He’s been boxing for just three years but Dominique Francis is already earning comparisons to the best fighter in the sport.
The 13-year-old South Florida native is being called "Little Mayweather" after Floyd Mayweather, who’s 45-0 as a professional and boxing’s brightest star.
Francis is a national champion, earning the 2014 Silver Gloves title earlier this year and he’s also won the Junior Olympic Golden Gloves title.
"I want to go to the top," Francis told NBC 6 South Florida. "I want to be something that nobody else can be."
Francis is going to great lengths to reach that goal. He travels more than two hours each day round trip on the Tri-Rail from Opa-Locka to Boca Raton after school, making the journey to work with veteran trainer Anthony Hamm.
Those train tracks serve as a bridge between two worlds – the neighborhood he’s trying to fight his way out of and the gym that may provide him the ticket.
"I just want to take care of my family, my mother, my father and my two sisters," Francis said. "I’m a good boxer and I can do well in my career, make money, and then after that give back to the less fortunate."
His day starts at 5:30 a.m., getting up for school, then, when classes are done, it’s on to the train. Francis will do his homework on the way there and back, with a couple of hours of sweat equity in between.
"I just have to man up and take what goes with the sport, hard work and dedication," he said.
The teen makes the trip that far north because of the guidance he can get from Hamm. The former boxer has worked with some of boxing’s biggest names like Arturo Gatti, Corey Spinks, Shannon Briggs and Sultan Ibragimov.
"You’re going to ride the Tri-Rail an hour and 15 minutes here and an hour and 15 minutes back just to train with me?," Hamm said. "I wasn’t training amateurs at the time but I said, 'absolutely, I’ll train him.'"
"He trains a lot of world champions. I feel like when I’m with him, I’m a professional. He’s magnificent," Francis said.
"I saw that desire, I saw that hunger. In his eyes, you could see nothing but guts, he can box with anybody," Hamm said. "At 106 pounds, he’s boxing with guys 132 and 123 that are number two in the world and he’s handling it."
Francis lost 6 of his first 10 fights, but since Francis joined forces with Hamm, he’s undefeated, pointing to improved footwork and attitude.
“When I first met Anthony, I had a big attitude, cocky, and I wasn’t humble," Francis said.
"He was like a Chihuahua," Hamm joked. "He’d roll his eyes or talk under his breath. He’d say 'I’m tired.' We got along like that until I said, ‘Listen, one thing is for certain. I know more than you. You want to learn what I know, you shut up and you do what you need to do.'"
"Him and my father, they talked to me and I just calmed down and humbled myself and just made my fists talk," Francis said.
"You can’t get big-headed, you can’t get cocky,” Hamm said. "You can be arrogant with an attitude because we need that in you as a fighter, but just remember, good fighters are good listeners."
For Hamm, the opportunity to work with someone so young and with so much potential brings his career full circle. After leaving high school in the 10th grade in Newark, New Jersey, Hamm went on to fight professionally.
"I made a lot of money and I blew a lot of money," he admitted. "This is my life, this is what I know. What other trainers do, that’s their business, but I’m a special type of trainer. I know how to start a guy from the bottom to the top. I love to teach this sport of boxing."
Hamm has now been working as a trainer for 28 years.
"He has a lot of experience. I’m thankful for it because he knows how it is for a fighter when they step in the ring," Francis said.
Hamm also understands the tough times his pupil is going through.
"Because of the way he came up, with nothing. He’s dedicated everything to taking care of his family. He has two sisters that he loves to death and he wants to take care of them. He’s only 13-years old playing the part of a man," Hamm said.
Francis said his father is an entrepreneur but it isn’t easy working and taking care of three kids. They’ve battled foreclosure and it’s those struggles that help motivate him.
"I don’t want to ask anybody for money," Francis said. "I want to have the best cars I can have. I want to have the biggest house. I want to own a whole building.”
Boxing gives him the outlet to try.
"It’s just a sport that makes me feel like a man, it makes me feel like I’m in control," he said. "I’m just real slick. When I get in the ring you don’t know what I’m going to do, bang with you or outbox you, whether I’m going to hit you with power or hit you with speed. You won’t know."
It’s that versatility and talent that has taken Francis all around the country from Kansas City to Washington, DC, to Las Vegas. Now he’s the top-ranked boxer in his age and weight class with an eye on the USA Olympic team in 2020.
In the meantime, he’ll work the speed bag and the heavy bag and run his five miles a day staying hungry.
"I want everybody to remember my name, I want my name to be a household name. When they think of me, they will think of boxing," Francis said.
"He’s a talented kid," Hamm said. "The only thing he can do is improve."
He also makes no bones about the protégé’s potential.
"World Champion," Hamm said. "If he continues on like he’s doing now and doesn’t lose that desire? No doubt, by far."