A one-on-one interview with undefeated rising star Giovani Santillan as he prepares for his first fight in front of his hometown of San Diego on August 16 at Path to Glory presented by Thompson Boxing Promotions.
The career arc of a professional prizefighter can be planned out from the first time a young, aspiring kid straps on the gloves and throws his first punch, but rarely do the events that follow happen without a roadblock or bump in the road. It is those small, but infrequent challenges that can jeopardize the dream of a young fighter while simultaneously strengthening his mental makeup to overcome adversity and continue on the path to becoming a champion.
For Giovani Santillan, the roadblocks have been few and far between, but it is Santillan’s understanding of his surroundings, skills, opponents and the makeup of his team that demonstrates the maturity and awareness required to reach the next level.
Giovani Santillan (13-0, 7 KO’s) is a young, rising star from San Diego who headlines a 8-round title fight on Saturday, August 16 from the San Diego Harley Davidson Center. Los Angeles based boxing promoter, Thompson Boxing Promotions is bringing some of the areas elite fighters to San Diego with a stacked card of live boxing that strives to bring boxing back to San Diego; a town with a rich boxing history.
The complete fight card, which is being hailed as “Path to Glory,” is a unique play on words for the 22-year old San Diego native, who in his own way is paving his own path to the top of the boxing landscape.
Santillan, a southpaw fighter, who is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Joaquin Chavez on June 27, 2014 is preparing for a special night, which includes fighting in front of his hometown of San Diego for the first time in his young career.
“We are training really hard and are really excited about having the opportunity to fight here in San Diego. It is something really special for us,” says Santillan.
“I have a lot of friends and family who are happy to see me get this opportunity. There is also a lot of people from the gyms that I teach at who are looking forward to it,” says Santillan.
If the thought of fighting in front of his hometown San Diego fans wasn’t enough for the cagey fighter, “Path to Glory” will also be the first time Santillan will be the main attraction and fight for the vacant junior welterweight NABF belt.
“We don’t think about that too much honestly. We have to continue to work hard just like every fight no matter what is at stake,” says Santillan.
When sitting down with Santillan, it is impossible not to recognize the selfless attitude he possesses and the consistent remarks he makes related to the importance of his team. Throughout the interview, there was only one or two instances where Santillan used the words “I” or “me,” which I found impressive for someone so young.
It is Santillan’s experiences over the past 15 years that show his maturity, going back to the age of eight years old when he first entered the gym, through his time with the U.S. Junior National Team, enduring over 80 amateur bouts and briefly spending time in Cuba, where he learned about the hard work and dedication young, aspiring Cuban prospects must endure.
“It was a great experience being in Cuba…I learned a lot about their style and how dedicated they are to the sport of boxing,” says Santillan.
With a respectable 13-0 professional record on his resume and a wealth of experience it is no wonder why Santillan carries himself with a calm confidence that leads you to believe he is wise beyond his years.
“I think all of those experiences boost my confidence going back to when I was young through my first thirteen fights,” says Santillan.
While it is obvious that Santillan has a plan for his career, it is rare to expect a young fighter to be cognizant of everything surrounding his career, like team and surroundings, for example. I was pleasantly surprised that Santillan has already figured that out too.
With his father in his corner providing guidance and motivation that keeps him on the path to success, Santillan knows that his best interests are always being considered.
“There is nothing like having my dad in my corner. Our bond is what keeps me motivated, keeps me focused and on track,” says Santillan.
While his father provides a level of comfort and stability in his corner, Santillan has improved his team and technical skills inside of the ring by bringing a local boxing legend into the fold.
Danny “Dynamite” Perez (34-8), former NABF Welterweight champion and San Diego-based fighter and trainer, has been an important addition to Santillan’s team while maintaining the father-son bond that has brought Santillan to this point in his career.
“He (Danny Perez) has been a great addition to the team. My dad has always been my coach and will continue to be, but adding Danny (Perez) has been great for the team. And we all work together real well too,” says Santillan.
In addition to improving the basic boxing skills required to become an elite championship fighter, Santillan also relies heavily on Coach Perez for improving his mental capacity for the sweet science by drawing from Perez’s own ring experience. Perez, who went 34-8 over a 15-year career shared the ring with legendary fighters Antonio Margarito and current star Erislandy Lara, among several other top-flight fighters. To draw from Perez’s own experiences has been one area that Santillan truly appreciates and doesn’t take for granted.
“The one thing that Coach Danny (Perez) brings to the table that has helped me out is the fighter’s perspective. He used to be a professional boxer who fought in big fights against good competition. Having him be in the corner with that experience helps so much. When I am in the ring he knows what it is like to be there. If I am in a tough spot he knows what to do to help me get out of that tough spot and that is key for me,” says Santillan.
With less than a week remaining before the title fight, Santillan is fine-tuning is strategy, working hard in the gym and familiarizing himself with his opponent as he prepares for August 16 “Path to Glory.” Santillan will put his 13-0 record on the line for the vacant NABF junior welterweight title against veteran Osenohan Vazquez (7-1-1, 2KO’s) from Jersey City, New Jersey.
“He’s a good fighter who throws a lot of the basic combinations and is very solid…with the basics you win fights so I have to really watch out for those things,” says Santillan.
It is clear that Santillan is mentally focused on the task at hand, has a strong team in his corner and has all of the physical tools to win the fight, however, like any smart fighter, Santillan knows that winning a fight of this magnitude comes down to preparation, hard work and most importantly sticking to the strategy.
“I come into all of my fights to do the job at hand…to stay with the game plan. If the knockout comes of course I will take it and try to win the fight. If I see I have him hurt I will try and finish him, but winning the fight comes down to executing the game plan,” says Santillan.
Like any smart prizefighter, Santillan cannot, and will not, look past his current opponent. Santillan remains committed to focusing on the task at hand and doesn’t necessarily worry about may lie ahead.
“My goal in boxing is to simply make it has far as I can and to do that I need to win August 16. I want to be up there with the big names, sure, but right now I am focused on this fight…that is my goal,” Santillan confidently says.
If there is one underlying theme I can pull away from the interview with local fighter Giovani Santillan, it is this. Santillan was born to fight. And he has committed himself to improving his natural ability through hard work, discipline, surrounding himself with the right people and staying committed to his plan.
Santillan says, “I knew I was a fighter since the beginning honestly. It has always been my plan to become a fighter…”
Lucky for us, we get to see Giovani Santillan do what he was born to do, what he has been groomed to do and most importantly…what he loves to do.
San Diego fight fans can see Giovani Santillan take on Osenohan Vazquez in a 8-round headline bout for the vacant junior welterweight NABF title on August 16, 2014 live from the San Diego Harley Davidson showroom in central San Diego. Visit Thompson Boxing Promotions online at http://www.thompsonboxing.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thompsonboxing and on Twitter @thompsonboxing. Tickets are going fast and this show will surely prove to be an exciting night for San Diego, the fighters and the fans.
Giovani Santillan would like to thank Art of Eight Training Center, Undisputed Gym, manager Bob Calhoun, Thompson Boxing Promotions, his father and trainer Mr. Santillan and Coach Danny Perez.