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Santos lives his dream of boxing through Wright

JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 14, 2004

LAS VEGAS - David Santos boarded a plane Friday and arrived at 7:30 p.m., just 24 hours before the biggest fight of his life.

He was nervous, he was excited, he couldn't wait.

Just imagine if he actually were getting in the ring.

Santos wasn't going to miss Winky Wright's 154-pound junior middleweight championship bout against Shane Mosley Saturday night, even if it meant flying in and out in 48 hours.

Though he's had his own Las Vegas title fights - albeit on a much smaller, less publicized scale - and been a belt-holder, Santos admitted that his good friend's quest to unify the title (Wright is IBF champ; Mosley is WBA and WBC champ) almost trumps his own experiences.

"I'm living my dream through him," Santos said.

It's only fitting that Santos watch in person, considering the two fighters always will be synonymous with each other, and with St. Petersburg boxing. Theirs is a friendship that goes back 16 years, when both were teenage boxers traveling the state and country together in search of medals.

Together, they helped put the St. Pete Boxing Club on the map, the anchors of one of the state's finest amateur programs. As young men, they trained together and partied together. Both won Golden Gloves titles, fought at Olympic festivals, earned national rankings, had the same trainers.

"We probably fought together 500 times, at least," Santos said. "We traveled all over the place. We had the same dream."

At the time, it was Olympic gold. But Wright turned pro first, unable to resist the money thrown at him by local promoter Phil Alessi. Santos stayed with trainer Jim McLoughlin and set his sights on the 1992 Olympics, eventually falling short.

Their friendship always has been strong. Though Wright started high school at Northeast, he finished at Gibbs as a classmate of Santos. And when times were tough for the fighters, as both shared similar experiences trying to find respect in the pro ranks, they talked often.

Today, they consider themselves brothers. Which is why Santos joined approximately 25 other fighters from the Fourth Street Boxing Gym to watch one of their own finally get the chance to fulfill a dream.

"This is important to me," Santos said. "I can't watch this fight on TV. I have to be there to watch. "It's awesome to know someone at this level and see them get this opportunity. Hopefully, this is just the start for him."

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