MANILA, Philippines, February 17 ------ Jeo Santisima need not look far for inspiration when he challenges Emanuel Navarrete for the World Boxing Organization super bantamweight crown on Saturday, February 22 (Sunday, February 23, Philippine time) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The Filipino fighter just tries to remember what Manny Pacquiao achieved at the same venue on June 23, 2001 and be ready to shock the world. Back then, Pacquiao wrested the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight belt from touted South African Lehlo Ledwaba via 6th round technical knockout on two-week notice. And also just like Pacquiao, when casino bookies reportedly wouldn’t take bets on that bout, Santisima would be a huge underdog, some boxing sites giving him only 8% chance of toppling Navarrete from being the world’s top 122-pounder.
The 25-year-old Navarrete, a heavy-handed volume puncher, will be making his fifth title defense, stopping his 4 challengers, including Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde, to raise his record to 30 wins, 26 by knockout, against one loss. Santisima, 23, also packs a wallop having knocked out 16 of his 19 victims against two losses but is ranked way below Navarrete at No. 64. No wonder, many ring experts label Navarrete-Santisima a mismatch. The pride of Aroroy, Masbate, of course, knows how good the Mexican champion is. That’s why Santisima poured it all during his six-week training at ALA boxing gym in Cebu under the supervision of head trainer Edito Villamor and Michael Domingo.
They made sure Santisima got quality sparring too, pitting him against stablemates KJ Cataraja, former world title contender Jonas Sultan, Albert Pagara, and Japanese Takayuki Sakai. Santisima arrived in Los Angeles on February 13, where he’ll spend a few days training at Freddie Roach’s Wild card Boxing Club in Hollywood before proceeding to Las Vegas on fight week. Like Pacquiao before the Ledwaba stunner, Santisima will just be a blip on the radar centered mostly on Navarrete. It will be up to him to alter the screen display.