“I’ve actually been training with Spadafora for the last couple of weeks — I’ve been his main sparring partner,” Santiago said during a phone interview from California, Pa. “We have a couple more guys here as well. But he picked me to be his main sparring partner because I resemble his opponent.”
Spadafora (47-0-1) will face former WBC United States light heavyweight champion “Red Hot” Rob Frankel (32-12-1) in the main event of the Roy Jones Jr. promotion at the Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland, W.Va.
Spadafora is a former IBF and IBC world champion, and is considered one of the top contenders in the junior welterweight division.
Santiago (7-0) will be facing Mustafah Johnson (9-16-1) in possibly the promotion’s co-main event.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Santiago said. “Seven of the last eight guys he’s fought have been undefeated, and he was only stopped in one of those fights. He’s very durable and I can’t take him lightly.”
That being said, Santiago knows he must perform well — and dominantly — to keep landing on top-level cards.
“I think he’s a good stepping stone — especially if I stop him,” Santiago said of Johnson. “That’s something I’ve been focused on now that I’m in camp with a bunch of world-class performers.”
Spadafora picked Santiago to mimic Frankel because Santiago is a right-handed boxer like Frankel, and because Santiago is innovative in the ring. Santiago and Spadafora are also sparring with highly touted welterweight Sammy Vazquez Jr. (7-0, 5 KOs) at the Buzz Round 2 training camp in southern Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been working hard with these guys,” Santiago said. “I felt great coming into this, but now I feel I really have to step it up.”
The camp has been grueling physically, then became a mental strain for Santiago when he learned his children had started a fire in their Lorain home Tuesday.
“The first thing that caught fire was my boxing gear for this upcoming fight,” Santiago said.
The boys were playing with a grill lighter and caught the clothes on fire. No one was seriously injured, although one of the boys was taken to the hospital and treated for minor smoke inhalation.
“I just thank God that they are all right,” Santiago said. “My sister already ordered me something new for the fight, but I really plan on letting my skills do the talking … it don’t matter what I have on.”
The casino is a little more than two hours away from Lorain County, and Santiago is hoping his local fans show up to support him.
“I have great fans and they always show me love,” he said. “I hope they show up and I hear them screaming while I’m in that ring … that always keeps me going when I get tired during the later rounds.”
Fans interested in buying tickets for the event can call 670-1701.