LAS VEGAS – Alexandro Santiago doesn’t expect to face a diminished Nonito Donaire on Saturday night.
“The Filipino Flash” is 40 years old, hasn’t fought in 13 months and was brutally knocked out by Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue in the second round of his last bout. Santiago still sees the five-division champion as a dangerous, experienced opponent more than capable of sabotaging his championship dream.
The Mexican veteran and Donaire will fight for the unclaimed WBC bantamweight title that Inoue gave up when he moved up four pounds to challenge Stephen Fulton, the former WBC/WBO 122-pound champ Inoue knocked out in the eighth round Tuesday night at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. The 12-round, 118-pound championship bout between Las Vegas’ Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs), who is ranked number one by the WBC, and Tijuana’s Santiago (27-3-5, 14 KOs), who is rated third, will be the second of three undercard contests Showtime Pay-Per-View will televise before unbeaten welterweight champions Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford collide in the 12-round main event at T-Mobile Arena ($84.99; 8 p.m. EDT; 5 p.m. PDT).
“Look, Nonito remains Nonito,” Santiago told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I’m not about to assume anything about an all-time great fighter like him. We’re preparing to face the absolute best version of him, and we are fully aware of what he’s capable of. So, we had a great training camp, we had great preparation and I’m fully confident that I can go out there and win and become a world champion.”
Winning a world title against an accomplished ex-champion would completely change the course of Santiago’s career. The 27-year-old contender lost a controversial 10-round majority decision to then-undefeated Gary Antonio Russell (then 18-0) in November 2021, but Santiago otherwise hasn’t been beaten since he dropped a six-round split decision to Johnny Michel Garcia (then 2-2) in November 2014 in Cancun.
“The world is gonna witness a future champion on July 29th,” Santiago said. “I’m well aware that I’m gonna be under the microscope not only of the people there at the arena, but of the whole world that’s gonna be watching the card that’s gonna feature Crawford and Spence. Is there pressure? Yes.
“But I’m also really comfortable with the preparation we had inside the gym and knowing what the stakes are, knowing what the expectations are. I’m prepared mentally and physically for a really big challenge that’s gonna be like nothing I’ve ever faced before.”
Santiago has won three fights in a row since his close loss to Russell. He most recently stopped Cleveland’s Antonio Nieves (20-4-2, 11 KOs) after seven rounds on the Jake Paul-Anderson Silva undercard last October 29 at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.