By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- After waiting long enough for his chance, Amsterdam professional boxer Ray Santiago is looking to speed things up by making his second time out the charm.
Santiago, 20, will fight Saturday in Whitehall at the Whitehall Athletic Club as part of a card that features both amateur and professional fights. Santiago will take on Chase Mills' Brian Clookey in a heavyweight tussle.
"The rematch," said Santiago, Monday, at Alpin Haus Fitness Center.
Clookey won the first meeting between the two boxers earlier this year. Santiago scored the fight's only knockdown, which came in the first round, but a winded Santiago retired in the fourth round of his first professional fight to give Clookey the victory.
"With me, the thing is, I'm not scared of anybody. I'll go in there with whoever," said Santiago. "But if you don't have your lungs behind you in the fight game, you're not going to go anywhere.
"After the third round, I was gassed," he added.
Santiago is expecting things to go better this time. His first fight came after an abbreviated month-long camp after nearly a year away from the sport because of the birth of his child. This time, Santiago has been able to have a prolonged camp of "80 days," working out six days a week for more than two hours.
"Now, it's going to be a totally different story," he said.
It is a tale Santiago has been working on for quite some time. Now trained by his father, Norbert Santiago, Ray Santiago said he started training as a boxer when he was 10 years old. His amateur career was brief, though, as he quickly outgrew the area's competition and only managed to find opponents for 10 amateur fights.
"There's really not a lot of amateur heavyweights anymore," he said.
Too large to compete with area amateurs, the fighter began sparring with professional fighters in his mid-teens.
Santiago's first fight against Clookey was a learning experience. Besides finding out he needed to drop some weight -- he's lost more than 10 pounds for this fight and should fight at 230 pounds -- the Rug City brawler said it was a new experience dealing with knowing he had knocked a fighter down. The severely padded gloves and headgear used in amateur boxing had hampered Santiago from knocking a fighter down in the past, and he said seeing Clookey go down in the first round made him "a little more cautious" the rest of the fight.
"That was really the first time someone really went down and it was (different)," he said. "But it also felt good because I knew my power was there."
Santiago said nothing will surprise him in this fight. He knows what to expect from Clookey, and he said his father has put him through the paces in the course of his training.
When the two work together, Santiago said "it's no more father and son; it's coach and student."
Santiago admits that he "likes to brawl" in the ring, but said he plans to approach Clookey with respect and not focus on landing one big shot.
"If the knockout comes, the knockout comes," Santiago said.
The flip side to that, though, is that if the opportunity presents itself, Santiago is planning on scoring more than a knockdown like he did earlier this year when he fought Clookey in Albany.
"This time, we're thinking about putting him to sleep," Santiago said.
Santiago enters the fight 0-1, while Clookey is 5-1-2.
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