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Santos May Need More Than A Knockout Punch To Get Big Money Matches

By Gabrielle Paese

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

After a convincing TKO victory over Yory Boy Campas last Saturday night at Bally's in Las Vegas, Bayamón's own Daniel Santos is already talking about a big money match against Oscar de la Hoya.

Santos (25-2-1, 20 KOs) opened a cut over Campas' right eye in the 10th round before the Mexican decided to call it quits and referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight in the 11th.

Going into the 11th, Santos was leading on all three judges' cards, 99-90, 97-93, and 99-91.

The victory gives Santos the WBO's 154-pound (junior middleweight) title in his debut at this weight class. Campas (79-5), the former champion, may also be nearing retirement, although he is still a powerful boxer and evidenced that by stunning Santos with a left hook in the eighth round.

Santos' toughest battle looks like it's going to be outside of the ring, though.

The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist wants a piece of De la Hoya, who is sure to win against Fernando Vargas when the two fight May 4 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for De la Hoya's WBC super welterweight title and Vargas' WBA super welterweight title.

"The eyes of the world [via Showtime] saw who Daniel Santos is and I did everything possible to give a good show and now they have to consider me," said Santos upon his triumphant return to Puerto Rico earlier this week. "I wanna fight a big name now. I proved I can fight. I can box, I can hit."

In boxing's full-circle world, Santos will likely get De la Hoya. But not yet -- and not without a struggle.

Next up Santos faces an obligatory title defense against either Wayne Alexander, of Great Britain, or Mamadou Thiam, one of Félix "Tito" Trinidad's former victims.

"The rules stipulate that he has between 90 and 120 days to make a mandatory defense against the first available contender," said WBO president Francisco "Paquito" Valcárcel.

Santos, however, said earlier this week that he'd like to fast-forward directly to De la Hoya and is planning to negotiate with his promoter, Frank Warren, for an early release from his contract.

Santos is also threatening to sue Warren to get out of the rest of his contract, because it stipulated that Santos was to fight at least three fights during the year 2001 and ended up fighting only once -- against Antonio Margarito. That fight ended in a no-contest after a first-round headbutt.

Margarito (26-3) of Tijuana, Mexico, got his 18th knockout by stopping Antonio Diaz (37-4) of Coachella, Calif., at 2:17 of the 10th round in the other fight on Saturday's "Latin Fury" card for the 147-pound (welterweight) title Santos vacated by moving up in weight class.

"Daniel Santos knows very well why he only fought once last year," Warren said earlier this week from New York. "He was the one who backed out of the fight we scheduled with Harry Simon after he told us he wanted to move up to 154 pounds."

Santos was originally scheduled to fight Namibian Harry Simon (who has since moved up to 160 pounds) last February, but balked at the last minute.

"His decision hurt our television contract because the fight card was already set up," said Warren of his Sports Network deal.

WBO's Valcárcel sided with Warren.

"His position is that Santos declined the title fight he set up for him against Warren. Then he set up the fight with Margarito and due to the Sept. 11 events, he has justification for not being able to set up a third fight before the year's end," said Valcárcel.

While Warren does not seem inclined to give Santos up without a legal battle, he did throw the young boxer a bone by offering to set up his imminent mandatory defense in Puerto Rico.

Middleweight Trinidad, who once ruled this junior middleweight class, is also scheduled to fight next here in Puerto Rico, at San Juan's Roberto Clemente Coliseum May 11 vs. France's Hacine Cherifi.

Trinidad last month ruled out a rematch in the near future with De la Hoya after the two quibbled in preliminary negotiations. But while Trinidad (40-1, 33 KOs) doesn't need De la Hoya, Santos does.

A fight with boxing's "Golden Boy" would move Santos up several tax brackets -- whether or not he wins. A victory over De la Hoya would -- well, make Santos a big-money boxer. It would also set up interesting scenarios, such as making a Santos-Trinidad matchup inevitable.

My advice: Don't hold your breath waiting, but potential matchups like the De la Hoya-Santos-Trinidad triangle are what keep boxing fans going during lean times.

Notes: Santos is trained by Alejandro "Pupi" de la Torre in Bayamón. De la Torre is a Cuban who was part of the coaching staff for that stellar Cuban boxing squad that won 11 of 12 possible gold medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The gold medal that got away from the Cubans? It was won by De la Hoya, who turned pro shortly thereafter.

Oquendo back in gym

Heavyweight Fres Oquendo is back in the gym after an injury to his left biceps. According to his trainer, Félix Trinidad Sr., Oquendo will be ready for his April 13 fight in West Virginia versus David Tua for Oquendo's NABF heavyweight title.

Camacho Jr. due in ring

Super lightweight Héctor "Machito" Camacho Jr. fights Argentina's Omar Weis Friday night in a 10-round in Phoenix, Ariz., that ESPN will broadcast.

Clemente Sports City to unveil new plans

Roberto Clemente Sports City is hoping to put its new master plan to work after this weekend's meeting with its board of directors and local officials.

"We're really excited about the support we already have and we've set some definite goals that we'd like to achieve and share with all those who are interested in Roberto Clemente Sports City, said Luis Clemente, who oversees operations along with his mother, Vera Zabála, the widow the Hall of Famer.

The center already serves Puerto Rico's youngsters weekly with such diverse programming as synchronized swimming, soccer, football and of course, baseball.

"This new master plan will benefit Puerto Rico in so many ways," said Clemente, one of the Pittsburgh Pirates' three sons. "We are here to help the youngsters but we can also play a role in tourism and in athlete development."

Clemente Sports City, in Clemente's hometown of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is home to Major League baseball's Reviving Baseball in the Inner cities (RBI) program. With an operating budget of $1.2 million, Roberto Clemente Sports City counts on legislative funding and private donations.

Clemente envisioned his sports city as a place to help forge the baseball players of tomorrow. After his untimely death on Dec. 31, 1972, his widow, Vera, took on the task of carrying out her husband's dream.


Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the most recent recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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