Southern California’s premier fight cities joined forces Saturday evening as Los Angeles-based Thompson Boxing Promotions brought their show south to “America’s Finest City” for a stacked card featuring San Diego’s elite local boxing talent.
In what was being hailed as “Path to Glory,” Thompson Boxing Promotions and matchmaker Alex Camponovo, brought seven bouts to the Harley Davidson San Diego showroom, which included a main event featuring undefeated local talent Giovani Santillan (13-0) against Osenohad Vazquez (7-1-1) for the NABF Junior Welterweight title. Also featured on the card, Chula Vista native Chris Martin (27-3-3), the “S.D. Kid,” returned to the ring for the first time since October 2013 in a homecoming bout against hard-hitting Mexican slugger Giovanni Caro (24-14-4).
With hundreds of classic Harley Davidson motorcycles surrounding the ring, fight fans from all over funneled into the showroom and settled in for an exciting night of professional boxing that proved San Diego remains a true fight town.
For some of the local fighters, like Giovani Santillan and Chris Martin, the excitement and importance of fighting in front of their hometown crowd, family and friends was more than enough to motivate them to put on a show.
“It is fun to fight here,” Martin told us firsthand in our interview the week leading up the fight. “Lately I have been fighting in Ontario and Los Angeles area. The crowds are always so great here and they are always in your corner which is important to me,” Martin added.
For Santillan, who is considered a rising star in the sport and pride of San Diego, it was important to him to be given the opportunity to showcase his talents here. “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 as well,” Santillan told us in our one-on-one interview.
With the fans in their seats, the fighters making their way to the ring and two Harley Davidson motorcycles revving their engines in the background, “Path to Glory” was ready to start…San Diego style.
Main Event (8 rounds for the vacant NABF Jr. Welterweight title) – Giovani Santillan (San Diego, CA) v Osenohad Vazquez (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico)
With only one fight remaining and the San Diego fans on their feet, the main event kicked off with San Diego fighter Giovani “Gallo de Oro” Santillan (13-0) making his hometown debut for the NABF Junior Welterweight title against Osenohad “El Cano” Vazquez (7-1-1) from Puerto Rico.
For Santillan, the pressure of fighting for the first time in front of his hometown fans, in the main event and for the vacant title was something he had no problem putting in the back of his mind.
“I don’t think about that too much honestly,” Santillan told us firsthand during our time with him. “I know I have to continue to work hard just like every fight no matter what is at stake,” Santillan added.
Santillan, who has a strong corner, which includes his father and local professional boxer Danny Perez, was well aware of what he needed to do to secure the win.
“To us, it is just about me being in the ring, doing what I have to do, my corner being there to help me and not getting too nervous about it,” Santillan confidently told us.
Santillan’s patience was on full display in the first two rounds as “Gallo de Oro” was able to pick his spots and feel Vazquez out for most of the round. Vazquez was able to use pressure to create some small windows in Santillan’s high guard, but failed to land any significant punches throughout the rounds.
In round three a low blow by Vazquez caused Santillan to take notice, seemingly flipping a switch in Santillan’s attitude that encouraged the local fighter to get nasty. In the later part of round three Santillan found a home for a fast three-punch combination that sent beads of sweat from Vazquez’s chin into the first row of the stands.
Going into round four, Santillan came out strong and built on the previous round by using his superior speed to pepper Vazquez at will. The Puerto Rican fighter was able to withstand the punishment and began to fight physically in an attempt to minimize the speed of Santillan. At the end of the round, with pushing and shoving from Vazquez, the local star became angry and ended the round with a brutal flurry that had Vazquez in trouble.
With Santillan revved up and Vazquez slow to get off his stool, it was obvious that the fight may be headed for an exciting round. Santillan began to find a spot for his lead uppercut and continued to batter Vazquez before a white towel came flying into the ring from Vazquez’s corner. The punishment was simply too much for the Puerto Rican fighter and the fight was stopped by TKO at the 2:57 mark of the round.
The San Diego crowd began to cheer and scream as new NABF Junior Welterweight champion Giovani Santillan ran to his corner and was welcomed with open arms by his father and trainers.
Co-Main Event (8 rounds) – Chris Martin (San Diego, CA) v Giovanni Caro (Mexico City, Mexico)
The co-main event kicked off as local fighter Chris “S.D. Kid” Martin (27-3-3) made his return to the ring, and to San Diego, to fight in front of his closest family, friends and fans.
Martin, who is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Enrique Quevedo in October 2013, was scheduled to fight in July before the bout was called off due to his opponent becoming ill the week leading up to the match.
Martin made his return to the ring on Path to Glory and was faced with a tough opponent in Giovanni “El Ruso” Caro (24-14-4), who himself was looking to get back into the win column.
“I am excited for the Caro fight because I know he is tough and has a reputation for being a good fighter,” Martin told us in our interview.
The “S.D. Kid” was greeted to endless cheers during the fighter introductions and started the fight slow behind his jab. Caro, who appeared more active, didn’t land any significant punches but was able to control the ring and keep Martin at bay.
As the first half of the fight came and went, both fighters displayed solid boxing, trading blows at will and giving the crowd an exciting fight. Martin was able to adjust in the middle part of round four landing two solid left hooks over Caro’s guard.
Caro was the busier fighter in round six and seven throwing more punches than Martin, but failing to connect as Martin was able to land more accurate punches throughout the fight. With only one round to determine who would take home the co-main event victory, Martin appeared to win the eighth and final round.
With the closing bell sounding, the crowd on its feet and both warriors showing respect to each other in the middle of the ring, Chris Martin secured a unanimous victory of Caro with all three judges scoring the bout 77-75 in favor of the “S.D. Kid.”
Prior the main event, “Path to Glory” included five exciting bouts that had the San Diego fight fans reeling.
Bout One (6 rounds) – Antonio Arellano (Chula Vista, CA) v Mario Hermosillo (Tijuana, Mexico)
The night of fights started with Antonio “Bazooka” Arellano (6-2-1) from Chula Vista squaring off against Tijuana fighter Mario “Popeye” Hermosillo (12-13-4) in a six-round bout.
The first round included some good back and forth action as Arellano was able to stay behind his jab and control the ring. Hermosillo was active throughout the round, applying pressure, however, Arellano was able to land the harder, accurate punches that finally saw Hermosillo eating a hard shot on the inside.
Hermosillo went to the canvas and tried to regain his composure, but remained wobbly as Referee Jose Cobian was forced to call the fight. Antonio Arellano was greeted by his corner and recorded the first victory of the night with a knockout over Mario Hermosillo with less than one minute remaining in round one.
Bout Two (4 rounds) – Ulises Sierra (San Diego, CA) v Jas Phipps (Los Angeles, CA)
The local talent was on display in the second bout of the night as Undisputed San Diego fighter Ulises Sierra (6-0) looked to defend his perfect record against Jas Phipps (4-5) from Los Angeles in a four-round bout that started fast and furious.
The super middleweights felt comfortable standing in the pocket throughout the first round as Sierra was able to land right and left hooks behind a solid jab. Phipps, who was very active, but unable to land the harder punches showed heart and good energy throughout the round.
The second and third rounds played out like the first, as both fighters were willing to trade punches and push the action. A strong second for Phipps had Sierra absorbing hard body punches until the end of the round when Sierra landed a series of hard hooks in the pocket that seemed to bother Phipps. Sierra continued to push the action in round three and landed a hard combination that opened up a cut under the left eye of Phipps.
Sierra entered the final round with what appeared to be a slight lead in the fight, however, a motivated Phipps came out strong from the opening bell. With seconds remaining in the fight Sierra landed several hard punches that had Phipps against the ropes and in trouble as the final bell sounded. In what appeared to be a controversial decision, the scorecards came in with a split draw (39-37 – Sierra, 39-37 – Phipps, 38-38) to the local crowd’s dismay.
Bout Three (6 rounds) – Heriberto Delgado (Tijuana, Mexcio) v Jonathan Alcantara (Sonsonate, San Salvador)
In the third bout of the night Heriberto “Tremendo” Delgado (11-0) from nearby Tijuana brought a perfect record to the ring with 11 wins, six coming by the way of knockout, against Central American fighter Jonathan “La Pulga de Centro America” Alcantara (6-11-2) in a six-round battle.
Delgado fought behind a high guard and stiff jab throughout the first part of the fight while Alcantara pushed the action at a steady pace. The halfway point of the fight showed both men giving the crowd a classic throwback battle as they both threw punches in bunches in the center of the ring.
The second half of the fight was more of the same, as Alcantara used his bruising power and relentless pressure to keep Delgado backing up and against the ropes.
Sensing an opening in Delgado’s high guard, Alcantara began to swing for the fences by throwing several looping overhand rights that were unable to connect. Delgado maintained a solid defense and escaped Alcantara’s onslaught in the fifth potentially needing a knockout going into the final round.
With the fight coming to a close, Alcantara capped off an impressive performance with a short flurry and a smile upon hearing the final bell. All three judges scored the bout 60-54 for the brawler from San Salvador as Jonathan Alcantara earned his seventh victory inside the ring.
Bout Four (4 rounds) – Adrian Vargas (San Diego, CA) v Miguel Rico (Mexicali, Mexico)
At the halfway point of the evening, with fight fans begging for more action, San Diego native and rising star Adrian Vargas (9-0-1) entered the ring against Mexicali’s Miguel Rico (2-6-1) in a four-round fight.
With the crowd in his corner, Vargas came out firing behind a solid jab and sent Rico to the mat with two heavy hooks for the first knockdown of the round. A short flurry by Rico followed the knockdown, but several hard body shots from Vargas hurt Rico with under two minutes in the round. With Rico pedaling backwards and obviously hurt, Vargas landed a hard body shot that sent Rico to one knee, ending the fight with 1:15 remaining in the first round. San Diego’s own, Adrian Vargas remains undefeated and gets his tenth win inside the ring.
Bout Five (8 rounds) – Danny Roman (Los Angeles, CA) v Pedro Melo (Mexico City, Mexico)
The fights continued into the evening with “Babyface Assassin” Danny Roman (9-2-1) out of Los Angeles squaring off against Mexico City’s Pedro “Pedrito” Melo (9-5-2) in the first eight-round bout of the evening.
The super bantamweights played a game of chess between the ropes in round one, feeling each other out and trading combinations throughout the round.
Within the first minute of round two, Roman connected on three combinations to the body and head of Melo that had the Mexican fighter seriously hurt. Melo was able to withstand the punishment before a hard straight left from the “Babyface Assassin” sent Melo across the ring and on his back for the first knockdown the fight. Melo was able to beat the count and continue, but was bloodied and still hurt as Roman ended the round with a vicious combination that buckled the knees of Melo.
As the bell sounded to end the round, Melo was still shaken and was helped back to his corner before it was determined that he was not able to continue. Danny Roman reached double-digit wins with a TKO victory over Mexico City’s Pedro Melo.
The “Path to Glory” came to an end late in the night as San Diego fighters made their presence known by bringing home three solid victories and one draw. Once again, a fun night of fights proved that boxing in San Diego is alive and well and the future is bright for some of the area’s top local stars.
Special thanks to Thompson Boxing Promotions, Ken Thompson, matchmaker Alex Camponovo and the fighters who laid it all out inside the ring. Additional thanks to Chris Martin and Giovani Santillan for making the time to sit down with TheFightVoice for an interview. In case you missed our interviews with Chris and Giovani, please click the links below.