Adrien Broner has finally settled on an opponent for his long-anticipated return.
The former four-division title-holder will oppose Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago on February 20, multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com. The bout – which will be contested at or near the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds – will headline a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The three-bout broadcast also will include Swedish heavyweight Otto Wallin (21-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) and Dominic Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs), of Eastvale, California, in the co-feature. Former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (22-1-1, 14 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, will meet Ryan Martin (24-1, 14 KOs), of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Showtime’s opener.
The main event will mark the first fight in more than two years for Broner. Cincinnati’s Broner came up well short in his last fight, a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Manny Pacquiao, the main event of a Showtime Pay-Per-View show at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Santiago (14-0-1, 10 KOs) will take a steep step up in class when he boxes Broner.
The 31-year-old Santiago scored a first-round knockout against previously unbeaten Peruvian southpaw Juan Zegarra (16-1, 10 KOs) in his most recent fight, December 20 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Santiago has fought four times in the Dominican Republic, but he’ll make his debut in the contiguous United States.
While this will be a quick turnaround, Santiago has generally been inactive through 14 years in the pro ranks, including a six-year gap early in his career. He is 12-0 since returning to the ring for good in 2014, though his most notable win to date came in April 2017, when he defeated former 140-pound titlist DeMarcus Corley by 10-round unanimous decision.
Still, he was deemed acceptable enough by all parties involved to land this high-profile assignment. Santiago replaced Mexico’s Pedro Campa (31-1-1, 21 KOs), who was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Dominican Republic’s Michel Rivera (19-0, 12 KOs) also was seriously considered. The teams couldn’t reach an agreement, however, due to a requested stipulation for penalties in the event either fighter missed weight.
Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco (22-2, 14 KOs) was considered as Campa’s replacement as well. Sources have informed BoxingScene.com that Velasco has been secured as the standby opponent for the main event.
Broner has won titles at junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight, but he has failed to produce a victory of any kind since a debatable, 10-round, split-decision win against Adrian Granados in February 2017 in Cincinnati.
Between his victory over Granados (20-8-2, 14 KOs, 1 NC) and his loss to Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs), Broner lost a 12-round unanimous decision to four-division champ Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) and settled for a 12-round draw with two-division champ Jessie Vargas (29-3-2, 11 KOs).
BoxingScene.com senior writer/columnist Keith Idec contributed to this story.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox