Santana spoke loudly in his “ShoBox” debut this past November when he impressively halted the unbeaten Juan Garcia in Miami. He floored Garcia a couple of times before finishing him off with a big left in the fifth frame. Gordon Hall, executive producer of the series, commented, “When I shook his hand, he had big hands; that’s the first thing I thought. Then after seeing him fight, obviously, we knew that he was an established amateur and he certainly had a ‘Knockout of the Year’ candidate. He’s a power-punching fighter.”
Glaser’s assessment of the Cuban is such: “What I like about him is that he trains every single day whether he has a fight or not. He’s always in shape, around his weight, walking around his weight at ‘40, ‘41 and he fights at ‘35. He’s a tenacious guy once he gets in there in the ring. He punches tremendously with both hands. He’s got a tremendous chin and he’s been sparring with world-class fighters since he came over and was a pro debut guy. He just has what it takes to become a world lightweight champion.” And unlike many of his countrymen, discipline was not ditched at the border with Santana. “Most of the Cubans that came over,” continued Glaser, “like [Joel] Casamayor, [Santana] came over at 119 pounds in the amateurs and in the pros, he’s 130. He’s fighting at ‘35 and he was a ‘32-pounder in the amateurs. In his early fights, he was a ‘30-pounder. So my point is he’s where he’s supposed to be for his weight class as he’s maturing, where these other guys are way out of their weight class. [Ramon] Garbey fought at 165 in the amateurs; he couldn’t even make cruiserweight when he came over here. They’re all like that.
“He’s totally different. He’s well-grounded. He’s a different guy. He doesn’t hang around like other Cuban fighters. He’s not a go-to-Disney-type-of-guy after a fight.”
Through his co-manager, Sebastian Sauleva, Santana - who doesn’t say all that much - said of life in the States, “I have adjusted very good.” And for what he likes best about this country, he said simply and tersely, “Liberty and opportunity.” It’s enough to make his promoter bellow, “Only in America!”
So there is such a thing as a disciplined and hassle-free Cuban boxer, one free from all the usual…umm…issues (to put it kindly) normally associated with them? “First of all, he comes from a good family. He’s a very good kid,” explained Sauleva. “He has a good girlfriend. But most of all, he comes from a good family.”
Right now, Santana is 14-0 with 11 stoppages to his credit (after an amateur career that saw him go 189-3) and he’s still just 24 years old. He could be on the fast track to a title.
“If he wins on Friday night, he should get another ‘ShoBox’ date this summer. Then after that, we’re probably going to fight [WBA lightweight titlist] Richie Abril. The kid will be number one in the world in the WBA and two Cubans in Miami, we should draw a big crowd. It’ll make history; two Cubans have never fought each other for a world title,” said Glaser, who is sky-high on Santana. Sauleva is a bit more effusive, stating, “He’s gonna become another [Manny] Pacquiao, another ‘Manos de Piedra’ [Roberto Duran], people like that.”
OK, let’s pump the brakes a little bit here.
Hall puts things into perspective, saying, “Santana looks really impressive and I really think he has the possibility of going to the next level.”
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