By Alaina Echevarria
Kernersville resident and professional boxer, Noel “The Holy Fire” Echevarria, is defending his American Boxing Federation (ABF) USA Lightweight Championship and fighting for the vacant Universal Boxing Organization (UBO) International Lightweight Championship in Jonesboro, Georgia on June 5. Noel has a winning record of 17 (11KO)-7 (4KO)-0 and is ranked in the top 50 lightweights in the United States. Noel’s last three bouts were victories by way of knock out.
Born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, Noel’s family migrated to York, Pennsylvania where Noel spent most of his youth involved with gangs until his family uprooted again and moved to Winston-Salem. Despite the move, Noel struggled with staying out of trouble, bouncing from school to school, until he dropped out of high school and ultimately ended up homeless. His combative nature earned the recognition of a friend’s mom who suggested he try boxing to put his talents to good use.
As an amateur boxer, Noel won the Junior Olympics in 2010 and in the following year, he made his professional debut at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. “I had the choice to fight a guy with a losing record or a guy with an undefeated record, with two knock outs, and I picked the guy with the undefeated record,” Noel remembers with a laugh. “Everyone was surprised I won.”
Noel continued to win, earning an undefeated record of 11-0. As Noel’s boxing career flourished, however, his personal life declined. Succumbing to the influence of drugs, Noel lost six highly publicized bouts in New York, California and Philadelphia, including two bouts against current world champions, Tevin Farmer and Oscar Valdez. “I was doing drugs right before the fights and not training the way I was supposed to,” he describes. “Had I been in shape, I could have beat both of them though,” Noel adds confidentially.
By 2016, Noel had lost everything, including boxing, and was living on the streets of Winston-Salem, often sleeping under bridges or in a tent. “I used to sleep in my car in the Walmart parking lot in Winston, then drive to my mom’s house to shower, then go to work,” Noel explains. “When I had any down time, I would read my Bible.” Noel believes it is through God’s grace that he lived through those trying years and by 2018 he was back in the ring training. “It was a lot of hard work to prove myself, to prove that I was changed,” Noel says. “I am still working very hard for this second chance.”
On June 30, 2018, Noel earned his first title, the UNBC America’s Lightweight Championship in Greensboro. “All of the Glory to God for the win, but still it felt so good when they wrapped that belt around my waist,” he recalls. He earned his second title a year later, also in Greensboro, the UNBC Intercontinental Super Lightweight Championship.
In between these victories, Noel’s personal life vastly improved with his marriage to personal trainer, Alaina Echevarria. “We met at the gym and that’s when I moved to Kernersville,” Noel remembers. Noel graduated high school and is currently studying business and entrepreneurship at Forsyth Technical Community College. He finds peace in driving his children to school every morning and watching them play in the cul-de-sac outside their home.
When Covid-19 closed the gyms in 2020, Noel had to get creative with his training. “My wife converted our garage into a training gym for me at home,” he explains, “but I also like riding my bike to the Mountain Bike Park in Kernersville and running around Salem Lake.”
On March 6, 2021, Noel won, by way of technical knock out at the end of the third round, the American Boxing Federation (ABF) USA Lightweight Championship in Jonesboro, Georgia. He is defending this title as well as fighting for the vacant UBO International title against opponent Rafael Reyes, out of New Mexico, on June 5 back in Jonesboro. “I’m so excited for this fight because I’ve been training so hard every day,” Noel says. “It’s going to be a good fight.” Noel promises a win though and hopes this victory leads to an opportunity to fight for an even bigger title in August. “I’ve had talks about fighting for the UBO World Title, but it’s one fight at a time, so I have to focus on this one first,” he explains.
Besides earning championship titles, Noel hopes that his boxing success benefits his family and the local community. “I hope to open some businesses in Kernersville and start a foundation to help troubled youth,” Noel explains. “If someone mentored me when I was younger, it would have made such a difference in my life. I’d like to make that difference.”
Noel is currently sponsored by Kernersville businesses, Just 4 You Meal Plans and Un-Knot You Massage & Physical Therapy. Sponsorship opportunities, including putting your logo on Noel’s fighting trunks, are available. For more information email HolyFireBoxing@gmail.com. To purchase pay-per-view tickets for Noel’s June 5 fight, visit TeamHolyFire.com or @TheHolyFire on Facebook.