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.”