By Francisco Salazar
Boxing works in mysterious ways. Less than three years ago, Francisco Santana was fighting in six and eight-round bouts on non-televised cards.
After building his way back up, the welterweight from Santa Barbara, Calif. is part of a pay-per-view broadcast in a fight some are predicting he can win.
Santana is eager to face unbeaten Jose Benavidez on July 23 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev, manager Frank Espinoza confirmed to BoxingScene.com. The 10 round bout will open an HBO Pay Per View broadcast, which will be headlined by the junior welterweight unification bout between Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol.
Santana (24-4-1, 12 KOs) is coming off a 10 round unanimous decision over former fringe contender Ed Paredes on April 2.
He has won his last two bouts in a row since losing a close 10 round unanimous decision to Sadam Ali in April of last year.
Santana made some additions to his team in recent months, signing on with Espinoza and Top Rank.
Espinoza, who also manages Oscar Valdez, Antonio Orozco, and Ronny Rios, believes Santana can make a run at 147 pounds.
"He's certainly come a long way over the last year or so," Espinoza told Boxingscene.com over the phone. "He looked solid in his last fight against Paredes. He's improved a great deal and I believe he can be victorious on July 23 against Benavidez.
Santana has now 12 of his last 13 bouts. He works with Joseph 'Hoss' Janik at Knuckleheadz Gym in nearby Ventura, where he has sparred against the likes of Victor Ortiz and Willie Monroe.
The 29-year-old Santana, who goes by the nickname 'Chia,' has been mentioned as a possible opponent for other welterweights, but he and Espinoza jumped on the opportunity when presented with the Benavidez fight.
"We have a lot of faith in 'Chia,'" said Espinoza. "He is at the point in his career where he needs to make the most of these opportunities. He has worked very hard to get to where he's at. Jose Benavidez is a good fighter. It's a tough fight, but Francisco is up to the challenge and I am confident he will do extremely well."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing