The best way to settle a controversial draw is a rematch, which is exactly what will take place Saturday at Complejo Ferial in Ponce, Puerto Rico, when Jose "Chiquiro" Martinez and Alejandro "Peque" Santiago renew hostilities in a scheduled 10-round junior bantamweight bout.
Santiago (16-2-3, 7 KOs) was a late substitute when they first fought on Nov. 12, 2016, in Ponce, but many observers thought he'd done enough to emerge victorious.
"Martinez showed some good skills, but Santiago dominated the exchanges and only some local judging prevented him getting the decision," wrote Eric Armit in the British weekly Boxing News.
The 22-year-old Santiago, of Tijuana, Mexico, was quick to agree with those who thought he'd been robbed, and is confident he can do even better in the return bout.
"The fans thought I won when I fought Martinez before," he said. "For this fight, we have excellent preparation and my weight is perfect. I'm determined to make clear the victory."
Naturally, Martinez (20-0-1, 13 KOs) is also eager to set the record straight.
"It was a tough match because of his style. It took me a while to adjust to how he fights," said Martinez. "But this time will be different. We've been working on the mistakes we made in the first fight and will have a solid win on March 24th."
Martinez, 25, had a fine amateur career, which included silver medals at the 2011 Puerto Rican National Championship and the 2011 Olympic Cup. He turned pro in November of that year and, despite the contentious stalemate with Santiago, remains unbeaten.
Since their first fight Martinez has recorded two wins, knocking out Miguel Robles and Jesus Martinez, who entered the bout having won 14 of his 15 most recent fights.
Santiago has also been busy, stopping Oscar Talla, Samuel Medina and David Godinez in a trio of post-Martinez bouts.
"The fans thought I won when I fought Martinez before. For this fight, we have excellent preparation and my weight is perfect. I'm determined to make clear the victory."Alejandro Santiago
As was the case in their first bout, the fight will take place on Martinez's home turf. Regardless of who prevails, if it goes to the scorecards, the judges had better get it right this time.
In the co-feature, Joshua "El Profesor" Franco (13-0, 6 KOs) faces Lucas Fernandez (11-1-1, 8 KOs) in another junior bantamweight bout scheduled for 10 rounds.
Except for a split-decision victory in his pro debut, Franco, 22, has breezed through his opposition with relative ease, but the San Antonio, Texas prospect isn't taking Fernandez for granted. He's honing his skills in the gym sparring with Abner Mares and Ronny Rios.
"I've worked with the Argentinians before," said Franco's trainer, Robert Garcia. "They're all very tough, very strong, and we have to be careful with any wild punches from Lucas Fernandez. But Joshua's skills, I think, are good enough to dominate at 115 pounds.
"I had a meeting with Golden Boy Promotions, and we're going to get Joshua three 10-round fights before August 7th. After that, we're going to push for him to get in the mix with the junior bantamweight fighters on HBO. I want to put him in with any of those top 115-pounders."
That's an ambitious schedule, especially with excellent fighters such as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue, Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras heading up the talent-rich 115-pound division.
But first things first: Fernandez, a four-time national amateur champion in Argentina, is going to do his best to spoil Franco's plans for the immediate future.
"I'm a technical boxer, but depending on my opponent, I can be aggressive," said Fernandez. "I like to throw many punches."
In his most recent fight, the 26-year-old Fernandez fought a 10-round draw with undefeated Juan Jose Jurado, Nov. 18, 2017, in Buenos Aires. Even though he had to settle for stalemate, it was his most impressive performance since turning pro in September 2013. The Franco match will be Fernandez's first outside of Argentina.
In the TV opener, Zachary "Zungry" Ochoa meets Ryan Pino in a six-round junior welterweight match. The 25-year-old Ochoa (18-1, 7 KOs) is from Brooklyn, while Pino (7-1, 3 KOs) lives in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
"I really like to box and use my jab," said Ochoa. "I like to set up my shots and throw punches that are accurate. I can bang if I want to. I'm very unpredictable and explosive."
With only eight pro bouts to his credit, the 20-year-old Pino has a demanding task ahead of him. He's at his best when he keeps his opponents off-balance with movement and out-boxes them. If Pino can do that against Ochoa, it could be a more competitive fight in the ring than it looks on paper.
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