Alexis Rocha and Giovani Santillan are two welterweights in need of decent opposition if they’re going to be relevant in the division, and they’ve found that in one another.
Rocha and Santillan will headline an Oct. 21 DAZN show, promoted by Golden Boy, from the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Rocha (23-1, 15 KO) is the No. 1 ranked contender by the WBO, which means something good for his standing with the WBO but doesn’t really mean he’s considered by anyone legitimate to be Terence Crawford’s actual No. 1 contender.
Rocha, 26, could in theory force a mandatory shot at some point, but we know that Crawford and Errol Spence Jr will rematch, and we also know that Crawford could leave the welterweight division behind without ever fighting at 147 again.
On that end, taking a fight with Santillan (31-0, 16 KO) is quite respectable, because in theory Rocha could take something easier — or Golden Boy could book something easier — and just “stay busy” until a potential vacant title fight.
The 31-year-old Santillan has been fighting on Top Rank cards, and we’ve noted many times that he’s been handled pretty carefully given his age and all that. For him, this is a chance to solidify himself as a real second-level contender at 147.
Rocha has fought twice this year, neither outing particularly interesting. He stopped late notice replacement George Ashie in January, and then stopped Anthony Young, who has basically not existed for four years, in May.
“This is the type of match up that I have prepared for,” said Rocha. “I know my opponent and his entire team well. I respect them all, and I know I’ll need to be at my best come fight night. But that’s what I demand of myself in every fight and that’s what will happen. I will be at my best, and my best is at a different level. I know Giovani asked for this fight, but like my coach always says, be careful what you wish for.”
Santillan was last seen on July 22, winning a decision over Erick Bone in a tough fight against a cagey veteran. It’s been time for him to step up, and now he will.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for an opportunity against a fighter of Rocha’s caliber. Defeating Rocha puts me in the world title mix and in position for even bigger fights, but I am focused on the task at hand,” Santillan said. “I wanted this fight, so as soon as Top Rank and my management told me this fight was happening, I was thrilled. This is my time, and I am going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
With Rocha the No. 1 WBO-ranked contender and Santillan at No. 4, plus the realities of the Crawford situation, don’t be surprised if the WBO wind up putting an “interim” title up for grabs in this fight, as the WBC are already doing for Yordenis Ugas vs Mario Barrios. Sanctioning bodies often prefer just having someone ready to be “promoted” should a champion vacate, and if the champ doesn’t vacate, well, they collect more fees anyway.
But don’t let any of my cynical, realistic reading of boxing politics dampen that this really is a solid fight, a good one for both guys and should be intriguing to see it play out and see who’s got what when they get down to it.