“It is so hard to explain this moment right now,” said Santiago, who became the 90th fighter to compete on SHOBOX: The New Generation® and later become champion. “All the work we put in for just this moment. It’s amazing just to win this title.”
“I’m disappointed,” said Donaire. “This is a blessing to do this for a very long time. I feel good still. Congratulations to Alexandro. He deserves it. He is a tough guy.”
The 27-year-old Santiago came in as the underdog against the four-division champion Donaire, but consistently beat Donaire to the punch with a variety of jabs, straight rights and left hooks. Donaire was able to land his signature power left hook at several moments throughout the fight, but Santiago hung tough and never showed any sign of being hurt.
“I was trying to counter so much and put so much power into it,” said Donaire. “I tried to fight like a warrior, which was something we didn’t train to do.”
The two fighters each landed 130 punches over the 12 rounds, with Santiago owning a slight edge in power punches landed (62-53). Donaire actually out-landed Santiago in each of the first six rounds before Santiago took control of the second half of the fight. Santiago won each of the last six rounds on one card, five of the last six on another and four of the final six on the third card.
At 40-years-old, Donaire had been looking to break his own record as the oldest fighter to ever win a bantamweight world title, but will now regroup as he considers if he’ll continue his illustrious career.
“I love the sport so much,” said Donaire. “We just have to go back to the locker room, talk about it, and see where we go from there. There were just some times there where I didn’t pull the trigger. That was my biggest problem.”
An emotional Santiago broke down in tears after he was announced as the winner and received words of encouragement from the defeated Donaire.
“It has been an honor to fight such a legend like Nonito Donaire,” said Santiago. “He said thank you for giving me this great fight and I appreciated him saying that.”