On February 20th, 2021, for me and many fight fans, the movie “Rocky” came to life. Jovanie Santiago (14-1-1, 10 KOs), a relatively unknown boxer from Puerto Rico, made the best of a short-notice opportunity against former four-time world champion Adrien “The Problem” Broner. We delved into his chances in the lead-up. In an exceptional performance, Santiago gave the former champion more than he could handle for much of the fight.
In a shroud of drama that typically hovers over any event Adrien Broner is involved with, Broner won a questionable unanimous decision. According to Compubox stats, Santiago outperformed Broner in both punches landed and thrown.
I recently sat down with Santiago. We talked about the events leading up to the fight, the fight itself, what he thought about the decision, and what the rest of 2021 looks like for Team Santiago.
Please enjoy this Q n A with Jovanie Santiago, a 31-year-old native of Puerto Rico.
JR: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. The first time we spoke was 48 hours before your showdown with Adrien Broner. You told me you felt good and that you were ready to show Broner and boxing fans who Jovanie “El Lobito” Santiago is. We will get to that soon. But first, talk about the night before the fight. How did you feel? Were you nervous at all?
JS: I felt fine. I wasn’t nervous, and I went to bed feeling confident.
JR: When one encounters Adrien Broner inside and outside the ring, there is always some drama or distraction that takes place due to his personality. The first distraction was he wasn’t able to make the contracted weight at 140 lbs. With less than 24 hours to the weigh-in, his team requested that the fight be made at 147lbs. Tell me what happened. Did you know any time before that day the possibility of his team asking for the weight to be changed to 147lbs?
JS: No, we never imagined that his team would ask the weight to be moved up one whole weight class. We knew that there was the possibility that he may be one or two lbs. over, but not seven.
JR: What was the conversation like when his team approached yours to request that the weight limit be changed to 147lbs.?
JS: The initial conversation happened between the promoters. He asked my team what we thought about it. We had worked so hard to get to this point, we had no choice but to accept the fight.
JR: Tell me about the press conference. Broner was himself, but he has been here before. However, this was your first press conference of this magnitude. What did it feel like being on that stage for the first time? Did any of Broner’s antics or words bother you?
JS: I felt fine. All my hard work prepared me for this moment, and I was comfortable. And thankfully the event nor Broner affected our confidence or my thoughts.
JR: During the press conference, Adrien Broner was a little more reserved and look a little intimidated by your self-confidence. Did you get the feeling that you may have intimidated him?
JS: Yes, I noticed that he wasn’t his usual self. Maybe he saw something in me that concerned him.
JR: The night of the fight finally arrives. The bell rings, signaling the first round to begin. Tell me what was going through your mind and what you wanted to achieve during that first round?
JS: I thought initially it would be a tough, aggressive fight, so I analyzed him to see what he was bringing to the fight. I honestly thought he would be more aggressive based on what he said to the press before the fight. They didn’t give me much of a chance and said that I would only last 3 to 4 rounds against him. Therefore, I expected him to be more aggressive. It turns out that it was a feel-out round for both of us. I eventually opened up like I said I was going to do. Even if he had come out aggressive, I was still going to apply pressure because it had been my plan all along.
JR: At what point in the fight did you start to get comfortable. When was the moment that you said to yourself, “I got him,” and started to get loose offensively?
JS: It was a matter of being mentally prepared in confident in this fight. I planned to attack, and we stuck to it and raised the offensive output gradually each round.
JR: Did you sense any desperation from Adrien Broner during your relentless pressure and attack on the body?
JS: I didn’t sense anything. If he felt desperate, I didn’t sense it because I was so focused on executing the fight plan that I was only worried about making sure I stuck to it. I don’t allow myself to think my opponent is hurt; even though I may be dominating, I always am in the mindset that my opponent is fine. I have to keep working until I’m sure he’s finished.
JR: In the fourth round, the referee penalized you a point for hitting after the bell. Was it your understanding that Broner hit you first after the bell? Did you think the penalization was just? Were you frustrated after the point deduction?
JS: Yes, after the bell sounded, Adrien Broner hit me first, so I reacted and hit him back. I can’t entirely agree with the point being taking away. That’s why there are warnings. I should’ve received a warning before being penalized. And after the warning, if I commit the same offense again, it warrants a point deduction. I wasn’t frustrated, I had to continue to fight. I knew if I allowed myself to be frustrated, it would take my focus away from doing what I had to do.
JR: Let’s transition to the midpoint of the fight. Up to around the 7th round, it seemed to me and many of the viewers that you were applying pressure and winning the fight. Around round number seven, Broner starts to loosen up and starts to connect more than he was in the previous rounds. What do you think was the difference, and why was he able to be more effective in those rounds?
JS: The difference was I felt like I had to conserve myself a little bit. I have never fought 12 rounds before. I felt fine physically, but one’s first enemy is their own mind. I started to say to myself, I have to hold back a little and manage the fight’s pace because I have never fought 12 rounds before. To be honest, it was difficult working up to 12 rounds because we took the fight on short notice. Again, I felt fine physically, but I mentally felt like I needed to reserve myself. Therefore, he took advantage during those rounds. But once my corner told me it was the 12th round, I resumed my attack.
JR: From the 1st round to the 11th, what was your corner telling you?
JS: They were telling me to keep doing what I’m doing and keep fighting intelligently.
JR: In the last round, your corner told you that you needed to knock Broner out. Why did they feel the need to tell you that?
JS: I can only assume that they felt the same way I felt. The consensus before the fight was that if we didn’t KO Broner, we would not win this fight.
JR: Are you telling me that you felt before the fight started that you had to win by knockout? In other words, did you feel that no matter what took place in the ring, you weren’t going to be awarded a decision in your favor?
JS: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I expressed my feelings in other media outlets before the fight that I felt this way. I needed to win convincingly in the judges’ eyes or knockout him out to win. That’s just the way it is.
JR: I’m going to read you some numbers because you said you had to win convincingly to get a decision. According to Compubox stats, from the 1st round to the 6th round, Broner landed 37 of 138 punches thrown, compared to your 99 landed and 305 thrown. From the 7th round to the 11th, he connected 63 punches out of 300 to your 114 out of 392. Broner’s most active round was the 9th, where he connected 12 out of 38 punches. Even still, you connected 6 more punches than he did in that same round. In the last round, you connected 32 punches to his 7.
Are these numbers not enough to convince the judges?
JS: Yes, they are. That’s just the way it is.
JR: During the post-fight interview, you expressed that you agreed with the judge’s decision, but your body language said otherwise. It’s been 10 days since the fight. You’ve had time to think and reevaluate things. Do you feel different today? Do you believe that you were “robbed” of a win on the scorecards?
JS: Yes, and everyone has said so and told me so. I believe I won the fight.
JR: Thank you for answering that question. What was it like when you returned to Puerto Rico? What was the response of the people when you arrived?
JS: The reception was beautiful and warm. They received me with a caravan (a small parade) full of people, with music and cheering. The people were very welcoming, congratulated me, and wished me well.
JR: Do you feel this fight opens doors and opportunities for you?
JS: I really hope so. I hope that it opened the kind of opportunities to fight in “big league” events much like this one. I hope it opens the door for bigger fights with bigger purses and another great opportunity presents itself.
JR: What does the future hold for Team Jovanie Santiago?
JS: We are going to continue to work hard. I’m going to build on this momentum and continue to train at a high level so I can be ready for the next opportunity. My team is working, and whatever opportunities present themselves, we will be ready.
My Take: Jovanie Santiago can be best described by the mantra “deeds, not words.” He’s direct and to the point, and lives much of his life in this manner. Santiago doesn’t waste unnecessary energy running his mouth. He’s the kind of fighter that lets his hands do the talking for him. Such was the case against Adrien Broner. Before the fight, Santiago told us that on February 20th, 2021, “Adrien Broner and the world would know who Jovanie Santiago is.” He kept true to his words, executed his fight plan, and put on an impressive performance against a former four-time world champion. I believe his performance against Adrien Broner left a lasting impression on the boxing public and warrants another opportunity at a high-level fight. Santiago may not have won the fight on the cards, but he definitely won the hearts, minds, and respect of much of the boxing public. We may not know what the immediate future looks like for Santiago. However, we know that Jovanie Santiago will be bringing a quiet arsenal that will explode on fight night.