October 14 of last year was an extra special day for Amsterdam boxer Raymond Santiago.
It marked the arrival of his twins Jason and Naveah Rose, and on that Wednesday, his ring career was resurrected as well.
“I accepted the fight the day my twins were born,” the 26-year-old Santiago said. “I got serious.”
Santiago will fight for the first time in two and a half years Saturday against Global Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Ronald Johnson on a card in Orlando, Florida, looking to begin what he hopes is a run of opportunities and success after a rough go earlier in his pro career.
“I had my shot, and I blew it,” Santiago said of his pro career that began back in 2014 when he was still a teen. “Now I’m 2-8. Can’t take it back. What can you do?”
What Santiago did was rather impressive, dropping his weight from 260 pounds in October to 211 with a concentrated effort in the fight gym he put together in Amsterdam with the support of his wife Tatiana, his younger brother, Norberto, Jr., and his father and trainer Norberto, Sr.
“I changed my diet,” said the 5-foot-11 Santiago, whose aim is to eventually get down to 185. “I changed everything.”
Santiago has a new goal for the second round of his pro career, as well.
“This time I’m chasing something different. It’s not the money and it’s not the clout,” said the father of six young children. “I want to build a legacy for my family. I also want to get the Amsterdam name out there and give people in Amsterdam hope that good things can happen. I’ve never been so hungry.”
Santiago last fought in May 2018 at 250 pounds and lost by TKO to 199-pounder Alex Vanasse, leaving his record at 2-8 which included bouts on HBO, ESPN and SNY. He often hung tough in the early rounds he said, but with his weight, stamina was always an issue as fights progressed.
That was not so much of an issue when a lighter Santiago fought his way to an 8-2 amateur record.
“I was training,” Santiago said of his pro record. “I liked the food, too.”
Santiago said he took a year off from boxing after his loss to Vanasse before starting up again with the urging of his brother, and around that time, in the summer of 2019, he had a brush with the law that left him with three years of probation. He was working out here and there when he got back in it, he said, but amped up his effort considerably starting last fall after some social media exchanges led to Johnson offering him a fight and putting up his title belt.
Santiago trained often in a sauna suit, ran and then ran some more, and brought in some heavy hitters to spar with as he honed his craft.
“My workouts went from five percent to 95 percent,” said Santiago, who is a big fan of boxing legend Mike Tyson. “I’m in shape now.”
Santiago and Johnson, a Mayweather Boxing Club member who sports a 17-1-0 record, will tangle at the Avanti Palms Resort and Conference Center in Orlando as part of an eight-fight card.
“He’s got a quick left hook,” Santiago said of the Las Vegas resident. “I’ve got to make sure I move.”
Santiago, who will don his trademark Jason Voorhees-themed garb to the ring, is looking to turn in the kind of quality performance in the pay-per-view fight (https://www.vivalivetv.com/channel/fight-night-tv-ppv) that will open doors for future ring engagements.
“My career falls on Saturday night,” Santiago said. “It’s in my hands now.”
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