The father helped Everett win its first Super Bowl and went on to play Division 1 college football. The talented son stands poised to eclipse even those lofty athletic accomplishments.
Kinjo Thomas Espada, the 16-year-old son of former EHS and Rutgers University football player John Espada and his high school classmate, Kim Dang Espada, is an aspiring professional in Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and boxing and is already considered one of the best amateurs in New England at both crafts.
Muay Thai allows competitors to use their fists, elbows, knees and shins. Anyone who has seen Kinjo Espada compete agrees that his skill, quickness, strength, and power are off the charts.
Espada, a 5-foot, 7-inch, 140-pound sophomore at Everett High School, is trained and coached in boxing by his father, John, a former 6-foot-4-inch college defensive end and EHS lineman who blocked for running back Omar Easy during the 1997 Super Bowl championship season. John coaches and trains several boxers at the Hard Knocks Muay Thai and MMA center on Bow Street that is owned by competitive fighter Bill Newcombe. Kinjo’s Muay Thai coaches are Newcombe, Julio Pena, and Zeb Salamanca.
“Kinjo is very athletic, and his goals are to go as far as he can in all combat sports,” said John, whose father was a boxer. “He wants to box professionally and wants to fight professionally in Muai Thai – and he wants to pursue theater and acting and things like that.”
Kinjo is off to a sensational start in Muay Thai, winning four fights in impressive fashion in Rhode Island. He has emerged as the top 16-year-old competitor in the region and defeated older fighters as well.
“His striking is phenomenal,” said his father. “For his age, he’s years ahead of other competitors.”
Kinjo, who is of Italian, Puerto Rican, and Vietnamese descent, is likely facing a decision in the next two years of whether to turn professional in both Muay Thai and boxing, which is much more financially lucrative of the two. A career in the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is also a possibility.
Kinjo is on track to begin his amateur boxing career later this year. Until then, he will focus his training regimen on Muay Thai.
“The reason why it’s important to have this type (Muay Thai) of base structure is that it’s giving him the conditioning, strength, work ethic, and the will,” said John. “For Muay Thai he has to worry about elbows, knees, and kicks. For boxing, he has to worry about two hands. With that sense of defense and strategy from Muay Thai, he has the best of both worlds.”
Kinjo may be the best athlete at Everett High School who is not playing a varsity sport. Many football observers say his extreme speed, quickness and explosiveness would be assets for the Crimson Tide.
“He’s very athletically gifted,” said John. “I’m very proud of him. He’s going to be something very special.”
Kinjo, who trains with his best friend, Nick Rossi, also a Muay Thai student at Hard Knocks, has been busy preparing for his next fight in March. Kinjo won a unanimous decision in his last, three-round bout.
“I like boxing a bit more, but Muay Thai is really good for me, too,” said Kinjo. “I’d like to pursue a professional career one day. Bill Newcombe and my father are great coaches and I’m grateful to them. I’ve been asked about playing football but I have a passion for fighting.”
Asked what sets him apart from other Muay Thai fighters, Kinjo said humbly, “I’m pretty fast.”