Alejandro Santiago outpoints Nonito Donaire, wins vacant WBC bantamweight title
LAS VEGAS – Alexandro Santiago was finally able to fulfill his dream of winning a world title belt on the undercard of the anticipated Errol Spence-Terence Crawford showdown.
Santiago outboxed and outlanded Nonito Donaire, winning by unanimous decision Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena. Scores were 116-112, 116-112, and 115-113 for Santiago, who improved to 28-3-5, 14 knockouts. He also won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title.
After a feeling-out opening round, both fighters began to let their hands go during the second round.
About midway through the third round, a check hook from Donaire momentarily staggered Santiago. This was after Santiago backed Donaire up against the ropes, where he ripped combinations to the head and body.
Santiago bounced back during the fourth round, initiating exchanges and finding success by landing a series of left hooks to the head and body of Donaire.
From the middle rounds, Santiago was the more-effective fighter, walking down Donaire and landing an array of combinations that got through the guard of Donaire. Santiago continued to outbox Donaire, despite suffering a cut above the left eye early in the seventh round.
Donaire was able to rally towards the end of the ninth round, connecting with a left hook followed by a right cross to the head. The brief rally was thwarted during the following round, as Santiago continued to outbox Donaire.
Santiago was the more-effective fighter during the championship rounds. Donaire looked a step slower and was not able to let his hands go the way he wanted.
Saturday’s bout between Donaire and Santiago was a clash of contenders ranked in the top-10 by The Ring. Donaire and Santiago are ranked No. 3 and 5 at 118 pounds.
Saturday culminated a long journey for Santiago, who challenged then-IBF world junior bantamweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas to a split-decision draw in September 2018. Since then, the 27-year-old was able to win 12 of his next 13 bouts, with the only blemish coming at the hands of Gary Antonio Russell in November 2021.
Santiago was emotional during the post-fight interview.
“It’s difficult to describe because we worked hard in preparing for this fight,” said Santiago. “We were focused on what mistakes Nonito made and the result speaks for himself.”
The 40-year-old Donaire was attempting to become a four-time bantamweight world titleholder. Donaire was coming off a knockout loss to Naoya Inoue in his previous fight on June 7 of last year.
Despite the sluggish performance on his part, Donaire is not ready yet to hang up the gloves.
“Congratulations to Alex,” said Donaire, who has won world title belts in four different weight classes. “He deserves this. I love the sport. The thing I told my wife is we will go back and talk about what’s next.
“I feel good. I didn’t pull the trigger (tonight). I was trying to counter too much. You have to use your jab. I love this sport a lot.”
Donaire, who is originally from Talibon in the Philippines and now resides in Las Vegas, falls to 42-8, 28 KOs.
Junior featherweight Jose Salas Reyes of Tijuana, Mexico stopped former world junior bantamweight title challenger Aston Palicte in the fourth round.
By the end of the second round, Reyes (13-0, 10 KOs) began letting his hands go with more fluidity. The southpaw Reyes landed two and three-punch combinations, putting Palicte on the defensive.
During the fourth round, a combination dropped Palicte to one knee in a corner. Palicte beat the count, but motioned he did not want to continue. Referee Allen Huggins waved the fight off at 1:30.
Palicte, who resides in Bago City in the Philippines, dropped to 28-6-1, 23 KOs.
Lightweight Demler Zamora of Las Vegas remained unbeaten, defeating Nikolai Buzolin by decision over eight one-sided rounds.
All three judges scored the bout 80-72 in favor of Zamora, who improved to 12-0, 9 KOs.
After a slow start, the southpaw Zamora began to land thudding punches to the head and body of Buzolin, who was game, but was not able to keep up with Zamora’s punch output.
Buzolin, who is originally from Tyumen, Russia and now resides in Brooklyn, New York, falls to 9-5-1, 5 KOs.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]
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