The 108-pound division is one of the most competitive in boxing.
Two fringe contenders hope to make a name for themselves, Friday night, with the winner taking a significant step forward in the division.
Rene Santiago and Carlos Ortega will square off at Centro de Combates Pandeportes, in Panama City, Panama. The 10-round bout will stream live on ESPN+ in the U.S. and on ESPN Knockout in Latin America (9 p.m ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
The crossroads bout between Santiago and Ortega will have a lot on the line. Santiago will defend a regional title and the winner will likely move into the top-10 in the WBO rankings. According to All Star Boxing promoter Tuto Zabala, Jr., stylistically Santiago-Ortega should produce action as both fighters are aggressive and throw an abundance of punches.
“The main event will have a lot of action,” Zabala told The Ring Tuesday night. “Their styles make for fights and this particular clash will be a war. Both are ranked and the winner will inch closer to a world title shot.”
Interestingly enough, the WBO titleholder at 108 pounds, Jonathan Gonzalez, is promoted by All Star Boxing.
Santiago (10-3, 7 knockouts), who resides in Humacao, Puerto Rico, defeated Gerardo Zapata by disqualification in his most recent bout on December 16. The win over the unbeaten Zapata took place over eight months after Santiago lost by unanimous decision against Yudel Reyes.
Ortega (15-6-3, 6 KOs) will likely have the partisan crowd support as he resides in nearby La Chorrera. Ortega has not fought since May 20, defeating journeyman Victor Berrio by knockout after the second round.
The 33-year-old has only lost once in his last six bouts, with that loss coming at the hands of Leyman Benavides, by unanimous decision, in February 2020. His most notable fight came in June 2017, losing by decision to former titleholder Byron Rojas.
In the co-feature, fringe junior middleweight contender Derrieck Cuevas will face Damian Rodriguez in a 10-round bout.
“This is Derrieck’s second fight since we signed him to a promotional deal,” said Zabala. “He is going to have his hands full with Rodriguez, a Cuban fighter. He has to fight well and make a statement if he wants to receive a world ranking and an opportunity to fight for a world title belt.”
Cuevas (24-1-1, 16 KOs), who resides in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, fought a handful of times on Boxeo Telemundo cards a few years ago.
The 28-year-old Cuevas suffered a shocking split decision loss to gatekeeper Damian Bonelli in December 2020. He returned to action two years later on December 2, stopping Esneiker Correa in the second round.
Rodriguez (13-1, 7 KOs) has not fought since February 2020, when he knocked out Omir Rodriguez. Now residing in Panama City, Rodriguez has won his last two fights since losing to Charlie Navarro in October 2018.
In the opening bout of the stream, super middleweight prospect Luis Rodriguez (11-0, 11 KOs), of Toa Alto, Puerto Rico, will square off against Ecuador’s Roger Guerrero (17-3-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-round bout.
In light heavyweight action, Yunior Menendez will face Juan Carlos Chavarria (6-1, 6 KOs), of Alajuela, Costa Rica, in an eight-round bout. Menendez (6-0, 5 KOs) is originally from Havana, Cuba, and now resides in Panama City.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.