Former four-division world champion Adrien “The Problem” Broner returned from his two-year hiatus from boxing with a unanimous decision victory over Jovanie Santiago in the main event of Saturday night’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast, live on SHOWTIME from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
The popular, must-see attraction Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs), who last fought against the legend Manny Pacquiao in January 2019, started slowly but used the second half of the fight to surge ahead on the judges’ scorecards. The fight was scored 116-111, 117-110 and 115-112 and all three judges had Broner winning rounds seven through ten.
“That was cool,” said Broner, who had his hand raised for the first time in four years. “I want to go home and really look at my fight. I haven’t fought in two years. But I felt good, I felt like I won the fight. I felt like I beat him with the jab, honestly. But it felt good to get my hand raised though.”
Cincinnati’s Broner landed just 35 of 138 punches in the opening six rounds of the fight while the previously undefeated Santiago (14-1-1, 10 KOs) landed 93 of 305 during the same stretch. At the end of the fourth round, Santiago was deducted a point for a punch that landed after the bell. Over the final six frames, Broner landed 63 of 300 punches while Santiago landed 114 of 392. Broner was most active in the ninth round when he connected on 14 of 38 punches. Though outworked over the entirety of the fight, Broner landed quality punches over the second half of the bout which earned him the victory.
“I knew he was going to be tough because he’s 14-0,” added Broner. “And anybody with that ‘0’ wants to keep that ‘0’ so they’re going to fight like a bum fighting for a sandwich. I came in and I got the job done. There is a lot of work out there at 140. Right now we’re going to the drawing board with Al Haymon to see what’s best for me. But I’m definitely going back to the gym and I’m looking forward to getting one of those titles this year at 140.”
SHOWTIME’s unofficial scorer Steve Farhood scored the fight 114-113 in favor of the Puerto Rican Santiago, much to the chagrin of Broner. Santiago, on the other hand, was not surprised by the judges’ scorecards.
“No, the decision doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Broner did a nice job in there. The decision could have gone both ways. He fought a great fight. We were in it to win this fight and he got the decision. I think boxing fans know who I am now, but in this fight I should have applied more pressure and the fight would have gone my way.”
In the co-main event, Swedish heavyweight contender Otto Wallin (22-1, 14 KOs) continued his rise in the division with a unanimous decision over former world title challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-3, 18 KOs). The judges scored the fight 117-111, 116-112 and 118-110.
The veteran Breazeale, whose only previous two losses came to unified champion Anthony Joshua and former WBC titlist Deontay Wilder, showed signs of ring rust after a 21-month layoff. He started slowly and it was Wallin who was able to get his offense on track early and often. The southpaw Wallin landed a huge left hand that caused swelling over Breazeale’s right eye in the fifth round. He out-jabbed Breazeale 103 to 37 and landed more than twice the number of power shots than Breazeale did (129-54).
Wallin, who constantly stated his desire to move past the Tyson Fury fight that he nearly won in 2019 in the pre-fight leadup, earned the most impressive win of his career in his second appearance at the Mohegan Sun “Fight Sphere”.
“I think I had an advantage because I fought here before,” said the 30-year-old, who lives and trains in New York City under former world champion Joey Gamache. “I was more focused this time and I think I came out better than what I did last time. We knew coming in that I had better footwork, better speed so I wanted to use that. And I have good defense too. He hit me here and there but nothing too serious. I said before the fight that I just gotta do what I’m good at and that’s what I tried to do.
“My ultimate goal is to be champion. But I have to keep improving, I’m not there yet. I’ve got a lot of work to do, I’m getting better. I’m not so focused on who I fight, I just want to fight, keep it stepping it up and when I get another shot, I’ll be ready for it.”
“I let the early rounds get away from me,” said the 2012 U.S. Olympian Breazeale. “Otto is a good boxer and did a good job of sticking and moving the whole fight. I did a little bit too much head-hunting at the start and paid for it on the back-end.”
In the opening bout of the evening, former world champion Robert Easter Jr. (23-1-1, 14 KOs) showed his championship pedigree with a dominating unanimous decision victory over Chattanooga, Tenn.’s Ryan Martin (24-2, 14 KOs). The judges scored the fight 117-111 and 118-110 twice.
With the win, Easter improves to 5-1-1 in fights that have gone all 12 scheduled rounds, while Martin went 12 rounds for the first time in the losing effort.
Easter was sharp from the onset of the fight, using his jab and movement to effectively dictate the pace. The former IBF Lightweight World Champion, fighting for the first time in 16 months, was successful in his second contest at 140 pounds. He showed no signs of ring rust as he landed 82 of 339 jabs and connected on 40 percent of his power punches. While Martin was busier, throwing 90 more punches than the Toledo native, it was Easter who was far more accurate as he outlanded Martin 161-118 in total punches.
Easter was cut for the first time in his career after an accidental headbutt in the eighth round, but still continued his dominance for the remainder of the fight in a composed and masterful performance.
“I was just comfortable,” said the 30-year-old Easter. “Once I stay boxing, I get comfortable. I get a little bored but everybody says when I box, when I use my jab, keep my distance, I make the fight that much easier. So that’s what I was working on the whole camp. Me and my dad have been stressing on using the jab, keeping your distance and that’s what we did. I wanted to fight but as you see, when I wanted to fight, I got headbutted. So it was best to keep our distance.
“Whoever has those straps, whoever is in the way is going to feel this wrath. Me and AB, we’re coming to stir up the 140-pound division and that’s that. There ain’t no particular fighter, I want them all. We’re coming for all those straps.”
Martin, who was denied the opportunity to represent the United States at the Summer Games in London as an alternate when he lost to Easter in the amateurs, was unable to exact revenge or execute the game plan that trainer Mark Ferrait curated.
“I thought I was competitive but obviously I could have done a lot of things better,” said the 27-year-old Martin. “I followed him too much and he was able to take away our game plan. He did a great job of keeping me on the outside. There’s not too much to say, he was the better man tonight. His jab didn’t bother me too much but it did keep me from getting on the inside. He never stunned me or affected me with it, but I should have sped up on him a little more.”
Saturday’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast will replay on Sunday at 8:05 a.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME and Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME EXTREME.
Veteran sportscaster Brian Custer hosted the telecast. Versatile combat sports voice Mauro Ranallo called the action ringside alongside Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and three-division world champion Abner Mares. Two Hall of Famers rounded out the telecast team: boxing historian Steve Farhood as unofficial scorer and world-renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. The telecast was available in Spanish via Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) with former junior middleweight world champion Raúl “El Diamante” Marquez and Alejandro Luna calling the action. The executive producer was four-time Emmy® award winner David Dinkins, Jr. The director was Bob Dunphy, son of legendary Hall of Famer Don Dunphy.