Giovani Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) pulled off an upset on Saturday night, obliterating welterweight Alexis Rocha (23-2, 15 KOs) by a sixth round knockout to capture the WBO 147-lb mandatory spot at the KIA Forum in Inglewood, California.
Using powerful chopping left hands, the unbeaten Santillan battered the daylights out of the 26-year-old Rocha, bloodying his nose in the first round and dropping him twice in the fifth and a final time in the sixth.
Referee Ray Corona stopped the fight after the knockdown in the sixth, as Rocha was hurt and a bloody mess. The time of the stoppage was at 1:13 of round six.
With the victory, Santillan is now the mandatory for WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. It’s likely that Crawford will vacate his belt or have it stripped from him.
He’s not likely to bother fighting Santillan because he’s not a big name, and the money wouldn’t be huge. If the WBO belt is vacated or stripped from Crawford, Santillan could fight #2 Cody Crowley or #3 Rashidi Ellis.
Santillan looks capable of picking up the WBO belt once it’s freed up, and he might be able to hold onto it for a while as long as he steers clear of Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, who clearly is the class in the division.
If Santillan can get his hands on the WBO belt, he could make good money fighting British fighter Conor Benn. It’s a given that Benn’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, will target the WBO belt once Crawford gives it up, and that could mean that he’ll tangle with Santillan.
As for Rocha, he should stay away from trying to avenge his loss to Santillan because he lacks the talent to beat him right now. That could change in the future, but definitely not now.
In the first round, the 31-year-old Santillan was immediately on top of Rocha, nailing him with chopping left hands one after another at close range, with many of the punches landing behind the head.
Rocha tried his best to battle Santillan on the inside, but he was no match for that kind of fighting. By the end of the round, Rocha’s nose was bleeding.
In rounds two & third, Santillan continued to tag Rocha with chopping left hands and right hooks to the head. Rocha was landing some nice shots of his own with excellent power, but he was getting outworked by Santillan, who clearly had his number.
The referee, Corona, warned Santillan for throwing rabbit punches to the back of Rocha’s head in the fourth round. Santillan received a second warning in the fifth, but by that point, it was clear that Rocha wasn’t going to last too much longer. Even if Santillan had been docked a point, he was going to finish off Rocha.
In the fifth, Rocha’s nose was bleeding badly at the start of the round, which motivated Santillan to begin throwing sustained combinations of four to six punches. Rocha was knocked down from a flurry of shots from Santillan.
In the second knockdown of the round, Santillan nailed Rocha with four consecutive right hooks. It was surprising that Rocha got up because he looked in bad shape. Blood was gushing from Rocha’s nose, and surprisingly the referee didn’t wave it off or march him over to have the ringside doctor examine him because he looked in bad shape.
After the fifth round ended, Rocha’s trainer told him in the corner that he wasn’t going to allow him to continue to sustain the punishment because he was getting hit too much by Santillan.
At the start of the sixth, Santillan went right after Rocha, nailing him with uppercuts to the head at close range. The shots were connecting one after another until Rocha went down on his knees. This time, the referee Ray Corona, stopped the contest. Rocha wasn’t going to beat the count if there had been one given because he was hurt & looking in bad shape.
It was the beginning of the end for Rocha after he got his nose injured in the first round. From that point on, he was fighting a losing battle. Rocha is going to have a really difficult time coming back from this loss, as he showed major flaws in his game that won’t be easily fixed, especially if he fails to follow his coach’s game plan like tonight.
What was disturbing about this performance by Rocha was how he just stood there getting hit with chopping left hands from Santillan.
In the sixth, Santillan hit him with six consecutive right hooks, and he didn’t have the presence of mind to step back to get out of the way of them. The way he fought was novice-level.
John ‘Scrappy’ Ramirez stops Ronal Batista
In the chief support fight on the card, unbeaten super flyweight contender John ‘Scrappy Ramirez (13-0, 9 KOs) stopped and outgunned Ronal Batista (15-4, 9 KOs) by a fourth round knockout.
Ramirez & Batista traded bombs in the first two rounds, with neither fighter showing much ability to get out of the way of shots.
By the third round, Ramirez’s superior power began to do damage to the 26-year-old Panamanian Batista. Although he kept fighting back, he didn’t have enough pop in his punches to keep Scrappy off him, and the fight was turning into a rout.
In the fourth round, Ramirez hit Batista with a hard body shot that caused him to go down in a delayed reaction. Moments later, Scrappy Ramirez trapped Batista against the ropes and unloaded with a storm of shots, sending him down for a second time in the round courtesy of a right hand to the head. At this point, referee Jack Reiss stepped in and waived it off. The time of the stoppage was at 2:33 of four round.
After the fight, Scrappy Ramirez, now the WBA 115-lb mandatory, said he wanted to challenge champion Kazuto Ioka next. That’s the most winnable belt for Scrappy at 115 because he’s not going to beat Juan Francisco Estrada or Jesse ‘Bam Bam Rodriguez, as those guys are on another level talent-wise.