Avila Perspective, Chap. 256: Rocha vs Santillan, Showtime's Oversight and More


By David A. Avila

A pair of Southern California pugilists Alexis Rocha and Giovani Santillan meet in the prize ring this weekend. They represent a countless number of aspiring fighters who begin their journeys in small gyms in search of glory.

Santa Ana’s Rocha (23-1, 15 KOs) and San Diego’s Santillan (31-0, 16 KOs) are two who have emerged at the top and meet for the NABO welterweight title at the KIA Forum on Saturday, Oct. 21. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

Southern California is the heart and soul of boxing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It began around 1999 when Oscar De La Hoya began selling out arenas and accepting fights against any challenger who could make big bucks. Champions like Ike Quartey, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas and Bernard Hopkins eagerly accepted.

The boxing boom was on.

From maybe two dozen or so gyms in the 1980s, Southern California grew to surpass more than 100. The gyms dot the landscape like a swarm of angry bees. No other place in the world has as many gyms. In every SoCal neighborhood there are youngsters that think they can be the next De La Hoya.

With those 100-plus gyms come thousands of prospects and after years of battling with each other it comes down to Rocha and Santillan. The winner between these two will move on against the top welterweights in the world.

It’s a numbers game.

Will it be Rocha or Santillan who moves to another level to fight Errol Spence Jr., Jaron Ennis, Mario Barrios, Josh Taylor or Cody Crowley? It’s a weight division saturated with many of the best fighters of any weight division.

Santillan and Rocha are both southpaws, but they are uniquely different in their abilities.

Rocha, 26, is ranked number 1 by the WBO and prefers to use his skills to dissect and then bludgeon foes with a relentless two-fisted attack.

“We both knew this fight would come one day. We're knocking on the door for title contention. He's ready. I'm ready,” said Rocha about Santillan.

Santillan, 31, is ranked number 5 by the WBO and uses a more scientific approach looking to score points and create openings with his jab and movement. He can counter effectively and has power.

“I plan on making a statement. I'm finally getting a chance to show the world who I am as the main event at the Kia Forum,” said Santillan.

Incidentally, unlike in previous years, both fighters have different promoters. Santillan is backed by Top Rank and Rocha by Golden Boy. During the pandemic the two rival promoters began working with each other.

No More Showtime

Sadly, Showtime Boxing will cease to exist. Everyone has put their two cents on why it failed after four decades. It’s difficult to pinpoint.

The one promotion company that worked strongly with Showtime was Premier Boxing Champions which has TGB Promotions as the operational company.

One glaring omission on their fight shows was the lack of women prizefighting. Not one female bout was ever shown on a PBC or TGB fight card televised by Showtime. Those ShoBox cards sure could have used the help. It was not Stephen Espinoza’s fault. His hands were tied.

DAZN, on the other hand, almost always has female bouts whether on its Matchroom Boxing cards or Golden Boy. And lately, Top Rank has entered the female fight game too with ESPN.

It truly would have helped Showtime to have female boxing as new attractions. When Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor demolished Shakur Stevenson and Oscar Valdez in head-to-head competition in April 2022, that was the wake-up call.

DAZN in England

Two top super lightweights clash in Liverpool, England.

England’s Jack Catterall (27-1, 13 KOs) meets former champion Jorge Linares (47-8, 29 KOs) of Venezuela on Saturday Nov. 21, for a shot at the world title. It’s a crackerjack matchup. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

Catterall knows what he’s getting into.

“He’s been a three-time world champion, I would never look past this fight or disrespect Jorge,” said Catterall. “I think he understands that the winner of this fight puts themselves in the picture for much bigger fights.”

Linares lobbied for this fight.

“I’m coming off three losses but I don’t think about that, I know I’m in with a great fighter but I’ve been here before,” said Linares, whose losses were Devin Haney and two others in Russia.

Fights to Watch

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Jack Catterall (27-1) vs Jorge Linares (47-8).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (23-1) vs Giovani Santillan (31-0); Arely Mucino (32-3-2) vs Gabriela Fundora (11-0).

Photo credit: Al Applerose
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