Baltimore banger Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis scored a knockout of the year contender with an exquisite left uppercut finish that poleaxed four-weight champion Leo Santa Cruz in the sixth after an all-action affair at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday night.
Having made the 130lbs limit on Friday, Davis added Santa Cruz’s WBA Super title to the WBA Regular 135lbs crown he defended on the night. After a 15-week training camp, Davis showed firepower and finesse after a downbeat 12th round victory over Yuriorkis Gamboa last December.
Santa Cruz was drawn into a war where there would only be one outcome. The heavy-handed Davis happily engaged in front of a socially distanced and exhilarated crowd of 9,024.
The Mexican American was cut on the bridge of the nose in the opening round and the action intensified in the fourth with the bodywork of Davis at the fore. Santa Cruz traded in the pocket, but that was to prove his undoing.
Southpaw Davis, with a slightly swollen right eye, was warned for a low blow in the sixth but ramped up the pressure on resumption. He waited for an opening before wiping out Santa Cruz with a scintillating left uppercut. At the time of the stoppage, Davis led 48-47 on all three cards.
“The uppercut wasn’t the key coming into the fight, but I adapted to what he was bringing. I knew he was taller and crouching down and moving forward. Once he moved forward, I tried to jab and make him run into the shot,” said Davis (24-0, 23 KOs).
“In the first couple of rounds I wasn’t really warmed up. I could tell that he was trying to counter off of me, so I just adapted to what he was doing. He was right there for it. He punches, but he doesn’t try to get out of the way. There was nowhere for him to go on that knockout because I got him into the corner.
“Leo is a tough warrior and a strong Mexican fighter. He came ready for me. I was just the better fighter tonight. I want to maintain both belts. Whatever decision me and my team comes up with, we’ll go with it. I’m not ducking or dodging anybody.
“I’m a pay-per-view star. Everybody knows I’m number one and I showed it tonight. I’m going to continue to show people all over the world that I’m the best. I don’t have to call anybody else out. I’m the top dog. Just line them up and I’ll knock them out.”
Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) was taken to a nearby hospital for observation, but suffered no ill effects. “We didn’t get the win, but I’m okay,” he said.
In the co-feature, hometown hero Mario Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) retained his WBA Regular 140lbs title with a sixth-round stoppage of gritty challenger Ryan Karl (18-3, 12 KOs).
The action heated up in the sixth when Barrios dropped Karl with a right hand before an accidental clash of heads opened a nasty gash on the challenger’s forehead.
Barrios took advantage of his challenger’s confusion with a fight-ending left hook that dropped Karl and finished the fight.
“This fight is for everybody who came out here in San Antonio tonight,” said Barrios. “I told them we’d get this first title defence and I hope everyone enjoyed it. I was just being patient and picking my shots. I started to really land them and got him out of there. I was ready to go a hard 12 rounds, but my patience helped me get him out of there. I listened to what [trainer] Virgil [Hunter] was telling me in the corner. It was great to get the job done here at home.”
Meanwhile, former WBA Super 140lbs champion Regis Prograis (25-1, 21 KOs) blitzed the previously unbeaten Juan Heraldez (16-1-1, 10 KOs) in three rounds. A left hand dropped Heraldez in the fateful third. He rose but was overwhelmed when referee Rafael Ramos stepped in.
“I’ve been out of the ring for a year so I think that had some effect on me not making weight,” said Prograis, who came in overweight on Friday. “There’s no excuses, but the bubble also had some effect. Mainly, it was the lay-off though. My body wasn’t adjusted to making the weight again.
“I still feel like I’m the best at 140. I’m going to keep proving it every time I fight. Me and Josh Taylor had a close fight [in October 2019] and I think if it had happened in the US I would have won. We know that one day we’ll have to rematch at 140 or 147.”
In a breakthrough performance, Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz (20-1-1, 15 KOs) dismantled former world title challenger Diego Magdaleno (32-4, 13 KOs) in just 53 seconds of an IBF 135lbs title eliminator.
Cruz dropped Magdaleno inside 30 seconds before knocking him out with a right uppercut in a quick-fire finish.
“The new Mike Tyson from Mexico was born tonight,” said Cruz, 22. “I thought it would go longer, but my natural instinct is always to go for it in the first round. I have confidence that I could win the world title right now. I thought it was a statement win.
“From now on, hopefully everyone will know my name and I’ll get the big fights. I would love a Teofimo Lopez fight. I’m very motivated right now. If he’s tough enough to take it, bring it on.”
Main image : Esther Lin/Showtime.