New welterweight blood is ready to break through.

Giovani Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) and Brian Norman (25-0, 19 KOs) will meet in a critical 147-pound clash Saturday night in an ESPN-televised co-main event fight at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena.

The winner will be awarded the vacant WBO interim welterweight title. Santillan is the WBO’s No. 1-ranked contender, and Norman is ranked No. 10 by the sanctioning body.

Terence Crawford is the current WBC, WBA and WBO welterweight champion, but his days in the division are numbered. That means Top Rank promotional mates Santillan and Norman can jockey for position as to who will get first dibs at being considered a full champion once “Bud” officially plants his flag at 154 pounds. 

Crawford will fight Israil Madrimov for the WBA junior middleweight title on Aug. 3. An interim 154-pound WBO title will also be on the line in that fight.

“This upcoming fight is huge for me,” Santillan told BoxingScene. “Brian is hungry and wants to take my spot. So I have to give a great performance and get this guy out of there by knockout. If it's not a knockout, then I want a decisive decision where I win clean and look great. That's the kind of performance that will give me my shots at the world title. It will get to the point where they can't deny me my world title shots.”

Santillan is riding high coming off one of the biggest upsets of 2023 – a career-defining, dominant sixth-round stoppage win against Alexis Rocha. Santillan dropped Rocha thrice, and the win catapulted him to the WBO’s No. 1 slot.

“I knew how much was on the line versus Rocha,” said Santillan. “I knew everything I can gain from winning that type of fight as a B-side underdog. I needed that fight so bad. It made me hungry to win. Now I'm hungry to stay here and get that world title shot and show the world that there should be a lot more of those kinds of performances coming from me. I believe I deserve the title shot after this fight. I'm ready for it all.”

Norman, a Georgia native, is looking to replicate the kind of scintillating performance Santillan had against Rocha.

“Giovanni dog-walked and overpowered Rocha in that fight, but I am coming in to dominate myself,” Norman told BoxingScene. “Can he match me back? Whether it's a war or a boxing match, I'm expecting to win. I'm not a one-dimensional fighter. Right now my defining fight is Giovanni, and I am not looking past him.” 

Norman must look better against Santillan than he did during his incomplete performance against Janelson Figueroa Bocachica in March. Norman suffered a first-round knockdown, and the fight was ruled a no-contest after three rounds because both fighters had suffered cuts.

The Robert Garcia-trained Santillan is ready to step up to the rest of the division if he gets past Norman. 

“I know Jaron Ennis, Eimantas Stanionis and Mario Barrios will be tough fights for me at 147 pounds, but I know I can beat them,” said Santillan. “If those opportunities present themselves, I am sure Top Rank would support me to get those fights.”

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at] or via