By Andrea Camarena

In the final fight of the night at the Palace's Season's Beatings boxing event, Farmersville local Santiago Rodriguez fought to his second career win to bring his professional record to 2-0-1 (1KO).

"Lucky me," Santiago said after his victory.

But according to his Exeter-based trainer and head of the Exeter Boxing Club, Doug Henderson, luck had nothing to do with Santiago's performance.

"He was the one to make the fight happen. He never took a step back the whole night."

In a four-round junior lightweight bout, the Farmersville fighter unanimously scored higher than his 21-year old opponent Raul Rodriguez of Bakerfield.

In the 10th fight of the night, with a thinning crowd, the Rodriguez' stepped into the ring at 10 p.m. to debut Raul and give Santiago a chance to make his second career knock out. Instead, the young boxer showed conditioning and agility that kept Santiago unsure of a victory into the third round.

"We trained hard for this fight. We knew he was young and tough to beat. At the end of the third round, I thought I had him."

But the round ended before he had a chance to finish off the weary boxer.

Santiago came into the first round itching for a knock out and "got a little anxious chasing him and threw some wild hooks," Henderson said. But the aggressiveness sent Raul running and Santiago won the first round.

Raul came into the second round ready to take the fight into his own hands. Raul came out fast, expending a lot of energy and it began to show in the third and final rounds.

"In the middle of the third round I knew I had to step up," Santiago said.

Santiago's self-motivated conditioning after his last fight paid off as he came back stronger to win the final round and win the judges' vote.

"This one was tougher [than the last fight at the palace]. The kid kept moving, he was conditioned," Santiago said of Raul.

The win over Raul followed Santiago's knock out win over Jorge Landin in September at the Palace's last boxing event. Santiago brought down Landin in the fourth round after knocking him through the ropes in the outdoor boxing ring. The fight served as Santiago's first and only professional knock out.

Last week's fight and win was dedicated to Santiago's close friend and Henderson's grandson Reggie McZeal. Wearing the name Reggie on the back of his trunks, Santiago honored the 21-year old Marine.

"He's been more than a friend to me. He's a brother."

The of the two men is a testament to how close this boxer and trainer are. Santiago trained with Henderson in his amateur boxing career for several years as he won championships at several levels ranging from regional to state to national.

"We've been together so long we think alike," said Henderson.

His most recent win shouldn't be Santiago's last. The Palace has already asked the boxer back for five fights in the coming year.

Henderson has full confidence that Santiago is ready for his first six round bout.

"We're going to try harder. Condition-wise we were there. But we didn't do enough sparring at the gym," Santiago said, already thinking of his next fight.

He won't have a chance to see the ring at the Palace until their next event in March but until then he plans on doing as much sparring as possible.

Training out of Henderson's home kept Santiago at only seven rounds of sparring before his Season's Beatings fight. Both trainer an d boxer saw this as the biggest detriment to Santiago's performance.

As the Exeter Boxing Club continues to look for a new location for training, Santiago will continue to train out of Henderson's garage.

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