He was one of the most compelling athletes in the history of the city, a speedy, shifty and electrifying running back for the Jags and later a two-time national team champion in track and field with South Plains College, starring in the decathlon.

Yes, Nelson Hampton was a highlight waiting to happen, and often did, in high school and beyond. Now the superbly talented, all-around fine fellow is back in the sporting news, this time as a professional boxer.

Hampton fought on the undercard Saturday of the Brandon Figueroa-headlined card at Bert Ogden Arena, and improved his pro record to 7-2 with a dominant four-round decision. Fighting in the lightweight division, which runs from 130 to 135 pounds, Hampton has made quite a mark so far, as previously he had scored a tremendous win against a top-flight opponent, in Houston back in June. Known as the “Little Cat” during his Econ days, Hampton now goes by the ring moniker “Hot Hands,” and says he is loving every minute of his new passion and pursuit.

“I had been wanting to try boxing for a long time,” Hampton explained as he sat in the stands following his victory over Arizona import Jesus Arevalo. “I really miss football sometimes but boxing is great, I am having a good time doing it, feeding my family and trying to move up in the rankings.”

Hampton, flanked by relatives Brian and Gene Iglesias, did his thing well Saturday, starting fast and taking the action to his foe. Though Arevalo rallied midway home, the local favorite was able to post a unanimous decision, and commented that he is using all the things he has learned in other sports to his advantage in the ring.

“Football, track, it all helped me, because being an athlete, you just adjust and learn the new sport,” he said. “I wasn’t used to it at first and I was all wild, all over the place. But now I am more technical, have gotten stronger, and have learned a lot. Tonight this guy was a lefty, so that took some adjustment, too. It’s fun to learn a new sport.”

One thing that has benefited Hampton is hooking on with the Figueroa gym in Weslaco, where he trains.

“Those guys are awesome they have taught me a lot so far, they know what they’re doing and they have been very helpful to me. They have shown me tricks in the ring, and being with them has gotten my career on track.”

Hampton admitted to a bit of nerves with his family in the crowd – he has a son, King, and a daughter, Korea – but added that the extra motivation paid off.

“Every time I go out there I try and get better,” he said. “And I feel like I am improving, my next fight will be in California in November and it’s a big opportunity. The promotors, Premier Boxing Champions, they like the way I put on a show and I hope to get to the point where I can fight for a title someday.”

Hampton knows that his boxing career will not last forever. He has definite plans in that regard.

“I just want to see where this takes me, and when my time is done, it’s done,” he said. “Right now I am enjoying it and the thing is, it’s not a team sport. All my life I competed as part of a team, but this is different, it’s just me out there and I have to depend on the work I put in beforehand, and then just do what I can do.”

That includes a strenuous workout training routine with the Figueroas, and plenty of advice from his family.

“I am always calling him, bugging him about his workouts and diet,” said Gene Iglesias, himself a Jag standout at tackle back in the day. “Even though I live in Houston now I try to check in with Nelson all the time and make sure he is doing the right things.”

Hampton laughed.

“Yeah, he’s always on me: ‘What did you eat today?’ But it’s good because everyone needs someone telling you the way it is, helping you with discipline. The hardest part of all this is diet, because as a fighter you can’t just eat what you want.”

After a week off to rest, the pugilistic pride of Edinburg will be back at it, training and learning more skills as he attempts to make it to the big time. Knowing what he has accomplished so far in sports, and given his extraordinary ability as an athlete, it stands to reason that the Little Cat, aka Hot Hands, will be a smash hit before he is through.