Alexis “Lex” Rocha kept Giovanni Santillan on ice, waiting before his ring entrance in front of his fans at the Kia Forum in Inglewood on Saturday.
But it was Santillan of San Diego (32-0, 17 KOs) who delivered a cool, calculated performance, dropping Rocha of Santa Ana (23-2, 15 KOs) three times before referee Ray Corona stepped in, giving Santillan the well-deserved knockout victory at 1:13 of the sixth round.
A SHOCKER in Inglewood 👀
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) October 22, 2023
“I feel good. It was the outcome I was looking for,” said Santillan of the win. “You never know how a fight is going to turn out, especially with Alexis. He’s tough, he got up twice. I’m happy about that, I worked really hard with (trainer) Robert Garcia and my dad (co-trainer Memo Santillan). Santillan also thanked Brainstorm Fitness and his home gym, The Bxing Club in San Diego’s East Village where he trains.
“Both of them told me similar things, from everything they see in camp. They knew what I had to work on, they were constantly reminding me to stick to the game plan, keep my hands up, keep moving,“ said Santillan.
Santillan Turns The Tables on Rocha
Since his single previous loss, Rocha built himself into an aggressive, crowd-pleasing power puncher. Santillan wins his fights with a methodical approach as steady as a metronome.
Still, it was a risk for Rocha to take on an undefeated fighter from another promoter’s stable while biding his time as the WBO mandatory challenger to Terence Crawford.
El Gallo De Oro turned the tables on Rocha, outslugging the slugger with an impressive display of firepower. The distance fighter turned into a power-punching beast. He came at Rocha from the opening bell with chopping right hands, big hooks, and zero respect for Rocha’s power.
By the second round, Rocha’s nose was bleeding and the corner couldn’t stop it. Santillan peppered Rocha with short power jabs, never allowing him to get any offense going. After Corona warned Santillan about throwing low body shots in the fourth round, trainer Robert Garcia told Santillan to keep it up. “This is your fight!” said Garcia.
Seconds later, Santillan dropped Rocha with a hard left. Rocha got wearily to his feet, his face a bloody mess. With a lot of time left, Santillan worked to end the fight. He stayed calm, never changing his expression, even while he hunted Rocha down.
Rocha fought back but didn’t have enough steam to hold Santillan off. Santillan dug hard to Rocha’s body with repeated hooks, and Rocha suffered his second knockdown. By sheer will, he survived the round.
In round six, Santillan unloaded on Rocha, who finally sank to his knees out of exhaustion, and the fight was over. Rocha banged his gloves on the canvas in frustration, then got slowly to his feet to walk back to his corner.
Santillan, the one-time club fighter slowly working his way up the rankings, knew he was the B-side. “It’s always a lot different when you have all these eyes on you. It’s mostly his fans, his supporters (at the Forum). That’s what makes boxing such a great sport,” said Santillan.
Santillan landed 167 of 367 punches thrown (46%) against 110 of 274 for Rocha (40%).
Santillan’s face hardly had a mark on him, but he acknowledged he felt Rocha’s power. “But I felt good in there, I felt comfortable.”
“I needed to get this win to get big fights in the future. 2024 is going to be a big year for me and my team,” said Santillan. He thanked Split T Management and his promoters at Top Rank Boxing. “I asked for this fight, and they were able to make this happen.”
Santillan’s win is a significant shift in the welterweight division rankings, with the top names potentially aging out or moving up a division. Santillan would now be the favorite against anyone not named Terence Crawford.
Ramirez Runs Through Batista in Co-Main
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) October 22, 2023
In the co-main event, flashy super flyweight John “Scrappy” Ramirez of Los Angeles (13-0, 9 KOs) delivered his best win to date on his biggest stage with a fourth-round knockout over Ronal Batista of Panama (15-4, 9 KOs).
“Hey my people, welcome to the Scrap Show!” said Ramirez. “Shoutout to my coaches, we’ve been drilling that body over and over, and it came out tonight.” Ramirez said he was slow-cooking Batista, taking it slow before turning up the heat with power punching.
Ramirez fought with aggression but with purpose, cutting off the ring and keeping the firepower coming against Batista. Ramirez hit pay dirt with a left hook to the liver halfway through the fourth round. Referee Jack Reiss had to warn Ramirez back before resuming the action, eager to end the fight. He backed the wounded Batista to the ropes, pressuring and pouring on the hooks to the head, dropping Batista as Reiss waved off the fight at 2:30 for the win.
Ramirez landed 93 of 251 punches thrown (37%), against 60 of 260 punches Batista threw (23%). Ramirez is now the WBA mandatory challenger at super flyweight. Kazuto Ioka of Japan holds the title.
And The New: Gabriela Fundora Takes IBF World Flyweight Title
Gabriela Fundora of Coachella (12-0, 5 KOs) delivered an impressive power punching performance to take the IBF World Flyweight title from veteran Arely Muciño of Monterrey, Mexico (32-4-2, 11 KOs) by fifth-round knockout.
The 21-year-old sister of Sebastian Fundora was not intimidated in the least by the 34-year-old veteran. She went right at Muciño, using her reach to avoid return fire from Muciño. She is a relentless body puncher, and she used those body shots to weaken Muciño, nearly stopping her in the first round. In retrospect, it might have been easier for the Mexican if she did. She took four more rounds of punishment, suffering two knockdowns in the fifth round before her corner threw in the towel.
Fundora remained patient through the fight, using her reach and sitting down hard on her punches. Fundora landed 136 of 305 punches thrown (45%) against just 31 punches landed of 177 thrown by Muciño (18%).
“I had to work extra hard. We trained hard, stayed focused, and came out with the TKO tonight,” said Fundora after the win. “We stayed calm, we’re not going to go bum-rushing into the fight. At the end of the first round, I saw she was hurt. I knew it was going to be a long night.” Fundora said she planned to go home and enjoy her mom’s cannolis as a reward.
Sandoval Showdown Goes to El Niño
Ricardo “El Niño” Sandoval of Rialto (23-2, 16 KOs) pulled out the victory over Victor “Chucky” Sandoval of Tijuana, Mexico (37-4, 24 KOs) in a blistering ten-round flyweight fight. Scores were 97-93 twice and 96-94 for unanimous decision for El Niño. Chucky Sandoval took the fight on two weeks’ notice and gave El Niño all he could handle in a Mexican-style guerra. The pair went nonstop for a crowd-pleaser. Both will be welcome in the ring again.
Ricardo Sandoval landed 285 of 728 punches (39%), with 300 of 972 punches thrown for Victor Sandoval (31%). Ricardo Sandoval adjusted to land a higher percentage of punches on his opponent, which made the difference.
It’s Shontime at the Forum
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) October 22, 2023
“Shontime” Joeshon James of Sacramento (8-0-2, 5 KOs) scored an impressive first round TKO against promising super middleweight prospect David Stevens of Reading, Pennsylvania (13-1, 9 KOs). James drilled Stevens with a hard right hook and left hook for his first knockdown. Stevens got to his feet in bad shape, and James dropped him a second time with an uppercut. Referee Jerry Cantu let Stevens continue, but seconds later jumped in to stop the four at 2:52 of the round.
James is a former construction worker who fought 21 days ago to a draw on the Canelo vs. Charlo undercard. James has been a sparring partner for Alvarez, Erickson Lubin, and Joshua Buatsi. He’s also a Thompson Boxing alumni. Keep your eye on this 25-year-old power puncher.
Lightweight Iyana Verduzco of Los Angeles (1-0) won her professional debut against Clarice Morales (0-3-1) of Toledo, Ohio.