Featherweight Santomauro finds a safe haven in Las Vegas

For some, it’s easy to find trouble in Las Vegas. But for Rocco Santomauro, it has proved to be a safe haven from mischief.

The featherweight boxer from Hesperia, Calif., moved to Southern Nevada six years ago because he knew if he stayed in California he was headed for a life of misery and prison, at the least.

“There was nothing for me there,” he said. “I could sense that I was headed in the wrong direction. It was time for me to take off.”

Santomauro, 26, appears to have made the right decision. He is 11-0 with one knockout entering his fight against veteran Daniel Quevedo (13-14-3, eight KOs) tonight at the Tropicana.

The eight-round junior featherweight bout is part of the undercard for the 10-round featherweight main event on HBO2 and HBO Latino, which features Javier Fortuna (24-0-1, 18 KOs) against Juan Antonio Rodriguez (26-4, 23 KOs). The first bell for the six-bout card is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Santomauro will be fighting for the first time since Aug. 17, when he won a six-round decision over Christian Fernandez in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A leg injury forced him out of a fight in December, and fights in January and February fell through.

“It’s boxing. Things happen,” Santomauro said. “It’s like I’ve had three training camps for this fight, and it’s kept me from seeing my daughter.”

Santomauro became a father in October. He said he has seen his daughter, Cecelia, maybe 80 days since she was born. She lives in Hesperia.

“That’s the toughest part, not being with her every day,” Santomauro said. “She’s my savior.”

When Santomauro moved to Las Vegas, he signed a two-year contract with Frank Luca, who was promoting fight cards at The Orleans and the Rio. He was getting regular work and making progress.

But Luca became sick a couple of years ago and dramatically scaled back his cards. It left Santomauro scrambling to get fights.

But his father was at McCarran International Airport one day and overheard a man talking about boxing in Spanish.

It was promoter Sampson Lewkowicz. Santomauro’s dad told Lewkowicz about his son, and the promoter and the fighter talked. Suddenly, Lewkowicz was Santomauro’s promoter, and they’ve been together for two years.

“He’s an exciting fighter, and he’s got talent,” Lewkowicz said. “He can be a world champion some day, definitely.”

But Santomauro knows he can’t afford to take any backward steps. He trains diligently at Floyd Mayweather’s gym with his trainer, Pops Anderson. He has an apartment near UNLV, where he lives with his brother and basically keeps to himself. His focus is strictly on boxing and being able to provide for his infant daughter.

“I’ve seen the improvement,” Santomauro said. “I’m a much better defensive fighter than I used to be. I know how to make a guy miss. I’m ready to get back to work, and I plan on stealing the show.”

That kind of stealing won’t get Santomauro into trouble.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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