Luke Santamaria hurt Paul Kroll with a big left-hand body shot in the second round. This was when Kroll could have panicked and suffered his first career loss.
But this wasn’t an unfamiliar position. Kroll, a top welterweight prospect, only had seven career fights before Saturday, but he wasn’t inexperienced. Sparring sessions with the likes of Julian Williams, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia prepared him for this moment.
“No matter who you [are]and how in shape you [are], if you throw five punches and miss and I tie you up, you burned a lot of energy," Kroll said. “I just played it safe, protected that shot so he didn’t get in there no more and tied him up until I got myself together and went right back to the gameplan.”
Kroll (8-0, 6 KOs) recovered nicely after the second round and defeated Santamaria (11-2-1, 7 KOs) via unanimous decision in the co-main event of PBC’s Fight Night card at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, Ca.
Two judges scored the fight 99-91, and a third 96-94, which surprised the broadcast team. According to Compubox, Santamaria landed 81-of-435 (19%) punches and Kroll connected on 65-of-401 (16%).
“I think it was a draw in my estimation,” Ray Flores said shortly before the decision was announced. “I could see it one way or the other, slightly.”
A close fight was what Kroll needed. The quick knockouts looked good, but he answered more questions about how he can adjust when being hit and how he’d respond to a full 10-round fight. Those are questions that should be answered when you’re moving up in one of the boxing’s most loaded weight divisions.
“I got to show more than just what people think about me,” Kroll said. “I got to show that I’m in shape and I can go 10 rounds. I showed them I can box, I can fight from the bottom.”
“If you look at his last couple of fights, he overwhelmed everybody. With me, he didn’t overwhelm me. It was a slow place like my type of fight.”
Kroll said that Santamaria was tougher than he expected. The North Philly fighter planned on filling Santamaria out through the first four rounds and then increasing his aggressiveness for a potential knockout.
Things don’t always go as planned, and in this case, Santamaria had more energy left than Kroll anticipated. Kroll adjusted again by focusing more on boxing, precision and controlling the fight with pace.
“He’s a lot better than I thought,” Kroll said. “I can see how he beats people. He’s a little awkward, too, but that’s like his gift. He earned my respect.”
Kroll was right back in the gym Monday and he wants to get in the ring soon. It had been nearly nine months between Saturday and his last fight, and he noted how that impacted his timing in the ring.
If all goes as planned, Kroll will be back in the ring in 2020.