This past Thursday on “The Cornermen” Boxing Radio. Jesse Rican, Flawless, Boxing Eye and myself had the chance to sit down with undefeated prospect Wilkins Santiago (12-0-2).
His most notable fight was a draw with highly touted fellow prospect Michael Finney. Wilkins isn’t your average story. After doing a 5 year jail sentence God and Boxing saved his life. Here is his story:
I started boxing in 1989. I was a young kid and I came from a rough neighborhood it is even worse today. I’m from a small little city outside of Cleveland called Lorain Ohio. It has a bad heroin epidemic going on right now. I came from Chicago. Then we move to Lorain area in 1987. I was seven. I used to be in the streets. I used to see this guy named Billy. He always had a bag with boxing gloves hanging from them. I wonder what this guy was into. Push came to shove he was a kickboxer and would go to the boxing gym to use his hands. One day I asked him out of curiosity what are you doing and he told me kick boxing at the Boxing Gym. I asked him if I could go and I fell in love with it ever since.
I was 9 years old when I started. You had to be 10 to fight. My coach Credit Barrera, which is in my corner today, had a plan. He turn me down as a young kid because he didn’t know I was serious. I had interest. I fell in love with it in the bag. I shed a tear when he told me I couldn’t come back until 10. I went home a few days later he calls me and says jump in the van. I did and ever since then I stuck with it.
Time spent in between why I started my career life. I was ranked number 2 is an amateur between 15 and 17 years old. I had about a 81-6 record in the amatuers. I beat guys like Tony Hanshaw and Ricky Williams. I’ve been around a while now. I was a quick learner. It was something that Drew to me. It kept me off the streets. Made me disciplined. Had me places I never thought I would interact with on a daily life. I was number two in the country and it went to my head. I was saying the girls. I got into partying with the women then the drugs got involved. Then the whole turnaround happens in my life.
I got caught up in the drug stuff and the money wasn’t flowing in boxing real quick. I ended up catching a drug case. One of my buddies who I thought was close to me set me up with a wire and boom. I took a five-year hit for trafficking cocaine so from the age of 22 to 27 I was a lockdown in the pen. I was where they film Shawshank Redemption. I did my time in Mansfield.
Joe gave me time to reevaluate my life I was like man what are you doing. You have a bright future. You wear a top amateur. I started shedding tears thinking about it day and night. I was always in the cell thinking how can I let my family, people, and myself down.
This Is It this is my opportunity. I feel God gave me the time to sit down and think of myself as a man. Tell myself what are you going to do. The same thing? Are you going to do what most guys do and get out and do the same thing? Back to doing and selling drugs where you going to pick up the pieces? I feel like in life everything happens for a reason. That was the reason to sit down and catch myself like Wilkins you are better than this so is your family and parents. We struggle but made ends meet. Any dollar they had came to the table for us to eat. I started really taking the time to remember those things. Then God help me to rise above and prove everyone wrong.
Since turning around Wilkins has turned into a prospect at 147 as well as a motivational speaker he’ll bent on fighting the heroin epidemic in his home town. Wilkins returns to the ring on November 25th in Erie, PA.