By Miguel Maravilla
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Santa Barbara welterweight Francisco “Chia” Santana (24-4-1, 12 KOs) is gearing up for his next bout undefeated former WBA interim super lightweigh world champion Jose Benavidez (24-0, 16 KOs), of Phoenix, Arizona, on July 23 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas live on HBO Pay per view.

We spoke to Santana about his upcoming bout. “It’s a good feeling fighting Benavidez,” Santana told Fightnews.com®. “I feel I’m moving in the right direction to fight for a title and for a guy like Benavidez I am more than ready!”

Santana has been working with his trainer Joseph “Hoss” Janik at the Knuckleheads Boxing Gym in Ventura, California.

“Camp has been good with my trainer Hoss here at Knuckleheads. I have everything here. The beach, and the mountains where I do my roadwork,” Santana said. “Sparring is good, I came off a win and I had a lot of hard sparring for that fight. Then I went back into camp and it’s been a smooth transition. I spar cruiserweights to light welterweights. The goal is to be ready.”

Santana is coming off a unanimous decision over Ed Paredes in March. His opponent Benavidez, won a unanimous decision over Sidney Sigueira in his welterweight debut after taking the WBA interim 140lb title with a questionable decision over Mauricio Herrera.

“I remember him from the Wild Card when he sparred Manny Pacquiao. He has quick hands and a good jab,” Santana said. “I saw part of his fight against Herrera…didn’t really watch it because there was also another fight that night so I kept changing the channel.”

This will be Santana’s first pay-per-view appearance. He made his HBO Boxing debut last year dropping a decision to then undefeated Sadam Ali on the Wladimir Klitschko vs. Bryan Jennings card at Madison Square Garden. francisco-santana-mikey680

“I am excited and focused to be fighting on HBO for the second time. Every fighter wants to fight on a pay-per-view fight. It’s cool to be on a pay-per-view fight,” Santana said. “I was at the Pacquiao-Bradley fight with my girlfriend and we were talking and wondered what it will be like to fight on a pay-per-view at MGM. Little did I know that my manager Frank Espinoza was already talking to Bob Arum about fighting in July against Benavidez.”

The 30-year-old Santana has paid his dues as he has been in with some tough competition, such current IBF world champion Jermell Charlo, undefeated Julian “J Rock” Williams, and Karim Mayfield. He holds a win over former world champion Joachim Alcine. Since his loss to Sadam Ali, Santana has won two straight bouts. Looking to land bigger things, Santana signed a managerial contract early this year with Frank Espinoza.

“This is my second fight with Espinoza. We signed back in March. Frank helped me land this fight,” Santana said. “If I pass this test, better things come up. The goal is to climb up the rankings and become champ.”

Benavidez vs. Santana will be a scheduled ten round welterweight bout and will open up the Terence Crawford vs. Viktor Postol HBO Pay per view card.

“Anybody that follows me knows I am never in a dull fight. Come July 23 you will see nothing else,” Santana promised.

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