Perennial welterweight contender FRANCISCO SANTANA, (26-6-1, 12 KO’s), of Santa Barbara, CA has stepped up to face former world title challenger FELIX DIAZ, (19-2-0, 9 KO’s), in the first round of ‘The Jose Sulaiman World Invitational Tournament’ set for Friday, April 27, 2018 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY.
Representing Mexico in the tournament, Santana replaces the previously announced first round opponent for Diaz, DERRIECK CUEVAS,who bowed out due to the death of his grandmother.
Presented by Evander Holyfield’s The Real Deal Boxing, in association with the World Boxing Council and Louisville’s Top Knotch, tickets starting at $35 are now on sale and be purchased through the KFC Yum! Center box office, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. The KFC Yum! Center is located at 1 Arena Plaza, Louisville, KY 40202. Doors will open on the night of the event at 6:00 p.m. with the first bell at 7:00 p.m.
"I know I'm the dark horse in the race so I guess it makes sense the tournament is taking place in the home of the Kentucky Derby!", laughs Santana, the ultra-friendly, married father of one, who also works as a full-time seaman on a naval base.
"In all seriousness though, I've come up the hard way. I've caught a lot of bad breaks in the sport. After my last fight when I was robbed on the cards again, I thought maybe it was time to hang it up, but I listened to my team and my family that an opportunity would come along as long I stayed focused and kept training. Now it has with this tournament and I intend to make the most of it. My dream has always been to be the WBC Welterweight Champion of the world and this is the next step towards that goal."
As for landing the top seed Felix Diaz on short notice, Santana is not phased at all.
“It doesn’t matter who it is. There are no easy fights or fighters in this tournament. In terms of the quality of match ups, hardcore boxing fans know this is the top to bottom card of the year so far. The best fighting the best, that's what The Real Deal Boxing is all about it and that's what I'm about. I know I’m the tournament underdog but that only fuels my fire. I am a man on mission. I am going to make a statement on April 27th. Train. Fight. Win.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation with Derrieck Cuevas having to drop out but the recent death of his grandmother had greatly impacted his ability to train,” said Holyfield. “However, we’re very excited to have Francisco Santana step in to face Felix Diaz. Francisco has fought two current world champions and with the additional wealth of experience he has, we expect a very competitive first round fight.”
Santana has faced numerous world class fighters including Sadam Ali, Jermell Charlo, Julian Williams, Jose Benavidez, Eddie Gomez, Freddy Hernandez and Karim Mayfield. He also received the most ‘alternate’ fan votes in the balloting prior to the announcement of the tournament draw.
The updated schedule of first round fights for the tournament representing eight countries are;
#1 ranked FELIX DIAZ, (19-2-0, 9 KO’s) of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic will clash with #8 ranked FRANCISCO SANTANA, (26-6-1, 12 KO’s), of Santa Barbara, CA, representing Mexico.
#2 ranked CHRIS VAN HEERDEN, (25-2-1, 12 KO’s) of Johannesburg, South Africa, faces #7 ranked TIMO SCHWARZKOPF, (18-1-0, 10 KO’s) of Stuttgart, Germany.
#3 ranked FREDRICK LAWSON, (26-1-0, 21 KO’s), of Accra, Ghana, battles #6 ranked BAISHANBO NASIYWULA,(13-1-1, 6 KO’s), of Urumqi, China.
#4 ranked RADZHAB BUTAEV, (8-0-0, 6 KO’s) of Russia faces #5 ranked BRAD SOLOMON,(27-1-0, 9 KO’s), of Douglasville, Georgia.
The additional alternate chosen by the fan voting is PADDY GALLAGHER, (13-3-0, 8 KO’s) of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Included among the unique judging aspects set forth for the tournament;
--Development and implementation of a standardized scoring process that clearly defines how the judges should score each bout.
--Additional judges to minimize margin of error. A fourth judge will be placed at ringside and a fifth judge will be placed in front of a TV monitor with no audio commentary. All five judges’ scorecards will be used if the fight goes the distance.
--Employment of an Open Scoring concept to allow fighters the knowledge if they are winning or losing a fight.
--Assignment of Neutral and Experienced Judges throughout the tournament.