WITH an astonishing, countering left uppercut, Gervonta Davis knocked Leo Santa Cruz cold at 2-40 of round six on Saturday (October 31). The two, who weighed in at 130lbs, were fighting for Leo’s WBA super-featherweight title and the same sanctioning body’s spurious ‘regular’ lightweight belt, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Where Davis’ immediate future lies is unknown but the 25-year-old must now be considered among the most exciting fighters in the sport after scoring one of the most perfect knockouts in memory.
We’ve known about his talents for a long time, this was his 15th straight stoppage victory, but his battles with the scales over the years made plenty of insiders question his dedication.
For this camp, Davis – trained by Calvin Ford and Floyd Mayweather’s long-time protégé – employed a nutritionist and, according to Leonard Ellerbe, “Tank” never had an issue with dropping back down to 130lbs even though he had to strip nude at the weigh-in to do so.
Santa Cruz seemed inspired at the start of the fight. His father had been gravely ill earlier this year, almost dying from coronavirus, but he fought back to health to be at his son’s side for this occasion. Leo began brightly, busy as he hammered shots to the body and drove forward into Davis.
But Davis, a southpaw, had the more explosive fists. He looked to detonate hooks round Santa Cruz’s guard, not throwing as often but hitting to hurt when he did.
Santa Cruz worked well, finishing the exchanges that Davis initiated. He clipped Gervonta with persistent lefts and found openings to the body. But as the fight progressed, Davis adjusted, overcoming his discomfort in the early rounds. He began to hurt Santa Cruz in the sixth. The Mexican fired right back at him, tearing forward yet again.
Davis – up 48-47 on all three cards – directed him towards the edge of the ring. Santa Cruz made the mistake, with his back to the ropes, of trying the same right hand three times. The first one landed, the second was blocked and as the third was thrown, Davis instinctively knew what to do. In one brilliant movement, he slipped the oncoming right, moved to his left and rotated his shoulder to put full power into that arm. He drove a left uppercut into and through the point of Santa Cruz’s chin. It jarred his head back and the Mexican’s legs gave way beneath him. He collapsed on his back, flat on the canvas as referee Rafael Ramos called it off without a count. Santa Cruz, 32, was unresponsive for several worrying moments before he could be revived.
He left the ring on his own feet however, waving and smiling ruefully to his supporters in the arena. Davis has made a statement. He is a threat to anyone at super-feather and lightweight. He says he can campaign at either 130 or 135lbs. “Just line them up,” he declared, “I’ll knock them down one by one.”
The natural fight is Teofimo Lopez at lightweight. But don’t hold your breath for that. Lopez might move up in weight for one, but the biggest obstacle is that age old problem of different promotional ties. So Lopez-Davis – one of the best fights to be made in the sport – is unlikely to happen in the near future.
On the undercard, Mario Barrios stopped brave fellow Texan Ryan Karl at 2-26 of the sixth round of their super-lightweight 12-rounder. Karl was clinging to the fight after five rounds but Barrios’ class told as the halfway point approached.
A right hand dropped Karl. To his credit, he quickly regained his feet and even scored with two rights of his own. But their heads came together which opened a gash on Karl’s forehead. By now, he was also bleeding from the mouth.
The referee Luis Pabon asked the doctor to examine Karl. The fight continued, but not for long. Barrios went for the finish, hurling blows from both hands. Karl dropped to his knees and then his back. The fight was duly stopped.
Regis Prograis, from New Orleans but based in Houston, returned for the first time since his loss to Josh Taylor last year. Juan Heraldez may have been unbeaten coming in but he was outclassed by the excellent Prograis. Prograis took his time before ending matters in the third. A straight right decked Heraldez, who got up, before a follow-up assault convinced Mr Ramos to end the fight at 1-23.
Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz Gonzalez scored an attention grabbing one-round victory over Las Vegas’ Digeo Magdaleno in the opening round. All over after just 53 seconds, Gonzalez attacked early with body shots that drove Magdaleno down. The thrashing was concluded by two jarring uppercuts that knocked Magdaleno out.
The Verdict Davis’ masterful KO will be seen over and over and over again.
Talking Point Davis was accused on social media of foul play after footage emerged of him wearing a different pair of gloves beforehand to those he had on during the fight. It has since been confirmed that Santa Cruz was aware of the switch and it was all approved.