Some kids graduate from swimmies to the doggie paddle before they come around to the breaststroke and butterfly; some just jump feetfirst into the lake and take it from there.
Then there's Miguel Vazquez, who dove headfirst through a flaming hoop and into a lake that may or may not have been full of piranhas.
Making his pro debut in January 2006 at the age of 19, Vazquez opposed a guy who had a little bit of a future in the game himself: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
“We knew each other since we were amateurs,” Vazquez says during a break as he prepares for Tuesday's showdown against Algenis Mendez at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio (FS1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). “We fought as junior welterweights. I felt that I won that fight, but the judges decided to give it to him.”
Alvarez, himself only 15 and in his third pro fight, could have two losses on his stellar record instead of just the lone defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
After the four-round bout, judge Roberto Rodriguez Barajas saw it 39-37 for Alvarez, but Jesus Hernandez had it going the other way: 39-37 for Vazquez. Judge Juan Jose Chavez was the tiebreaker, and he called it 40-36 in favor of Alvarez.
Not many fighters open their career with a loss and go on to become world champions. Then again, not many fighters make their debut against a future world champion in his own right.
The two would eventually pair up again, this time in June 2008 at 147 pounds. The rematch ended up like the first meeting, with Alvarez earning a decision, only this time it was a unanimous one after 10 rounds.
Yet it was a meaningful event for Vazquez in that it would be his last fight at that weight. After the second loss to Alvarez, Vazquez dropped to 140 for his next bout, then settled in at 135 late in 2008.
He has stayed there since, winning a world title in August 2010 with a victory over Ji-Hoon Kim and retaining it until September 2014, when he dropped a split decision to Mickey Bey.
Alvarez remained at 147 for a time before moving up to 154, meaning a third Vazquez-Alvarez bout is highly unlikely to ever take place. But looking back, did Vazquez ever envision two talented teenagers in Mexico carving out championship careers?
“Canelo, honestly, I didn’t,” Vazquez admits. “But in my mind I knew I would become a champion. People would see what I am. That was my dream.”
For full coverage of Vazquez vs Mendez, visit our fight page.