PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Milt Santiago would walk around William Tennent High School the last two years and there were more than a few times when someone asked where the bruises and cuts on his face came from. Teachers would approach and query, “What happened?”
Then, Santiago would explain—he’s a professional boxer. Even more impressive is Santiago is 11-0, with 3 knockouts, and he started his pro career when he was a junior in high school. The 18-year old’s boxing arc received a nice jolt Saturday night at the Valley Forge Casino when he survived a flash second-round knockdown—the first of his career—and came back to easily win a six-round decision over Puerto Rico’s Jose Miguel Castro (4-5, 2 KOs).
Santiago was the best fighter on the nine-fight card.
He showed great poise, ring generalship, and a boxing acumen well beyond his years. That comes from having over 200 amateur fights. He has a bright future ahead—and with it he could be the next generation of elite fighters to come from Philadelphia, joining future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins and 140-pound champ Danny Garcia.
“This is my 11th pro fight and you figure I would learn something after getting knocked down the first time, and I mean ever, not even as an amateur,” Santiago said. “I don’t think I even got knocked down. I thought I slipped. But I didn’t panic. I knew what I did wrong and I corrected it and finished off the last four rounds. I know where I am. I’m only 18 and I have a lot of years ahead of me. I know I can improve—I want to get better.”
Santiago, who signed a deal with boxing power broker Al Haymon, is willing to be patient. By the end of this year, or possibly early next year, Santiago could be on national TV, with all of Haymon’s TV connections working between NBC, CBS and ESPN.
“I’ve been around boxing for 50 years and he has a lot to learn, but he’s on the right track, and he has a lot of heart,” said co-manager Ed Woods, who once managed Ivan Robinson and co-manages Santiago with Moz Gonzalez. “We got to look at Milt when he was 10. We got him. Luis DeCubas Jr. saw Milt, liked him and talked to Al Haymon about him. Now Milt has a five-year contract with Al. We’re excited about Milt. He’s a baby right now, but when he turns 20, 21, he’s going to be a world beater. He’ll be a world champion. We love him. We’re moving him nice. We don’t want to move Milt too fast. We’re getting him the right opponents—no dogs, guys that can fight, like we saw tonight.”