By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
More water, more water! Santos says as his trainer empties a bottle over his dark curls.
The other guy doesn't have anything left, Pupi yells. He's not hurting you with his punches! You've got to beat him!
In the tenth, bouncing on the balls of his feet, Santos reaches in for strikes, uttering a little "huh" as he lands the blows. Now, with every punch Santos attempts, a "ha! huh! hah!" accompanies a series of uppercuts, launching in, slogging, swinging, as Lerma tries to keep his hands in place. Santos' energy only swells with each "Ha! Huh!" on successive jabs and "HUH! HAH! HAH!" on a furious combo to the body, the face, the body, the face, Lerma's face, squeezing tighter as the seconds slip away and Santos dive-bombs him HAH! with yet more HUH! sharp shots to HA HA HUH! the temple and HYAHH HYUHH HAAAA! the body the face the body the face the face HYAAHHHAAHH the body the face the body the body, and when the bell finally has its say, Santos leans back against the ropes, springs off playfully, and gives a short hug to Lerma, who actually manages a smile on the way to his corner. As Pupi gives him pointers after the round, Santos glances away at the ring card girl.
Below, Santos strides through the ring before the Lerma fight.
Lerma can make no more inroads in the final two rounds. When the bell sounds after a desperate 12th round, Santos hugs his opponent, who is again bleeding from the tomato that has grown in place of a left eye. Pupi and Francisco Santos embrace the challenger. Still in the ring, Santos hurriedly slides out of his trunks and his foul protector to put on his red-and-gold title belt for the official score announcement. He tells a television interviewer that he wants a shot at Winky Wright. Finally, he retreats past the smell of spilled beer and sweat to the locker room and then to the hotel, where he hustles through the lobby, stopping only for the well-meaning numskulls who approach to shake the champion's battered hands.
He heads to the elevator and back up to solitude. He won tonight, and impressively. A writer for fightnews.com called the bout "a barnburner for Santos," and his brother David later said it was the most beautiful fight he had seen. But Santos may not know how he truly did for days or weeks or months. For Daniel Santos, the waiting resumes.
A month after the fight, the furor's died down. The victory received scant notice in even the local Tampa Bay area papers and the boxing press, let alone the national media.
Santos is scheduled for a fight by July 17, which will likely be on Pay Per View. That would be a step in the right direction for the boxer, but he'll need more if he hopes for a shot at Winky Wright or a million-dollar payday.
For all that Santos has going for him, time is not.