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Boxing News, December 15, 2006

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Mario Santiago, A Featherweight To Watch



The last installment of ShoBox for 2006 took place at a regular haunt of theirs, Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, CA. Featherweight Mario Santiago, another familiar friend of the Showtime series catering to prospects, made his third appearance on the broadcast. But, at a mature 28 and now 17-0 (12) after getting taking a TKO 7, it’s time for this Gary Shaw-promoted southpaw to fly the ShoBox coup. He needs to step up—or at least get in with someone who can touch him, possibly hurt him—and find out whether he’s a contender.   

Santiago’s opponent, Salvador Garcia, now 14-4-2 (7), gave him some rounds but not the kind of test I’m talking about. He was dominated from bell to bell, start to finish. Garcia brought toughness, if nothing else. If he exposed anything in the impressive Santiago, it’s that the prospect does not appear to have homerun power.  Either that, or Garcia has a world-class beard. Which could be the case. A natural jnr. feather, Garcia never appeared seriously hurt nor buckled, and kept moving forward when Santinago didn’t have him pinned against the ropes.

Santiago has fast hands and feet. He uses the entire ring and is only stationary as long as it takes for him to get off.  (Earlier in his career he had a bad habit of admiring his work and suffering the consequences.) He put on a clinic of working angles and picks his spots. His jab was constant, his straight left couldn’t miss—which was sometimes set up with a sneaky step to the side, then POW!—and he didn’t ignore his specialty, the body.

Garcia complained of shots to the kidney, and it wouldn’t be hard to guess the color of his urine for the days following the bout; but he had a tendency to offer it up, like James Toney did in his last two fights—and then wonders why he’s laid-up at the hospital with malfunctioning organs.

Whether Garcia could take 15 rounds of this brutality isn’t the point. He was never competitive, and incapable of putting together a simple one-two on the aggressive water bug Santiago. The 10-rounder was halted at 1:51 of the seventh.     

In a televised co-feature scheduled for eight, jnr. welter prospect Timothy Bradley received a UD against veteran Jaime Rangel. It was a close fight—with highly suspect scores. Judges Ray Balewicz, Max DeLuca and David Mendoza all scored it 79-73.

Not sure what fight they were watching?  The one commentators Steve Farhood and Nick Charles saw—two even-handed analysts who don’t bring an agenda—it was a draw: 76-76. I had it the same. Bradley now moves to 17-0 (10) and Rangel, a game opponent who hangs tough with the biggest names in the division—falls to 30-10-1 (26).

It’s not that Bradley couldn’t have won by a point, but scores of 79-73 means the judges had him winning seven of eight rounds. Or, as a candid Nick Charles put it, “That means Rangel got robbed.” The booing crowd concurred. The fight was halted by the ringside physician at 1:54 of the eighth due to an accidental head-butt, which opened up a cut over Rangel’s right eye. In this case, they go to the scorecards and score the unfinished eighth, too.

While boxing may be a lamentably subjective sport to judge, scoring like this is unacceptable and all too common. The bottom line is Bradley is signed with Gary Shaw Promotions; GSP promoted the show; and in this messed up system of ours, the promoter pays the judges. Conflict of interest? You betcha, especially if the judges want to continue to work. I’m not suggesting constant widespread robberies are afoot, but there are disturbing trends hard to ignore. Stevie Wonder can see that. Or maybe it’s also a matter of basic incompetence, and new standards are in order. At the very least we could come up with a new system for paying officials. If the judges at Santa Ynez and the usual suspects regularly taken to task—but who continue to work—are somehow earnest and true, all those involved must still suffer the consequences. If bristling at diatribes like this one is their only penalty, I’m not optimistic for change.   

There were two technical draws on the undercard. Americo Santos had to settle for a TD at 2:19 of the third against Jorge Alberto Padilla. And Irving Garcia had a TD against Jose Ojeda at 1:55 of the third.

Eduardo Escobedo TKO’d Barbaro Zepeda in six.

James Kirkland KO’d David Toribio in four.





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