HeadBlader Feature: Father-Son Boxing Duo Jesse James Leija and James Leija II - HeadBlade

HeadBlader Feature: Father-Son Boxing Duo Jesse James Leija and James Leija II

HeadBlade - Jesse James Leija

Jesse James Leija is a gentleman boxer and a conundrum in many ways. In a sport known for its "take while you can" lifestyle, Leija rejected this mentality during and after his career. He dedicated his mind and body to boxing and continues to give back to those around him in retirement.

Raised in a boxing family, Leija didn't start boxing until he was nineteen. Despite his late start, he quickly made a name for himself, achieving a 25-5 record in his three-year amateur career and earning a spot in the 1988 Olympic Trials. His brief amateur career didn't hinder his professional one; he boxed professionally for over sixteen years, an impressive feat for a fighter of his caliber.

Unlike most fighters who choose self-promoting nicknames, Leija took the name "Jesse" to honor his father who trained him. His first professional fight was on October 2, 1988, where he knocked out Oscar Davis in the first round at age 22. Leija remained undefeated in his first 30 bouts, securing 28 wins and 2 draws, leading to his first world championship: the WBC Featherweight title. He retired with a record of 47 wins, 7 losses, and 2 draws.

Leija's career is marked by numerous accomplishments, including two world titles (WBC Featherweight and IBA Lightweight). He fought and defeated 15 World Rated fighters, 3 Olympians, and 4 World Champions. Unlike many fighters who choose easier opponents to extend their careers, Leija sought out elite fighters across multiple divisions, including Micky Ward, Azumah Nelson, Gabe Ruelas, Kostya Tszyu, Shane Mosley, and Oscar De La Hoya. For his final fight, he took on World Champion Arturo Gatti for the WBC Light Welterweight title, showcasing his desire to face top competition.

Leija's fights took place in renowned venues such as the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Caesar’s and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the Telstra Superdome in Melbourne, Australia. Despite his extensive travel, he never forgot his roots, hosting 22 bouts in San Antonio, including one of the first events at the Alamodome.

In retirement, Leija continues to give back. He supports the Miracle League of San Antonio, which provides children with mental and/or physical challenges the chance to play baseball. He was honored at the 2nd Annual Miracle League All-Star Evening and his Leija Dodgers team participates in the league's fall season. Leija also supports the South Texas Hispanic Fund through the San Antonio Area Foundation, which addresses local issues in education, health, human services, community development, and arts and culture, highlighted by the annual Ringside SA boxing gala event.

Leija also opened ChampionFit Gym, where he trains a wide range of individuals, from teens to mothers to business professionals, alongside amateur and professional boxers. The gym focuses not just on boxing technique but also on promoting an overall healthy lifestyle.

Respected in the boxing world and his community, Leija is known for his integrity, self-discipline, hard work, and tenacity. He has been honored for his achievements both in and out of the ring, including his induction into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.

James Leija’s accomplishments in sports, business, and community support make him a legend in his community. However, it is his character and dedication to his family that stand out the most. Loved by those closest to him, Leija's family support, especially from his wife and children, highlights his dedication as a family man.


Beyond Leija's story, we had some specific questions for him as well. Check it out here:

Any people that inspired you in your career or prior?

My dad and Muhammad Ali. My dad taught me a lot about life and boxing. Ali inspired me with his love for everyone and his fight to be himself.

When did you start shaving your head and why?

I started shaving my head in 1994 shortly after I won the world Title because I was started to thin out a little so I beat it to the punch!

How did you find HeadBlade?

In Las Vegas at the MGM, a guy asked how I shaved my head. I told him I used a regular razor. He gave me a HeadBlade and said he invented it. It was Todd Greene!

Words of wisdom, core ideas, or quotes you live by?

One of my favorite quotes I lived by during my boxing career was “The harder I work the luckier I get!” Still live by it!


HeadBlade - James Leija II

James Leija II was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and from a young age was already following the beat of his own drum. James’ creative mind guided him to become a poet, musician, artist, and athlete during his formative years. 
In 2013 James II became the first member of his family to graduate with a bachelors degree; he majored in psychology while competing as an amateur boxer in the San Antonio area. Shortly after graduation, James followed his father’s footsteps and became a professional boxer after a very successful amateur boxing career. 
In 2018 James was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and made a life changing decision to step away from the ring and focus on an even bigger fight, his mental health.

Since that time, James and his family have become a staple in the San Antonio area for their dedication to the community as well as their philanthropic work. James and his family train the San Antonio Spurs during their off-season and have been doing so for the better part of 20 years. He is happily married with his wife, Annia Leija, and together they have a 6 year old daughter, Vanaé Leija.

James Leija II is currently co-owner and the creative director behind San Antonio’s most successful boxing studio, Leija Boxing x Fitness. Leija II also serves as co-chair to The Leija Family Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help underfunded and under-highlighted mental health programs in the central and South Texas area.


And some final words from James Leija II:

What did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to inspire and motivate others like my father did in our community. I didn't have a specific occupation in mind, but I did become a professional boxer.

How did you feel after shaving your head for the first time?

I felt unique and empowered. I liked standing out from others.

How did you find HeadBlade?

My father was a sponsored HeadBlade athlete. I saw HeadBlade products at home and was interested in the brand. I even met the late HeadBlade founder, Todd Greene, several times.

Advice for someone debating whether to shave their head?

Try it out! You already know how you feel with hair, so why not try something different? If you're considering it, others probably think you should too.


Thank you for sharing your story! Make sure to follow the Leija family on socials at @jessejamesleija, @rmblby, and @leijaboxing. And don't forget to check out the Miracle League of San Antonio and annual charity boxing event founded by the Leija family, the Red Carpet Brawl!