Giovani Santillan didn’t make the statement he had hoped to express Tuesday night.
The unbeaten welterweight prospect from San Diego escaped with a questionable, 10-round, majority-decision victory over veteran Antonio DeMarco at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Judge Dave Moretti scored the action even (95-95), but he was overruled by Tim Cheatham and Steve Weisfeld, both of whom scored the fight 96-94 for Santillan.
The 28-year-old Santillan (26-0, 15 KOs) was consistently listed as a 5-1 favorite over DeMarco, but the Mexican veteran gave him a much more difficult fight than that. DeMarco consistently landed to Santillan’s body, bloodied his nose and completely controlled their fight in the middle rounds.
“I felt that did enough to pull off the win,” Santillan told BoxingScene.com, “but I knew it was a close call.”
CompuBox credited DeMarco for landing more punches overall than Santillan (159-of-537 to 150-of-476). According to CompuBox’s unofficial tally, DeMarco connected with more power punches (129-of-307 to 117-of-341) and Santillan landed three more jabs (33-of-135 to 30-of-230).
“He definitely showed his experience,” Santillan said. “He’s been in there with some of the toughest fighters, a lot of top contenders. This is huge for me, to learn about myself and what I need to work on. I need to work on my defense. When I’m on the inside, I’ve gotta stay a little bit more active and move my head a little bit more.”
Santillan signed a promotional contract recently with Bob Arum’s company and made his Top Rank debut Tuesday night.
The 34-year-old DeMarco (33-9-1, 24 KOs) is a former WBC lightweight champion, but he slipped to 2-6 in his past eight fights. The Lakeside, California, resident ended an 11-month layoff against Santillan, though you wouldn’t have known it by the way he boxed.
Santillan’s victory came in the opener of ESPN’s five-fight telecast. Joshua Greer Jr., a bantamweight contender from Chicago, is scheduled to face the Philippines’ Mike Plania in the 10-round main event.
Stanillan hit DeMarco with a straight left that backed DeMarco into the ropes about 1:15 into the 10th round. DeMarco wasn’t hurt, however, and had success in the second half of the final round.
DeMarco, seemingly in control, kept Santillan on his back foot for most of the ninth round. He continued to land rights to Santillan’s body and straight lefts to his fatigued opponent’s head in that round.
A determined DeMarco continued banging away at Santillan’s body with right hands in the eighth round.
DeMarco landed multiple right hands to Santillan’s body in the first half of the seventh round. The veteran southpaw intentionally backed against the ropes and waved Santillan forward later in the seventh.
Santillan started the sixth round strong by firing combinations at DeMarco, but DeMarco stung Santillan with consecutive uppercuts – a right, then a left – with just over one minute to go in that round. Santillan began bleeding worse from his nose after DeMarco landed those two shots.
DeMarco snapped back Santillan’s head with a straight left hand with just over 20 seconds to go in the fifth round. Weeks warned Santillan for a low blow with just over minute remaining in the fifth.
DeMarco remained in control for much of the fifth round, when he was more active and accurate.
A right uppercut by DeMarco connected in an exchange late in the fourth round. DeMarco came forward for much of that three-minute period.
DeMarco caught Santillan with two quick right hooks toward the end of a very competitive third round.
Santillan’s left-right combination got DeMarco’s attention about 30 seconds into the second round. With just under a minute to go in the opening round, Santillan backed DeMarco into the ropes by landing a straight left hand.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.