SANTA YNEZ, Calif. – In a match up easily worthy of a slot on Showtime’s ShoBox series or an ESPN2 Friday Night Fights card, promising junior middleweight Francisco “Chia” Santana, made a strong statement defeating rugged veteran Freddy Hernandez by unanimous decision in their 10-round fight in front of a soldout crowd at the Chumash Casino.
Santana, (17-3-1, 8 KOs) was in control from the get go countering the taller Hernandez consistently throughout the fight. Despite Hernandez’s height and reach advantage, Santana frustrated Hernandez with a body attack and a left hook that consistently landed over Hernandez’s jab and the scores reflected his dominance, 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92.
Hernandez, (30-6, 20 KOs), last seen in May giving Delvin Rodriguez problems on before losing via TKO after suffering a nasty cut, was game as always but not able to hold off the onslaught from Santana who stuck to a clear game plan of countering and then wrapping up Hernandez when in close quarters.
“I feel like tonight I finally matured as a fighter,” said Santana. “I knew I had the tools to compete at this level but I’ve had limited opposition.
“I know a lot of people didn’t believe I could win this fight and that I was over my head but I was the one that pushed for the fight. I wanted the test. We had a great plan and we stuck to it. The plan was the sweet science, to hit and not get hit.”
With the dominant showing in a crossroads fight, Santana, a Santa Barbara resident who trains in Ventura at Knuckleheadz Gym, now finds himself in a position to make a name on the national level.
Cheering him on was frequent sparring partner Victor Ortiz, who was in attendance. Santana hopes to emulate his friend’s success, despite the setbacks he’s suffered.
However, the three losses on Santana’s record are deceiving, having technically lost to just two fighters, Jermell Charlo and twice to Karim Mayfield, who together currently have a combined record of 38-0. The first of two wars with Mayfield saw Santana on the losing end of debatable split decision. Even his lone draw was to another undefeated prospect, Julian Williams, who, many at ringside thought was lucky to escape without his first loss.
The holder of a small regional belt, the Central Coast Championship, and a fan favorite in the area, Santana and his promoter Gary Shaw, are looking to match the 27 year old with another step up in competition before the year is out. From there the plan is a top 10 ranking and potential title shot in 2014.
As for Hernandez, the Mexico native who fights out of Bellflower, California, has now lost five of his last six fights, including a one round demolition by Andre Berto on HBO in 2010.
Nestled in the wine country of Central California, Chumash Casino, is actually one of boxing’s best kept secrets on the west coast. Beyond the beautiful locale, the venue has an excellent seating arrangement, great production and a loyal fan base. In addition, it’s the closest venue for fighters training out of the booming Ventura County area, which helps provide quality undercards and action earlier in the night was no exception.
In a sloppy slug fest, heavyweight, Makani Sarellano, (1-1, 1 KO), who was stopped on a bad cut in his pro debut earlier this year at Chumash, scored his first professional victory by TKO, stopping Oxnard’s Jose Santamaria, (0-1) at 1:14 of the second round.
In a late addition to the card, lightweight, Art “Lionheart” Hovhannisyan, (16-1-2, 9 KOs), who suffered his first loss earlier this year, got back to his winning ways easily defeating Nigerian born, Daniel Attah, (28-16-1, 11 KOs) by TKO at 2:11 of the sixth round. The Armenian-born Hovhannisyan methodically went after Attah, who was apparently happy to be a durable punching bag.
Central Coast Women’s Super Flyweight Champion, Maggie Suarez (6-0-1) continued her undefeated streak at Chumash with a unanimous decision over Palm Springs’ Gloria Salas (3-9-1, 1 KO).
In a sloppy, but entertaining debut for two light heavyweights both late to the professional game, Zlatko Ledic, (0-0-1) and local favorite, Henry Calles Jr., (0-0-1) fought to a draw.
Oxnard’s Abraham Lopez, (4-1, 1 KO) who fights out of Knuckleheadz Gym alongside Francisco Santana, won a close, but unanimous decision over fellow welterweight, Abriel Jose Pebenito (2-7).
Kicking the evening off, in an unexpected four round war, featherweight, Roy Tapia (7-0-1, 3 KOs) won a debatable split decision over a game and fiery, Manuel Romero (0-1), who stunned and almost floored Tapia in the first round. Though ultimately a loss, it was debut to be proud of for Romero.
Photo / Chris Burau