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Beware the Bronx Bomber
Beware the Bronx Bomber

"Growing up, you hear about koalas and kangaroos or you might see them at the zoo. I'm from the South Bronx and all we saw was rats and roaches."

Danny Santiago's contrast of his childhood and the postcard imagery of life Down Under may be extreme but that doesn't make it any less real. It's one of the forces that keeps him striving to improve and one which also has him awash with anticipation.

The New Yorker's boxing odyssey brings him to Perth next month and a country he says he has long wanted to visit. His clash with Danny Green over 12 rounds at Challenge Stadium on July 25 presumably means he's being well paid, too.

But a few minutes chatting to the 39-year-old and the overriding reason for his enthusiasm is evident - he's back in the game.

Santiago endured his third unsuccessful world title challenge almost a year ago when halted nine rounds in against Kazakhstan's World Boxing Association champion Beibut Shumenov. No disgrace, but a loss all the same. Coming on the back of two earlier stoppage defeats when aiming for top honours, and a disastrous appearance on the TV show The Contender, and his time could have passed.

That all changed after Green finally decided he was boxing on, following his own world title loss to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk seven months ago. Admitting defeat in his quest to mix it with the bigger boys at cruiserweight - and looking at a way to possibly tempt Anthony Mundine into a rematch - Green sought a light- heavyweight to test himself against and Santiago fitted the bill.

"I don't know how the fight has come about. I was just in the gym and my manager (Heidi Jasper) said she'd just had a phone call from Danny Green's people who asked if I was up for the challenge," said Santiago speaking from Ocla, Florida.

"Danny Green is a former three-time world champion. At this stage of my game, I'm not going to take just any fight. I'm looking to go up against top-ranked guys."

The two Dannys have much in common - same age, same win-loss record of 31-5 (although the American's record also contains a draw) and both have come unstuck against the class of Antonio Tarver. Indeed, Santiago's meeting with the Magic Man in 2007 came about after Green's negotiations with Tarver broke down.

Then there's Roy Jones Jr, who Green demolished inside a round in 2009. A year later, Santiago had signed to face Jones, only for the future Hall of Famer to pull out a week before the fight.

"I went to camp for 2 1/2 months. A week before the fight I broke camp to fly up to Pensacola for the fight and I got a phone call saying he had hurt his hand," Santiago said.

"I later found out that was not right. He had signed to fight a Russian (Denis Lebedev), where he got knocked out. I was very frustrated, just a week from the fight and a day before I was going to fly to Pensacola. It was a little bit heartbreaking.

"I have seen him on occasions since. Business being business, I'm not going to tell someone not to make money but it left a bad taste."

Green can probably relate to any ill-feeling after the griping that followed his win over Jones in Sydney 2 1/2 years ago.

That fight, Santiago says, is the only one of Green's he has seen, leaving his trainer Luis Camacho to study the tapes and for him to carry out the plan.

Is watching a 122-second blow-out enough to get a handle on Green?

"I don't really do that (study tapes of opponents). My trainer will do that and tell me the game plan," Santiago said. "He's the trainer and I'm the fighter. But it's simple. I'm a rightie and my right hand is my bread and butter. From what I know about Danny Green, he is very aggressive, so it should make for an exciting fight."

When Green announced the fight in Perth earlier this month, few questions were about Santiago. Instead it was all about Mundine and a rematch that may never happen.

Is Santiago miffed that he was shunted down the card for the launch of his own fight?

"No, not at all. I don't find any disrespect in that. Danny Green, from what I know, is a professional, and it's natural, them both being from Australia," he said.

Santiago's previous experience of Australian fighters came when he was in the third instalment of The Contender series in the US alongside Sam Soliman and Sydney-based Cameroon fighter Sakio Bika.

Bika eventually won the tournament and claimed the $750,000 prize money, while Soliman took third spot. But for Santiago the tournament ended before it could even begin when he was eliminated by show host Sugar Ray Leonard in episode one after weighing in a whopping 13.6kg over the 76.2kg super-middleweight limit.

"That was a culmination of stuff in my life," he said, adding that he was also diagnosed with "an intestinal blockage, I got sick on the show".

But that was five years ago and he was given a clean bill of health a long time ago.

Although Santiago goes by the name of the Bronx Bomber, he has lived most of his adult life in Florida and says the decision to move "was the best move my mother made".

"But I still go back to the Bronx on and off," he said. "I never smoked a drug in my life but it's a rough life. In the Bronx, most of my friends were dying at 16, 17 ... if you made it to your 20s it was an achievement."

That start in life makes him appreciate what he has and he's hungry to have more.

"I'm not coming to Australia for sightseeing. Victory against me will put Danny Green back in the positive. But victory for me gives me a lifeline to move forward," he said.