LOS ANGELES — Devin Haney retained his WBC lightweight title by blanking Alfredo Santiago over 12 rounds, winning 120-107 on all three cards — but the talented youngster wasn’t able to make the statement he wanted to during the KSI-Logan Paul co-feature at Staples Center on Saturday.
Haney didn’t have the most willing dance partner in the unheralded Santiago, who was difficult and awkward early on, and then, in the late stages of the fight, went into survival mode.
“He was very crafty. I went in there and was able to adjust,” Haney said. “I got this opponent on a week notice. I’m a true champion and can fight through everything. It’s all experience, and it all comes with the fight game. l got the win, on to the next.”
Haney (24-0, 15 KOs) was able to send Santiago (12-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round, but other than that standout moment, Haney could never really navigate comfortably through the height and length of Santiago, who was able to keep Haney at bay with his reach and then tie him up as Haney got inside.
“I feel all right,” Haney said after the fight. “In one of the rounds I dislocated my right shoulder. I’m a true champion and still won every round.
“Not sure what round, but we was on the ropes, I threw a right and overextended. Like I said, I’m a true champion, fight through everything. On to the next.”
The talented Haney, who is 20 years old, is considered a bit of a boxing prodigy, but against Santiago he learned that not all of his wins will come easy, or come by highlight reel knockout, like when he drilled Zaur Abdullaev in four rounds in September.
But while Haney didn’t score another eye-opening stoppage, he now has his first title defense under his belt.
“In 2020, I want all the top guys,” Haney said. “I want to unify. [Vasiliy] Lomachenko and I can get it done. I can see what Lomachenko does.
“I think that’s a big fight [against Ryan Garcia]. Boxing fans would love to see that fight. Hope we can make it happen in 2020 or 2021. I’m ready to make that sooner rather than later.”
Saunders stops Coceres late
Billy Joe Saunders retained his WBO super middleweight title by stopping a game Marcelo Esteban Coceres in Round 11 of their scheduled 12-round bout.
Coming into the fight, Saunders said he had no issues with being on the KSI-Logan Paul undercard. He reasoned that making his U.S debut on this event would give him a valuable opportunity to introduce himself to a new market. But it’s not clear how much he endeared himself to the crowd after a good, but unimpressive performance.
Much of the fight was devoid of any sustained action, and Saunders (28-0, 14 KOs) got by on his superior boxing skills from his southpaw stance. Coceres (28-1-1, 15 KOs) tried, but he had issues landing on Saunders, who proved to be an elusive target for most of the night. While Saunders was effective, he was hardly exciting, and by the 10th round the crowd, which was mostly subdued during this bout, began to boo.
Ultimately, a series of punches sent Coceres to the mat in the 11th round, bringing the crowd out of its slumber. Coceres rose to his feet but moments later he was hit by a right uppercut that had him crashing to the canvas for a second time. He gamely rose to his feet but went down a third time, and as Coceres tried to get up, referee Ray Corona decided that he had seen enough and called off the fight at 1 minute, 59 seconds of the round.
“There’s no excuses. The performance did not worthy Canelo [Alvarez] or [Daniel] Jacobs,” Saunders said. “I knew in my head I had to get him out of here. My timing was off, my movement was off, everything was off. I wanted to impress the crowd. Hopefully you enjoyed the KO, all I could do tonight.”
However, Saunders had a message for the middleweight champion.
“Canelo if you want to become four-weight champion, take me now because this is the time to make it happen,” Saunders said. “I want Canelo. I respect you, you’ve done big things for the sport.”
Brueckner wins debut, proposes to his girlfriend
Josh Brueckner, a YouTuber and social media personality, — fittlingly, on this fight card — pitched a four-round shutout over Tyler Smith in a light heavyweight battle. Both fighters were making their boxing professional debuts.
There wasn’t too much in the way of sustained action, but Brueckner controlled each round. After the fight, Brueckner got on one knee and proposed to his long-time girlfriend and YouTube sensation Katie Betzing. She said yes.
Pacheco scores another KO
Diego Pacheco (7-0, 6 KOs) stopped Aaron Casper (5-4, 4 KOs) in Round 4 to score his sixth knockout in seven professional fights.
Pacheco, 18, is a prospect to watch. He has naturally heavy hands and a full offensive arsenal highlighted by a long right cross. He scored a knockdown of Casper in the second round with a right hand, and then twice in the fourth as he kept hitting Casper with the right. After a barrage of punches, referee Rudy Barragan stopped the fight at 2:49 into the fourth.
Rios overpowers Berrio
A resurgent Ronny Rios (32-3, 16 KOs) put forth another strong effort as he knocked out Hugo Berrio (28-8-1, 18 KOs) in the fourth round of their scheduled 12-round contest. Rios dominated from the start, landing hard punches on Berrio and connecting with left hooks to the body and right hands to the head. Berrio was never comfortable against the onslaught of Rios, who put him away with a blistering right hand at 2:56 of the fourth.
Rios, who back in the summer beat the previously undefeated Diego De La Hoya, is very much back in the title picture at junior featherweight.
Mati sops Peterson in Round 2
Junior middleweight Reshat Mati (5-0, 3 KOs) remained undefeated with a second-round stoppage of Cody Peterson (1-6). Mati hurt Peterson and followed up with a barrage of punches midround, forcing referee Ivan Guillermo to wave off the fight at 1:42.