---- — SALEM – Opportunity in the game of professional boxing often presents itself in obscure ways.
There is no obscurity right now for Lawrence heavyweight Alexis Santos.
His career, his future and a huge chance to bump up the ladder to fame are sitting in his front yard.
In five days, here at Rockingham Park’s Sports Pub, Santos (9-0, 8 KOs) faces New Jersey veteran Marlon Hayes (23-11) on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
“They know of me. They wanted me on this card, and now it’s up to me to prove that I am ready to move to this level,” said Santos, now 23 and rated 62nd among heavyweight contenders in the United States.
“This, for a pro fight, is the closest I have ever fought near home. Nobody has an excuse to not come out and see what I’m about. It’s the biggest fight of my career, and it just happens to be five minutes from home.”
Only a month ago, Santos took the ring at the Dorchester Armory with about a couple hundred of his crazed backers in his corner, taking care of previously 6-1 Alabaman Keith Thompson in rather easy fashion.
Friday night’s collision with Hayes, who was last seen in the ring getting knocked out by undefeated world title contender Deontay Wilder (21-0), is clearly a step up.
But with the nation possibly watching and one hugely important figure seated front row, the stakes rise exponentially for Santos in this one.
This ESPN card, headlined by WBC No. 3-rated junior welterweight Ajose Olusegun (31-1, 14 KO’s) taking on longtime lightweight contender “Hammerin’” Hank Lundy (22-3-1, 11 KO’s), is promoted by Lou DiBella, a driving force in the East Coast fight game.
“He’s the biggest promoter on the East Coast and a guy I’d love to sign with. These are the people that can put me in a better place in my life and my career,” said Santos. “It’s up to me to prove to him what I can do. I have to put on a good show.”
Santos says he’s ready physically and emotionally, despite the fact that the opponent comes on such short notice. Hayes, at 42, is clearly past his prime, but still a viable contender. He may be 1-6 in his last seven fights, but those opponents entered with a combined record of 144-6-3. And the victory was for the NBA Cruiserweight title over 35-3-2 William Guthrie.
“I really only left the gym after the Thompson fight for about a week, so I’m in good shape,” said Santos. “Reflexes should be the difference in this fight. I’m the younger, stronger fighter. He’s much more experienced, but I’ll just have to take it to him like I usually do.”
ESPN FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS Where: Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H. When: Friday night, doors open at 6:30 and first bout at 8 p.m. The Main Event: WBC No. 3-rated junior welterweight Ajose Olusegun (31-1, 14KO's) takes on longtime lightweight contender "Hammerin'" Hank Lundy (22-3-1, 11KO's) Top area interest: Rising heavyweight contender Alexis "The Answer" Santos (9-0, 8 KOs) takes of Lawrence takes on New Jersey ring veteran Marlon Hayes (23-11). Tickets: Priced at $75 VIP reserved, $45 reserved and $35 for general admission and are currently on sale. Tickets can be purchased by calling 603-898-2311.