Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |


Giovani Santillan shocks Alexis Rocha, scores dominant sixth-round KO

Giovani Santillan didn't come to box Alexis Rocha. Photo:
Fighters Network

The Southern California fight community knows Giovani Santillan is a mature veteran. We know the San Diego native is a classy, competent technician. And we knew the unbeaten southpaw would bring his best effort against Alexis Rocha on October 21 and make for a good main event at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.

But who knew Santillan could be such a beast in the ring!?

The 31-year-old welterweight’s aggressive, violently efficient game plan certainly appeared to catch Rocha by surprise as Santillan dropped the odds favorite three times en route to a brutally one-sided sixth-round stoppage.

Santillan dropped Rocha twice in Round 5. Photo: Golden Boy / Cris Esqueda

The fight, which was streamed live on DAZN, was a big opportunity for Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) who though undefeated was not as respected as Rocha (23-2, 15 KOs), a 26-year-old Santa Ana, California native rated No. 1 in the WBO’s 147-pound rankings and No. 5 by The Ring. But fans who didn’t know or care about Santillan before this fight, will now if they watched the broadcast that was presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Top Rank.

Santillan backed Rocha up from the opening bell, outworking and outlanding the younger fighter, who was thought to be the stronger athlete and harder puncher.

He casually absorbed big body shots and flush hooks to the head as he took the fight to Rocha, whose nose was badly bloodied by the end of Round 2.

Santillan proved to be as strong (or stronger) than Rocha, who had won seven bouts since being outpointed by Rashidi Ellis two years ago, and far more durable as he continually got the better of the crowd favorite during several heavy exchanges in Round 3 and 4.

By Round 5, Rocha’s face was a bloody mess and he seemed lost.

Santillan sent him to the canvas 40 seconds into the round and then put him back on the canvas with a series of right hooks about 40 seconds before the bell. Although Rocha fired back valiantly between knockdowns, the fight was essentially over.

Two crisp hook-uppercut combinations dropped Rocha to a knee in Round 6 and referee Ray Corona did the right thing by waving the fight off at 1:16 of the round.

Most fans and media watching the fight were surprised by Santillan’s aggression and high-volume punch output, but the fighter says it was all according to the plan head trainer Robert Garcia devised.

“It was the outcome I was looking for,” Santillan said during his post-fight interview. “[Rocha was] very tough, he got up twice, but that was the result we were looking for. He’s strong. I definitely felt the power, but I was comfortable.

“I needed to get this win to get big fights in the future.”

He’s earned the big fights — and a fan following — with this performance.