does countless drills including speed and bag work.
Though he appreciates the value of education, Guerra said boxing is his destiny.
“I have never seen anything like him,” said Demos, who has coached for more than 40 years and serves as the head coach for the University of Miami boxing team. “Most pros don’t train like this.”
Demos has words of caution for anyone who gets in the ring with Guerra: “When he hits someone, they drop.”