The odds obviously are against Jovanie Santiago entering his fight against Mario Barrios on Saturday night.
The shorter Santiago has moved up from the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds to the 147-pound division to battle Barrios. Santiago hasn’t fought in nearly two years, either, not since 140-pound contender Gary Antuanne Russell stopped him after the sixth round of their May 2021 bout in Carson, California.
And last, yet certainly not least, Santiago has traveled to Barrios’ hometown of San Antonio for a 10-round fight Showtime will televise from Alamodome.
Santiago seemed unfazed by any of the aforementioned factors before their final press conference Thursday at The Westin San Antonio North.
“When I fought against Broner, I felt good,” Santiago told BoxingScene.com in reference to his controversial loss to Adrien Broner in his only other welterweight fight. “When I fought at a lighter weight class last time [against Russell], I didn’t feel as good. So, I felt it was the best thing for me and my team to be back at welterweight.”
The 33-year-old Santiago attributed much of his long layoff to “a personal situation,” though he declined to elaborate.
The 27-year-old Barrios will end a lengthy layoff of his own. The ex-WBA world super lightweight champ hasn’t boxed since former WBA/WBC welterweight champ Keith Thurman unanimously out-pointed him in their 12-rounder last February 5 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs), who has lost back-to-back bouts to Gervonta Davis and Thurman, is consistently listed as a 5-1 favorite to beat Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs).
“We’re fully aware of the fact that Barrios is a quality fighter,” Santiago said. “He’s top-notch and we respect him a lot. But that motivates me, because I know that if I do end up defeating him it’s gonna put me on the short list for even better fights, perhaps even a world title shot. So, I’m looking forward to it.”
Santiago is sure he did enough to beat Broner, who won their February 2021 bout on all three scorecards at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Judges Tom Carusone (116-111), Glenn Feldman (115-112) and Peter Hary (117-110) scored, eight, seven and nine rounds, respectively, for Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs, 1 NC).
Losing to Broner in a fight Santiago feels he won has motivated him even more to beat Barrios convincingly in Barrios’ hometown.
“It crosses your mind,” Santiago said. “That’s for sure. But in the end, what I need to understand and embrace is that I need to do a better job than I did that time against Broner, so that the judges don’t have a choice but to give me that win. So, if I fight even better, I’m gonna twist their arm and force them to see who the winner truly is.”
Showtime will air Barrios-Santiago as its co-feature prior to a 12-round main event in which Mexico’s Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) and O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KOs), of Orange, Texas, will fight for the vacant WBC super featherweight title. Cuban southpaw Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs) and Ukraine’s Viktor Faust (11-0, 7 KOs) will meet in a 10-round heavyweight match that’ll open Showtime’s three-bout broadcast at 9 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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