Saturday night on Showtime (Feb. 20, 9 pm ET), Adrien Broner will make his return to the ring after 25 months of inactivity, taking on unknown Jovanie Santiago in the 140-pound main event, while Otto Wallin and Dominic Breazeale meet in a heavyweight matchup that keeps the winner in the mix and drops the loser for the time being.
Who wins? We make our picks.
Scott Christ (4-1-1)
Wallin’s the better fighter. Wallin might, in fact, be a legitimate and serious heavyweight contender. The wins are pretty thin, but he was no joke against Tyson Fury in 2019, and had more success in that fight than just the cut. He also showed a viable and useful mean streak in that bout, which I still say should have been stopped on the cut by any normal standards of boxing, you know, where the guy who would lose isn’t the cash cow. To me, Otto Wallin is the TRUE!!!!!! LINEAL!!!!!!! champ, because why not?
Breazeale is dangerous, though. Breazeale is dangerous against anyone. He can legitimately crack, and he’s a tough dude. He’s been stopped by Wilder and AJ, but those are heavy hitters, and Wilder legitimately almost took his damn head off. (Wilder’s a weird subject right now, but let’s please not forget the man has a bomb in his right hand.)
I think Wallin gets through this and wins, but Breazeale will give the effort. It’s a good matchup, and will be a solid win for whichever fighter gets his hand raised. Wallin TKO-10
Wil Esco (4-1-1)
I think it’s Otto Wallin’s time to shine in this outing. Dominic Breazeale is a physically large man with experience but he’s really not a dynamic fighter, and I think his rigidity has been the thing that has failed him when stepping up to the world level. Wallin isn’t the massive puncher that Deontay Wilder is, nor maybe even that of an Anthony Joshua, but he’s a rough and tumble guy who doesn’t seem to get intimidated. I think Wallin could get in on Breazeale and outwork the American who is coming off a nearly two-year-long layoff.
I think Wallin has even more confidence in his ability for the way he performed against Tyson Fury, despite the loss, and I think Breazeale will be rusty enough that Wallin will take advantage. I don’t know that he’ll get the stoppage, so I’m just going to take Wallin on the cards. Wallin UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (4-1-1)
Dominic Breazeale is the slower, less-coordinated, and more defensively inept half of this matchup, but when isn’t that the case? Raw power and sheer tenacity have carried him far further than his skills should allow, and he carries those traits into deeper waters than his husky frame would suggest. While it’s clear that Wallin’s jab and footwork will thoroughly befuddle “Trouble” for as long as both men remain conscious, it’s equally clear that Breazeale can undo any amount of progress with a single shot, especially if Wallin starts to fade down the stretch.
A Breazeale knockout would be the funnier outcome, which I generally prefer absent any emotional investment, but he’s 36 years old, is coming off a huge layoff, and got knocked not just into next week but into the heat death of the universe last time out. Beating Wallin would be difficult even at the best of times; with this much weighing Breazeale down, Wallin jabs him to death and avoids the late surge to seal the victory. Wallin UD-12
Lewis Watson (3-2-1)
This is a real sleeper of a heavyweight fight between two guys that have only taken losses from the elite end of the division. I kind of forgot this one was happening until last week, but I’m glad it is. The thing is with Breazeale is that he’s just been too inactive for us to really get a gauge on where he is at in his career. He’s fought for just 2 minutes and 17 seconds in 792 days and that fight ended in potentially career-altering fashion at the hands of Deontay Wilder. Otto Wallin in the new kid on the heavyweight block and is in danger of overlooking Breazeale in an attempt to land some form of Fury rematch. He can take a punch and throws pretty healthy combinations out of the southpaw stance and I get the impression he has the ability to outwork, outland and outpoint Breazeale in this one. Wallin UD-12
And the staff winner is…
Otto Wallin (4-0)!
How to Watch Broner vs Santiago
Date: Saturday, Feb. 20 | Start Time: 9:00 pm ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena – Uncasville, CT
TV: Showtime | Streaming: Showtime
Online Coverage: BadLeftHook.com
Scott Christ (4-1-1)
There’s not much out there on Jovanie Santiago, but there are way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way more predictable losses than shocking upsets in the history of 31-year-old unknowns who have had 15 fights in 13 years as a pro coming in and facing a rehabbing star who needs a win.
A lot is going to be made of Broner’s age, because he is only 31, and what he’s already achieved, because he’s won world titles in four weight classes. I hope as a person he’s gotten his mind right, put himself on track. I still think he’s been overrated pretty much since the world knew who he was, and it’s not going to surprise me if he loses some rounds here. Broner hasn’t just lost to Pacquiao and Mikey and Porter and Maidana, all very good fighters at worst. He also had highly debatable calls against Daniel Ponce De Leon, Paulie Malignaggi, and Adrian Granados, even Fernando Quintero long before AB made it to big time TV. He is a good fighter when dialed in and has some natural gifts most fighters just don’t, but he is and has always been very flawed, even at his best. He’s also coming off of a crash course losing 35 pounds and hasn’t fought in over two years.
I am fully aware this will put me on the list of “haters,” and that’s fine. I expect him to win. And hey, if he is truly focused, makes a big career run — he is young enough to still do that — and shows out even more than he already has in his career, I’ll be first in line to say he did just that, this isn’t a Skip Bayless thing where I hang on forever. If Broner proves me wrong, good for him.
As for this fight, I think it’s possible he blows Santiago away quick and I think it’s possible he labors a bit through 12. It will basically depend on how much he wants to throw his hands. I say he’ll get a few rounds in, unleash some good shots when he feels he’s done all he needs to do, and get Santiago out in the middle rounds. Broner TKO-8
Wil Esco (4-1-1)
Well, if I’m being honest, I know next to nothing about Jovanie Santiago. What I do know is that he clearly doesn’t present the kind of danger Michel Rivera does, which is probably why Rivera is out and Santiago is in for Broner’s comeback special. And Broner, well, what can I really say about AB at this point. He says he’s back on the right path and dedicated to boxing this time around, but we’ve also heard those exact same sentiments from him before.
I actually was a believer in Broner’s talent for longer than most because he does possess physical talent, and thought that maybe if he just put it all together he could really turn things around for himself. I believed it so much that I even picked Broner to beat Mikey Garcia. Turns out Broner just doesn’t have a knack for fighting to his advantages, and I don’t think he’ll ever truly pick up his punch count from what we’ve seen of him. Against Jovanie Santiago I expect the talent differential to be enough to get Broner through, but I’m not overly encouraged about his chances at the top of the 140lb division. Broner TKO-9
Patrick L. Stumberg (4-1-1)
When hunting for footage of Santiago, I found one (1) full fight of his from the last five years and a 96-second highlight reel partially composed of said fight. He’s…fine, I guess? He can tear up the body real nice against bottom-of-the-barrel opposition, but even the smoking heap of wasted potential that is Adrien Broner in 2021 should be sufficient to beat him to a pulp. Santiago isn’t powerful enough to overwhelm Broner in the pocket and isn’t savvy enough to out-box him the way others have before.
Even acknowledging that Broner can absolutely flub a layup so badly that it careens off the backboard and knocks half his teeth out, there really isn’t any intrigue here. Unless he’s been hiding something nasty, Santiago ostensibly lacks a weapon with which to bridge the massive gap in experience. Provided Broner actually bothers to throw enough punches, he batters Santiago into submission without much issue. Broner TKO-7
Lewis Watson (3-2-1)
AB stinks the place out. AB wins on the cards. AB shouts down the camera. Just a hunch. I mean, I’ve never seen Santiago fight but this one just feels a little scripted. I hope I’m wrong. I hope Broner lets his hands go and Santiago is more than another winner of BoxRec roulette. Broner UD-12