Adrien Broner got the win he was looking for in his first fight in 25 months, earning a unanimous decision victory over Jovanie Santiago on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The judges scored the bout 117-110, 116-111, 115-112, per the Showtime broadcast. It's the first win for Broner since he beat Adrian Granados in February 2017. Broner was 0-2-1 in his last three fights, the most recent a lackluster showing against Manny Pacquiao just over two years ago.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix and ESPN's Teddy Atlas felt the scoring was way off the mark:
The Showtime statistics showed Santiago had a two to one advantage over Broner in punches landed at the end of the fight:
The issues that plagued Broner (34-4-1 24 KOs) in his most recent bouts hadn't been rectified in the two years he was away from the ring. He had trouble pulling the trigger and the jab wasn't sharp enough to set up power shots with his right hand. The counterpunching and aggression didn't show up until the latter half of the fight.
Santiago (14-1-1, 10 KOs), an unheralded fighter with nothing to lose, took advantage of the opportunity and put together a solid, aggressive showing, but the judges didn't credit his effort and he took the first loss of his career.
The fight was initially scheduled to take place at junior welterweight, but the limit was bumped up to welterweight (147 pounds) on Thursday night, per ESPN's Ben Baby. A 140-pound limit was an ambitious goal for Broner, who reportedly had to drop 35 pounds just to get within striking distance of the original limit.
As it turned out, getting within striking distance turned out to be a problem for Broner during the fight as well, at least early on. Neither boxer forced the issue for the first couple of rounds, but it was Santiago, the underdog, who found a rhythm first.
The 31-year-old Puerto Rican feinted his way into Broner's range, and once he realized he wasn't going to pay a price for advancing, started attacking the body. The sharp punches to the midsection allowed him to mix in more varied combinations upstairs.
NYFights.com's Michael Woods noted Santiago looked plenty comfortable against the former four-division world champion:
Santiago's bid for an upset took a minor blow at the end of the fourth round. He was deducted a point for throwing a punch late, although replay showed that while Santiago might have been a shade too late, Broner did return fire and land a late punch of his own.
At the time, it didn't seem like it might be much of an issue, as the early statistics showed the significant gap between the two boxers, per SHO Stats:
Broner woke up in the second half of the fight. He started letting his right hand go on the counter, and stopped retreating as much. Santiago had put together some good combinations, but Broner perhaps realized his opponent's power wasn't much to worry about. Broner was allergic to body punches in the first six rounds, but started mixing them in more.
Even with fog lifting, CBS Sports' Brian Campbell still found some problem's with Broner's performance:
Showtime Boxing showed how Broner stepped up the aggression in the seventh round:
The eighth round saw Broner land the best punch of the fight to that point. He got his feet set for a big left hook, which landed oh Santiago's temple and nearly sent him to the canvas. Santiago kept his wits together, but he started to look the worse for wear with a cut opening up on his forehead.
The action started to wane again in the 10th and 11th rounds, but the 12th and final round saw Santiago use his last reserves of energy and take the fight to Broner. The way the judges had scored the fight, however, it turns out he would have needed a stoppage.
In the end, Broner got the comeback win he desperately needed. He's still only 31 years old, and should have plenty left in the tank if he can stay fit and focused. However, he struggled mightily against the journeyman Santiago at times. Saturday night's effort won't cut it in a stacked welterweight division. Broner will have to be much more aggressive going forward if he wants to get back on a world title track.