UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Adrien Broner’s first fight in two years wasn’t nearly as easy as odds-makers and some fans anticipated.
Jovanie Santiago was unknown and unproven prior to Saturday night, but the previously unbeaten Puerto Rican gave Broner everything he could handle in their 12-round welterweight fight. An inactive Broner overcame a slow start, though, rallied in the second half and won a unanimous decision in the main event of Showtime’s tripleheader from Mohegan Sun Arena.
Judges Tom Carusone (116-111), Glenn Feldman (115-112) and Peter Hary (117-110) scored Broner the winner. Only Feldman seemed to credit Santiago for his consistent aggression and effective body punching.
Carusone scored eight rounds for Broner, who won nine rounds on Hary’s scorecard. Feldman scored seven rounds for Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs, 1 NC), who went off as about a 7-1 favorite.
Santiago also had a point deducted after hitting Broner following the bell to end the fourth round.
Broner didn’t think the fight was close, though he praised Santiago for being physically strong and a good body puncher.
“Until I go home and really look at my performance, you know, then I can say,” Broner said during a post-fight press conference. “But I felt good. I felt like I lost probably three rounds. But, you know, other than that I know I beat him easy off the jab. And, you know, I was countering him pretty good. And I was doing my thing. I was having fun. … I had to use my jab and get him to open up, and that’s when I was able to counter punch.”
Before boxing Santiago, Broner hadn’t fought since losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Manny Pacquiao in their 12-round WBA welterweight title fight in January 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The Cincinnati native was supposed to fight Mexico’s Pedro Campa on Saturday night. Santiago (14-1-1, 10 KOs) replaced Campa (31-1-1, 21 KOs) late last month after Campa contracted COVID-19.
Broner and Santiago were supposed to fight at the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds. The contract weight was moved up seven pounds, to the welterweight maximum of 147, during fight week mostly to accommodate Broner.
Nevertheless, Broner won a fight for the first time in four years. His victory over Santiago was his first win since a debatable, 10-round, split-decision defeat of Adrian Granados in February 2017 in Cincinnati.
CompuBox credited Santiago for landing more than twice as many punches as Broner, but the 31-year-old Santiago didn’t dispute the decision.
“No, the decision doesn’t surprise me,” Santiago said. “Broner did a nice job in there. The decision could have gone both ways. He fought a great fight. We were in it to win this fight, and he got the decision.”
CompuBox counted 207-of-697 punches for Santiago, 109 more than for Broner (98-of-338). Santiago landed more power punches (124-of-333 to 49-of-161) and more jabs (83-of-364 to 49-of-177), according to CompuBox.
Told by his corner men that going to the cards wouldn’t serve him well, Santiago went after Broner to start the 12th round. Broner caught Santiago with a left hook barely 40 seconds into that final round.
They traded shots on the inside with about a minute remaining in the fight.
Santiago pressed the action throughout the 11th round, when Broner turned his head and said, “I’m sharp.” Santiago landed a left and then a right toward the end of the 11th round.
Broner’s left hook caught Santiago flush at the halfway point of the 10th round. A short right by Broner landed with just over 20 seconds to go in the 10th round.
Broner and Santiago traded head and body shots from the inside during the ninth round. Broner landed two hard right hands as Santiago came forward, with his head down, toward the end of the ninth round.
Santiago suffered a cut around his right eye in the ninth round as well.
A right hand by Broner landed about 50 seconds into the eighth round. Santiago landed a right hand with just over a minute to go in the eighth round, but Broner’s left hook rocked Santiago soon thereafter.
Broner’s punch sent Santiago into a squatting position and made him swing his right arm awkwardly behind him. Santiago’s right glove didn’t seem to graze the canvas, though, which prevented him from suffering what would’ve been his second point deduction of the fight.
Broner caught Santiago with a right hand with 55 seconds to go in the seventh round. Santiago came back with a sweeping left hook several seconds late that made Broner move away from him.
Broner landed a left hook to Santiago’s body and a right hand up top just before the seventh round concluded.
Santiago landed a hard right and then a thudding left to Broner’s body about 1:10 into the sixth round. He belted Broner with another left to the body with about a minute remaining in the sixth round.
Broner traded with Santiago toward the end of the sixth round.
Santiago again was the aggressor in the fifth round and continued to attack Broner’s body.
Santiago unleashed a combination of hard shots to Broner’s body with just over a minute remaining in the fourth round. Broner landed a hard right hand just before the fourth round ended.
Broner and then Santiago landed punches after the bell to end the fourth round.
Mercante warned both boxers and they touched gloves before they went to their corners. Mercante then took a point away from Santiago, who landed his late left after Broner’s late right, just before the fifth round started.
Santiago landed a hard left to Broner’s body and came back with a right hand up top with just over a minute to go in the third round. Santiago landed a hard right to Broner’s body just before the third round ended.
Broner tied up Santiago just before the midway mark of the second round, right after Santiago missed wildly with a right hand. Broner landed a short, left hook toward the end of the second round.
Neither Broner nor Santiago took many chances during an opening round in which there was hardly any action. In fact, CompuBox didn’t credit Broner for landing a single punch in those first three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.