Trainer and manager Sean Farley, center, hopes to find quality opponents for his up-and-coming fighters Agustine Mauras and Alexis Santos.

2"All I really want is for the people of Lawrence to be behind me in the ring," said Santos. "I love being here from Lawrence. You hear a lot of bad stuff about this city. I want people to talk about Lawrence, but for good reasons. I'm proud of this city. My dream is to have my fans from this city behind me, to be proud of me."

Santos and his Shoe City Boxing club stablemate Agustine Mauras share the same or at least extremely similar dreams.

Products of the street from tough backgrounds, each has chosen the more difficult — yet respectable — road out.

As Santos, who moved to 4-0 last Friday night with an impressive first-round KO of previously unbeaten Pennsylvania heavyweight Jeremiah Witherspoon, has said, "There are plenty of bad options for us out there on the street. There are quicker, easier ways to make a lot more money than we're making right now."

Santos and Mauras were raised here in the city, quickly finding refuge in Mel Peabody's Lawrence Boxing Club. Basically growing up in the gym, each dominated the local amateur set, reaching out nationally in tournaments and holding their own.

But as adulthood approached, the call to the pro fight game grew into a priority.

"For me, the decision to turn pro was a simple one, when I had my son (4-month-old Agustine Mauras Jr.)," said the 20-year-old dad Mauras, who feasted in a first-round knockout in his pro debut nine days ago. "I have to make a better life for him and his mom (Maria Velazquez). They are my life now."

Mauras and his family live modestly together on Trenton Street in the city. Campaigning in the lower weights, he weighed in at 138.5 pounds for his lightweight pro debut. He dreams of someday seeing the likes of a Manny Pacquiao in a multi-million dollar payday.

But for now, it's long hours, five or six days a week in Haverhill's Shoe City Boxing Club with trainer/manager Sean Farley and hopefully an aggressive, busy fight plan that will allow him to climb the rankings from the bottom to the top.

"I don't think there is anyone out there willing to do the work like I am," said Mauras, a three-time state amateur champion and former Olympic Trials contender. "That's why I'm confident that I can be successful."

With lightning hands and, according to Farley, "the ability to take a punch," Mauras will bid to pile up wins and hopefully catch someone's attention.

Santos has already done that, via a couple of brutally Tyson-esque knockouts.

"Right now, he's a two weight-class fighter," said Farley, meaning that Santos can campaign at cruiserweight (176-200 pounds) or heavyweight (201-plus). "I just don't see a big man out there right now that can match Alexis' hand-speed."

Since his early teens, Santos has walked the line to earn his keep.

He's worked menial jobs, currently laboring out of the ring and, when he can, in landscaping. Living in a small Newbury Street apartment with his brother, he focusses almost totally on his one way out.

"Landscaping is tough, tough work," said Santos, who was born here of Dominican descent. "And I just know I want better."

Santos' skills in the ring, his sheer power and speed, dictate that "better" can be had. The process, though, has been excruciatingly slow.

A pro for over two years (he debuted in March of 2009), Santos needs more rounds and fights. Opponents willing to step in with him are tough to find.

Back in February, he was forced to go on the road to Atlanta, just for some action. And, Farley admits, he took a chance signing on with Witherspoon, an unbeaten from a fighting area whom he hadn't really seen.

"If we have to take more chances, to get more, better fights for Alexis, we will," said Farley. "We already have. We will again."

The two are hoping together they can make it work, especially around here. It was only a decade ago that Lawrence's own "Lightning" Edwin Santana, packed the sports club at Rockingham Park, bringing in ESPN's Top Rank Boxing and electrifying the local fight crowd.

"I've never been in the ring, able to hear my fans behind me," said Santos. "That's what I dream of."

A few more emphatic knockouts and who knows?

It could happen sooner than the slugger thinks.

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