Former professional boxer, President of the World Boxing Foundation North America and founder of the No Teen Rider Foundation
Throughout our childhood we have all had reasons why we entered various activities to either bond with friends, family, or just for the love of that activity. However, others tend to participate in an activity to find security, and that is how Alan Santana first found boxing. As a child he would get picked on quite frequently which sent him to his father where he wanted to learn how to defend himself against those that continually picked on him. His father soon purchased young Santana a pair of boxing gloves in order to begin his journey on learning how to defend himself through boxing. Those same pair of gloves can still be found hanging on a wall in his home to this day.
Alan Santana with Freddy Roach
Santana was a natural when it came to boxing along with being a quick study of techniques that would later help him find success in his boxing career. Early on his father was his training partner, and not long after he began boxing is when his amateur career began. As a young boxer he would watch many fights, but one in particular seemed to stick in his mind. The fight was one that involved the great Muhammad Ali, “I remember seeing a Muhammad Ali match on a closed circuit TV at the Long Beach Arena with my father, and from that point on I was just hooked.” Muhammad Ali was the boxer that he most mirrored his boxing style after, and this could be seen through all of the paraphernalia that he gathered from his boxing idle. “I had the robe, the trunks, the shoes, and pretty much emulated everything that he did, and even styled my fighting after him.”
Santana had quite an extensive amateur career, but would not have been as successful without the help of his father who pushed to get a boxing gym in Carson, CA, where he grew up. This training facility provided the young Santana a place to continue to hone his skills, and would soon be a pivot point that would lead to a spot on the USA Boxing Team.
As an amateur boxer he won many tournaments in Los Angeles which included The Diamond Belt Tournament. These accomplishments are what directly earned him a spot on the California/ USA Boxing Team from 1982 through 1984, and this is where he had the opportunity to train alongside some great boxers such as Paul Gonzalez, Henry Tillman, and Hector Lopez. These are several Team USA Boxers who went on to win medals in the Olympic Games.
“I fought as an amateur until the age of 27 believe it or not, and it was at that point when I decided to turn professional, but it was a choice that I should have made quite a few years earlier.” The main reasons he decided to hold off turning pro was due to the passing of his trainer of many years. Once pro he continued to fight until the age of thirty when his career abruptly ended due to an injury.
The accident occurred while Santana was driving a dump truck and another vehicle pulled out of a parking lot and stopped which resulted in Santana plowing into the vehicle. “Imagine a vehicle that must weigh about six or seven tons with an additional nine tons of asphalt on the truck which is a pretty heavy load going down the street. The result of the accident was the loss of control of the truck which actually led to the dislocation of my shoulder which ended my boxing career.” Soon after he entered rehabilitation in hopes to return to boxing, but quickly realized that he would not be able to make a comeback.
Santana stayed away from boxing for around five years mostly due to depression. “It was hard for me to watch fights on television, and pretty much did not even watch any fights during that five years.” One day he received a call from a friend who asked him about getting involved with the World Boxing Hall of Fame, and soon after became part of the board of directors for the World Boxing Hall of Fame. “I was fortunate, I love this sport to death and it is one of my first loves. So having the opportunity to be involved with it to this day is fantastic.” He does not have any regrets about his boxing career, or that it did not work out the way that he hoped it would, but the ability to be part of the Hall of Fame allows him to still be close to the world of boxing.
Today he feels that it is important for him to give back to the sport, so he holds many positions such as the President of North America for the World Boxing Foundation as well as being an international boxing judge. “For me it’s being able to give back to the sport, or teach some young kids the ropes about the business side of it, or just even being around the sport keeps me busy and happy.”
While at the WBHF he also had the opportunity to interview the who’s who of the boxing world. He always had the ability to talk to anyone ever since he was a kid which resulted in the microphone landing in his lap to perform interviews whenever the Hall of Fame would hold events. He even had the chance to perform live interviews during a pay-per-view event which streamed the Hall of Fame Inductions over the internet. The ability to be a great interviewer opened many doors for Santana which allowed him to enter live commentating at ringside where he works with his partner Donald DeNoyer. Together this team covers the commendation for MMA and boxing events up and down the state of California, and in January they will be in Oregon to work a world title fight.
The thrill of being ringside to judge fights allows him to be right in the action especially since he comes from actually being a fighter. The prior fight experiences allow him to understand what to watch for during the entire match in order to judge to the best of his abilities.
Some of the most memorable matches, “For me as a fighter the moments that are closest to me are winning titles here in the state of California as the California Champion.”
Santana has also established an organization called No Teen Riders which helps to educate teen drivers along with their parents about laws and regulations that surround these young drivers. “I saw an opportunity to educate parents and teenagers about driving and just bringing awareness to the plight of these teenagers when they get into a car, and safety behind the wheel. Due to many budgetary cuts there is a lack of programs in schools to educate these young drivers, and also to help save lives because every day six to eight teenagers lose their lives on the road.” This is a national program which began in Georgia, and they are in to process of rolling out the program state by state. Today the program is located in Georgia along with California, and has begun to garner attention due to interviews on CBS News and through many radio interviews to further discuss what the program is about. He strives to use this program to save the lives of many teen drivers, and he has already seen a positive impact while recently in Santa Maria, California. “We had about 200 to 300 parents in the audience and I went up to begin talking about No Teen Riders and what we were doing, and this was my second time at this particular school. Afterwards there were quite a few parents that came up to me and they were very thankful because you would be surprised how many parents don’t understand or know the laws when it comes to their teenagers driving. Across the states the laws are pretty uniform, but for example here in California you cannot drive with anyone unless they are 25 or older and this includes your brother or sister.”
“Boxing is one of those sports that there is a lot of pain and blood, sweat, and tears involved and you have to be tough to even get into a boxing ring.” The training for boxing provided him with a daily regiment which prepared him for later events that took place during his life. He calls it the “no quit attitude” which helped him find success not only during his boxing career, but in his business along with all other endeavors he pursued outside of the ring. This is an important lesson that he hopes that the youth today will adopt in order to help them not only obtain their personal goals, but to overcome any obstacles that might stand in their way to reach that goal.