After his first professional bout last Saturday, the 22-year-old southpaw donated all his earnings to a local charity that helps poor children.
“I want to be a world champ. I want to break records, but I don’t want to be a pro boxer forever,” said Pagan, who dropped out of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Midwood to pursue his boxing career.
“Boxing is a place where I can help people less fortunate than I am,” he said, “and help the needy.”
Pagan, who is Puerto Rican, grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and is a devout follower of the Hebrew religion, a sect of Judaism.
Every week, he and his father, Robert — who raised his son to think of others — pray at the Sh’Ma Yisrael Temple on Saratoga Ave. in Brownsville.
“I care for people,” said Pagan, who quotes effortlessly from the Old Testament. “I love to help people.”
The five-time Daily News Golden Gloves winner — he garnered the fifth title in the 141-pound open division in March — started his boxing career when he was 13, after a schoolyard scuffle at Intermediate School 220 in Borough Park.
After that, his mother secretly signed him up for boxing lessons at the famous Bed-Stuy Boxing Club.
Pagan’s father — who boxed in one fight professionally and was forced to quit the sport because of an irregular CAT scan — found out about his son’s new hobby and at first didn’t approve.
“I was so discouraged when I couldn’t box anymore, I didn’t want it around,” said the 47-year-old dad, who is also his son’s trainer. “But when he started in the gym, I started to see the talent in him, and that’s what made my feelings revive.”
The father-son team has pushed hard so Pagan could reach the pros. He has worked out two to three hours a day for years. Two years ago, he earned his high school diploma by taking night classes.
He also has had to give up trips to the movies and nights out with friends.
“I don’t really have friends right now,” said the boxer. “That’s why I have my father; he teaches me the ropes of life, and who to trust and who not to.”
But the biggest lesson Pagan’s father taught him was how to act outside of the ring, treating all people with dignity.
“I hate to see people suffering; I give my last dollar to someone asking for change,” said Pagan, who volunteers with his dad at a nonprofit organization that adopts and places African refugees with American families.