By: Anthony Whitby
A series of odd events led to an interview with Super Bantamweight Alexis “Beaver” Santiago. Naturally as a boxing junkie and supporter of the local boxing scene I posted the online flyer for some bouts at the Madison Event Center in the heart of downtown Phoenix. When I did, comments below the post were questioning why a boxer would be named a “Beaver”? I jokingly responded, “Hey, Beavers are one of the most feared creatures in North America.” Minutes later I get a response back from the fighter saying he simply got the nickname when he was in the gym and it just stuck with him ever since. Let’s be honest some fighters can be real irrational about little things and Alexis could of easily responded with a Capital “F.U” to myself and everyone else who were in on the discussion but he didn’t. I don’t think his mentality as a person and as a fighter are designed like that way.
Long story short, I walked up to Estrella gym which is in familiar territory where I used to roll around as a teenager. You can’t go into the inner parts of Phoenix without finding the “mom and pop” stores that fuel the local economy. When I pulled up to a big white building that was a giant warehouse with many local stores built inside of it, it was reminiscent of a miniature “mall” straight from Mexico but as I walked in, I ran into Alexis who was opening the gym doors to the place.
Alexis Santiago grew up on the east side of Phoenix where even as a youth he was around boxing and with many friends, would train. His parents wouldn’t let him go to the gyms at first but finally at the age of fourteen he got his shot when his brother took him. Now at twenty years old, he hasn’t been out of the gym for more than two weeks. His dedication to training and to the sport is evident in his work ethic and he runs daily to stay in top condition. “Since I was small I was always active, I don’t like being overweight. I like coming to the gym, I do my road work four or five miles in the morning and do my training in the afternoon for about two to three hours a day”, says Alexis.
He considers himself an all around fighter with good power and speed but more importantly he can box his opponents and likes to stay in middle of the ring. When I asked about his favorite fighters it should give you an idea what style of fighters one can assume Alexis emulates: Floyd Mayweather Jr., Pernall Whitaker, and Hector Camacho. The thought is by boxing he will gain more ring experience while acquiring more rounds for his career.
Alexis is 6-0-1 with 25 rounds already and his opponent for his next bout Walter Santibanes is 1-1-0 with 8 rounds of experience. You can tell when talking to Beaver that there is bad blood between him and Walter. Alexis said “He doesn’t like me, and thinks he is better than me, but last time he sparred with me he lasted three rounds and then he was done”. He goes on to say it’s going to be a good fight because he is a good fighter. I don’t see him beating me though I will point him, or stay in the middle”.
One angle to this fight that really interests the local area is that Walter’s head trainer is Alan Viers who is the head trainer for Jesus Ernesto Gonzales “El Martillo” , who recently won IBF North American super middleweight title, and Alexis is trained by El Martillo’s father Ernie. He said “training with Ernie gives me confidence to do what I have to do in the ring and he keeps me sharp with my skills”.
Speaking to Alexis about the reality of what a win will do for him, he realizes that staying active and fighting the best he can will get him more recognition. By the time fight night occurs he will have fought 6 times in 13 months. Ranked 16 in the country according to Box Rec we talked about some opponents he is gunning after and the two names that were constantly coming up were Randy Caballero and Charles Huerta two young prospects from California. You definitely get the feeling he really wants a fight with Randy Caballero.
The fact that Randy Caballero beat Alexis Santiago as a young fighter when Randy was already seasoned in the amateurs and Alexis was barley starting out that it doesn’t sit well and looks to avenge the loss. They have tried to make deals with Randy Caballero’s team while in the pro game but for whatever reason they deal fell through. He also spoke that after his win against Walter he would like a shot at Charles Huerta. Alexis is willing to take whatever money and go wherever he needs to go to seek out a win against a named opponent.
Currently “Beaver” is not signed on with a promotion company but said this allows him to take any fight he gets offered. Yet at the Press conference leading up to the fight it was evident he has strong following of Phoenix fight fans supporting him.
While I was there I spoke with his opponent Walter Santibanes who said “Alexis better be ready; he’s going to have to keep moving”. Just talking to Walter he could tell that Alexis is the fan favorite but he doesn’t care because he just wants to fight. “I am ready!” he kept telling me.
Sometimes as a fight fan when you really start to study a fight you begin to build it up in your head how it will go. What are the implications for the loser and what are the rewards for the one with their hand held up high come fight night? This fight seems a little more than that; there is underlying aggression built between these fighters. Not cross town beef or any drama such as that but rather two competitive boxers who just know that only one of them can win.
Come fight night while pulling up to the venue I realized that it’s the same spot back in my hay days as a local hip hop promoter I threw many events in the venue. What was once the Brick house is now known as the Madison Event Center. I was impressed with the crowd that was coming out to support the local boxing scene. Reports after the fights were that the event was too successful and some fans were that were trying to buy tickets at the door were turned away.
It was when Walter Santibanes was walking into the ring with his camp that I realized that I must have been seated in the section of his family because the small little section went louder than the rest of the room while he walked in with a cold stare on his face. Credit goes to Alexis and his camp for hiring a superb Banda group Banda La Llegadora preformed as Alexis walked into the ring and this lit the crowd up and really set the tone of the fight.
Round 1 begin and immediately Alexis ran to the middle of the ring and was easily throwing accurate flurries, his length and quickness were advantages in the round. Many people sitting close to us were saying that Beaver had figured out how to fight Walter fairly easily already. However Walter wouldn’t serve to be that easy of an opponent
Round 2 came about and Santibanes began to work the body the best he could and you can see that even though the shots weren’t flush that the young brute’s shots had an effect on Alexis at this point the staying the middle of the ring as battle plan was out the door.
In rounds 3 and 4 massive chants were thunderous through the crowd “Beaver” and then in the small section I was in “Walter”. So much passion was flowing through this crowd, truly giving me an appreciation just witnessing a great fight in my home town. Walters’s energy seem to diminish enough for Alexis to keep Walter on the ropes and kept working with a left hand that land every which way.
This is also when I noticed that Walter would intentionally bait Alexis by planting himself on the ropes intentionally. Wanting Alexis to come in and exchange this is also when I began to notice that not Alexis did so but refuse to back off either. Rather than hit and run Alexis stayed determined to stay inside and trade with Walter in doing so his accurate flurries would land but in return he would also have to take some punches as well in which he did indeed he did to a point his chin was definitely tested.
It seemed after round 5 every fan was already talking who they thought won the last round and simply no one could agree. What I can say in the last ten seconds of the round 5 Alexis threw combinations that looked as fresh as the ones landed in round 1.
Both fighters at times were backing off due to taking some horrendous shots from their opponent it was testament to each fighter’s will to continue trading shots the way they did.
After 6 rounds of fighting when the ring announcer called out a split decision with 58-56 twice for Alexis and 58-56 once for Walter the crowd booed in an upset manner.
The tricky thing on this was some were booing because they thought Beaver won the fight hold heartily and a split decision was discrediting his performance. Others thought that Walter did enough to win as well, regardless he assured himself to be a formidable opponent.
After the fight I spoke with Walter Santibanes trainer Alan Viers. He said he felt that a draw was merited and he was impressed with what Walter was capable to do in five weeks in his gym.
After the fight I spoke with Alexis I asked about what happen to his game plan and staying in the middle of the ring. He explained that he had to make adjustment in the ring due to the fact that he was worried about his right hand that felt numb so he had to make adjustments in the ring. He felt that going inside and go to work with mainly one hand would be his best bet.
When asked about a rematch he said he would take a take rematch with Walter even though it wouldn’t do much for him career wise unless Walter was able to get some wins underneath his belt.
As for Alexis Santiago and where he goes after a well fought hometown battle? Well for one it appears there are many avenues and directions he can go naturally he is gunning hard for a fight with the likes of Randy Caballero or say a Charles Huerta and there are talks about working with Face to Face events or even Showdown promotions for a June 11th date at Wild Horse Casio is also in play. One thing is for certain this fighter becoming a hot commodity in the Arizona landscape and not to be over looked as young prospect on the rise.