Monday, February 17, 2020  |




Milton Santiago knew something was immediately wrong. In mid-December, he was looking to go out and grabbed a pair of jeans from his drawer. That’s when he discovered a problem. He couldn’t pull the jeans past his thighs. Or, maybe they weren’t his jeans at all.

He looked down at the tag: 32-inch waist-by-30-inch length.

Yep, they were his jeans. And he couldn’t get them even to his waist.

He fights at 135. He had blown up to about 170 pounds. That’s what a long layoff did to him. Pizza, ice cream, cheesesteaks made his tight, taut face round—very round.

On Saturday, the promising Philadelphia lightweight will be making a return to the ring in over a year against Ruben Dario Lopez (12-14-5, 5 knockouts) at the fabled 2300 Arena in a six-round main event set at 137 pounds.

Santiago (17-0, 3 KOs) was having some managerial issues that have now been smoothed over. During that sabbatical, Santiago lost some discipline and found an appreciation for boxing when it was taken away.

“I wasn’t at the gym as much as I should have been,” said Santiago, 22, who began fighting professionally when he was a senior in high school. “I got kind of heavy when I was off. I never weighed 170 pounds before in my life. Everyone recognized me during my weight gain.

“It was actually coming down in weight when he didn’t recognize me. I didn’t have to buy a whole new bunch of clothes, but I knew I was really heavy when I couldn’t fit into these jeans. The whole thing was a lesson for me. I hate vegetables and I had to begin eating vegetables and eating healthy to lose the weight. I just remember not being able to get my jeans over my thighs. It was that bad.”

Santiago is on deck now. He’s able to fit into the very jeans that couldn’t reach his waist.

“The past is in the past, I had my fun time, and I’m young, so it’s time to get back to business,” Santiago said. “I’ve been dieting the last two months. Some of this is tough to eat, but boxing is my job, my priority and I have to make those sacrifices.”

Santiago said he began feeling healthy and feeling good around. He’s 141 pounds leading into the Lopez fight.

“The whole experience motivated me a lot,” Santiago said. “Nicco and Tommy, my brothers, really motivated me. They called me ‘fat’ a few times. Right now, I’m in the best shape of my life. We lost the weight in the right way. It was a gradual process, a little here, a little there.”

Santiago is looking to get into the ring two more times before the end of the year.

Lopez, 36, is 5-feet, 5 1/2- inches tall. Santiago is a tall lightweight, listed at 5-foot, 8-inches, with a 64-inch reach.

“I’ll do my best, the best I can do,” Santiago said. “I’m just glad that I’m fighting again. Lopez is a tough guy who will come forward. After this, I’m looking to fight two more times before the end of the year. I’m trying to get this guy out of there. I’m in shape and I’m looking to do my best.”



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