Alexis Rocha plans to maintain his momentum against Giovani Santillan

Alexis Rocha’s worst day as a professional came in October 2020.

That was when slick, experienced Rashidi Ellis outboxed Rocha to win a clear unanimous decision in a 12-round bout, Rocha’s first loss. The setback was painful but he used it to become a better fighter.

The 26-year-old welterweight contender has won seven consecutive fights since and is nearing his first shot at a major world title.

He is scheduled to face unbeaten Giovani Santillan this Saturday at Kia Forum in Inglewood, California (DAZN).

“No one likes to talk about losing,” Rocha told Boxing Junkie. “I feel like if you lose, there’s a lot to improve on. And I feel I’ve improved in so many aspects, more the mental side. It helped develop me into the fighter I am today.

“I feel it was a blessing even thought I hate losing. It helps me a lot.”

Rocha (23-1, 15 KOs) delivered arguably his best performance on May 27, a fifth-round knockout of capable Anthony Young in Indio, California, about a two-hour drive from his home in Irvine.

Still, he said he has yet to peak in terms of his development. He suggested we’d see an even better version of himself against Santillan, who might be his toughest opponent to date on paper.

The 31-year-old from San Diego is a well-schooled technician, although he also will be facing his biggest challenge against Rocha.

“I feel I haven’t shown 80 percent of my potential,” he said. “… I feel I’m still learning a lot. And come fight time I’ll show what I’m talking about. You’ll see the improvements.

“This is definitely a tough fight, not a walk in the park, 100 percent. I’ll be ready, though.”

If things go well, Rocha’s big opportunity could be within his grasp.

He’s ranked No. 1 by the WBO, making him first in line in that sanctioning body to face undisputed champion and pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford.

Of course, Rocha doesn’t know what Crawford’s plans are. The titleholder could give up his belts and move to 154 pounds, where he could challenge Jermell Charlo. Crawford also has expressed interest in facing 168-pound champ Canelo Alvarez.

Rocha hopes the Mexican star stays at 147 long enough to face him, although he certainly understands the magnitude of that challenge.

“You always want to fight the top guy,” he said. “They have a bounty on their back. You try to go out and get whoever the king is. And Terence Crawford is the king right now, pretty much the face of boxing.

“He gets to do what he wants. Go to 154, fight Canelo. Then he could get stripped of his belts. That would open the door for someone like me to fight for one of the titles.”

And if he should share a ring with Crawford?

“You have to be mentally strong, be at your best every single second of every single round to beat Crawford,” he said. “It would take a lot. His ring IQ is very high. To beat Crawford you couldn’t make any mistakes.

“I’m in the sport to be one of the best. And to be the best, you have to fight the best.”

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