Despite overcoming several pre-fight distractions and challenges in the weeks and months leading up to his title-winning victory over legendary four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire, newly crowned WBC world bantamweight champion Alexandro Santiago says the truly difficult part of his veteran career starts now.
Fighting on the televised undercard of the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford pay-per-view superfight on Saturday, July 29 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs), from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, notched a unanimous decision victory over Donaire by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 116-112.
The victory was made even more impressive by the fact that Santiago trained for the fight while also welcoming the birth of his son less than two months earlier, the fight being rescheduled from its original date of July 15 last minute, and his family duplex partially burning down on June 30.
“It was an accident,” explained Santiago. “The top floor of the house, where my relatives were staying, burned down. I live with my parents right now and, thankfully, the firefighters were able to stop the fire before it got to the first floor.”
Santiago, who has had to endure no less than five controversial draws in his 10-year career, including one against then IBF junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas for the title in September 2018, says that nothing thrown his way was going to affect his second chance at a world title.
“The fire started close to 1 am in the morning. The next day I was supposed to go to San Diego to spar, but we had to cancel so I could help with the recovery of the salvageable part of the house and to make our part livable again. But, I was so focused, I didn’t allow myself to be affected because I wanted to win the title and nothing would stop me. I’ve always been on the B side and that’s why I am always so hungry and prepared to the best of my ability no matter what happens. It makes no difference to me.
The 27-year-old Santiago says he enjoyed a welcoming reception upon returning home from the victory.
“A lot of my family couldn’t travel to watch the fight, so it was an amazing reception everybody was on the street waiting for me. I felt this overwhelming joy they were so proud of me. I worked so hard most of my life and it’s an amazing feeling to have achieved this finally.
“But,” continued Santiago, “now that I’ve been able to achieve my dream and win the title, I will work even harder to be able to keep it. I always want to be champion. I know I must work even harder now to make that happen.”
“Alex is one of the most dedicated fighters I’ve ever worked with,” said his long-time promoter Paco Damian. “He has an amazing ability to stay focused, no matter what happens. He gets a bad decision in a fight he won? He works harder. His house burns down during training camp? He works harder. Nothing stops Alex from reaching his goals and that’s what makes him special.”
“He deserves to be champion for all the things he’s conquered to get here,” added co-promoter Sampson Lewkowicz. “Imagine training for a world-title fight while your house is half-burned. That’s why he is where he is and that’s why he’ll be at the top for a long time to come.”
“My priority right now is to help my dad rebuild the portion that burned down and stay focused and humble and work hard to maintain this title, so that in the future, I have enough to buy a house for my wife and son,” concluded Santiago.