HE may only have a prayer, but Santisima bent on miracle win over Navarrete
The last time a huge Filipino underdog pulled the rug from under the feet of a formidable Mexican was December 1990, when unheralded challenger Rolando Pascua outclassed and outgunned in six rounds the seemingly invincible Humberto Gonzalez of Mexico to win the WBC junior flyweight (108 lbs.) diadem.
Some 30 years later, Masbate native Jeo “Santino” Santisima is looking to duplicate Pascua’s feat as he takes on reigning WBO junior featherweight (122 lbs.) kingpin Emanuel ‘Vaquero’ (Cowboy) Navarrete of Mexico on Sunday (Manila time) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Santisima, 19-2 with 16 knockouts, is actually on a 17-fight winning streak, his last defeat coming in May 2014 when he dropped a close decision to countryman Marlon Arcilla in only his fourth pro fight. Extending the win streak, however, does not figure to be easy as Santisima has been installed as a huge underdog against Navarrete.
Santisima is facing Navarrete, one of the rising stars in the game who has lately been calling himself boxing’s ‘Iron Man.’
Top Rank Promotions head honcho Bob Arum describes Navarrete as a throwback to the champions of yesteryears who kept an active schedule and abhorred extended layoffs.
Navarrete, 30-1 with 26 knockouts, has been a champion for only a year but has already posted four successful defenses. Last August 17, Navarrete needed only three rounds to stop Francisco De Vaca. Navarrete felt he did not get the workout he wanted so he returned to the ring just three weeks later to stop Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde.
Navarrete plans to fight four times again this year and Santisima is first on his agenda. Style-wise, Navarrete is a stand-up, two-fisted banger. He loves to pressure his adversary and throw wide hooks and short uppercuts on the inside. Supposedly, Navarrete checks in at the junior featherweight limit of 122 pounds, but he looks way bigger in the ring and thus tends to physically overwhelm his opponents.
Navarrete is on a 25-fight winning streak, having gone unbeaten in the last eight years. The last time Navarrete tasted defeat was in July 2012, when he dropped a four-round decision to Daniel Argueta in a novice tournament.
Navarrete captured the WBO junior featherweight crown in December 2018 when he scored an upset decision win over the previously unbeaten Isaac Dogboe. The two engaged in a return bout in May 2019 and Navarrete proved his previous dominance was no fluke as he battered Dogboe and stopped him in 12 rounds.
While his resume does look imposing, Navarrete has his share of critics. Navarrete may have posted four defenses as champion, but the list of his victims outside Dogboe leaves plenty to be desired.
Navarrete can box but prefers to wear down foes with punches in bunches. Navarrete’s penchant to throw wide, telegraphed hooks makes him susceptible to a good counter or a nifty uppercut on the middle, but thus far no challenger has been able to capitalize.
Like Navarrete, Santisima prefers to keep the action in the center of the ring. Santisima sticks close to his foe and throws hooks and some wicked body shots. However, instead of patiently working behind the jab, Santisima tends to just lunge in. Navarrete is very dangerous against flatfooted foes and Santisima will have to employ judicious counters and some step back moves. If Santisima decides to just stand in front of Navarrete, he will be overwhelmed.
One can already conjure images of Navarrete coming straight ahead at Santisima and flailing away without remorse. As in his previous fights, Navarrete will look to throw his weight and size around and pound Santisima like ground meat. Navarrete has been quoted as saying that he intends to impose his conditions and will not allow Santisima to take the initiative.
Santisima, 23, took the fight on five-week notice and, as if he needed additional pressure, will be making his US debut at the mecca of boxing, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The challenger, however, has no plans to just roll over and hand Navarrete the win.
“Mabigat talaga na kalaban si Navarrete,” acknowledged Santisima. “Pero sa side ko lang, tiwala lang ako. Kasi kung matakot ka sa kanya eh talagang tatakutin ka n'ya kasi siya ang champion.”
Santisima grew up in dirt poverty in Masbate. He took up boxing late and actually lost his first paid contest in August 2013. Last year, he fought only two times and logged only four rounds of action. While many are giving him only a ghost of a chance against Navarrete, Santisima is not backing down from the challenge. A chance, not matter how slim, is still a chance.
“Huwag lang talagang ma-intimidate,” mused trainer Edito Villamor. “We believe in Jeo. This is a very exciting fight.”