The pride of Baltimore could be boxing's new king as he becomes the first man to stop Santa Cruz and does so in impressive fashion Saturday night on SHOWTIME PPV.
The opening was there. It had been there a few times. But not like this. Not this perfect. A dip, a sway, and the devastating torque of one left uppercut will be forever etched in Gervonta Davis’ legacy.
One punch disconnected Leo Santa Cruz and lit up the boxing world Saturday night, when “Tank” closed his first pay-per-view main event in highlight-reel fashion by stopping Santa Cruz for the first time in his career at 2:40 of the sixth round in front of a crowd of 9,024 at the Alamodome, in San Antonio, Texas.
Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) defended the WBA world lightweight title for the first time, and also grabbed Santa Cruz’s WBA world super featherweight belt.
Judges Glenn Feldman, Alejandro Rochin and David Sutherland all had it 48-47 at the time of the stoppage, and it was conceivable it could have been even after six, which Santa Cruz appeared to be winning before Davis’ otherworldly power took command.
“The uppercut wasn’t the key coming into the fight, but I adapted to what he was bringing,” Davis said. “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.
“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.”
The two engaged in a brisk first round. Halfway through the first, Santa Cruz was bleeding on the bridge of his nose. The tempo favored Davis. In the last 30 seconds, Davis landed on the canvas, but referee Rafael Ramos correctly ruled it a slip. Santa Cruz’s left foot got caught behind Davis’ right foot, causing the fall.
With 1:14 left in the second, Davis threw down Santa Cruz and Ramos immediately warned him not to do it again. In the final 30 ticks of the second, Santa Cruz landed a barrage of shots, backing up Davis.
In the third, Davis began using his jab. With a minute remaining in the round, Santa Cruz landed a left hook. Santa Cruz worked at a comfortable distance, and each time Davis backed up in a straight line, Santa Cruz made him pay.
Davis connected on a left uppercut and a right hook in the fourth, and Tank began luring Santa Cruz toward his kind of fight. In the last 20 seconds of the round, Davis began sinking his attack to Santa Cruz’s body.
Santa Cruz’s forehead began building a reddish hue in the fifth, while Davis dropped his shots to Santa Cruz’s midsection. Santa Cruz’s corner was so convinced that they were on pace with their plan to take Davis into the deep waters.
A round later, they were looking down at their fighter.
Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) started the sixth very well, using a barrage of punches to cause Davis’ right eye to swell. With 1:21 left in the round, Ramos called a timeout to give Santa Cruz time to recover from a low blow.
And just like, with the round seemingly in the bag for Santa Cruz, Davis unfurled a left uppercut that disconnected Santa Cruz’s brain circuits and sent a shockwave through the boxing world.
“Leo is a tough warrior and a strong Mexican fighter,” Davis said. “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.”
Mario Barrios stops Ryan Karl in six, retains title
Mario Barrios came away with a slight bruise under his right eye, but the WBA World Super Lightweight Champ from San Antonio, Texas, knew he was in a war after stopping the gutsy Ryan Karl in six rounds.
“It took a minute to get used to his pressure, he was very awkward,” Barrios said of Karl. “I eventually found my rhythm as the rounds started progressing. I’d give myself a B. I had a little trouble finding my jab because of his pressure. I thought I was slipping his shots well and finding my shots up the middle.
“He was throwing with bad intentions. He landed some punches. But there wasn’t anything that hurt me or that threw me off. I’m very excited by the outcome of this fight. It’s an honor to be the first fighter from San Antonio to defend his world title.”
After a relaxed first round, Karl (18-3, 12 KOs) came at Barrios in the second. Working well behind the jab, Karl landed successive right hands and had Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) backing up. In the last minute of the second, Barrios began timing Karl and countering well each time the red-head from Milano, Texas, came near.
In the fourth, Barrios changed his angles and began landing counters on Karl. Barrios dropped Karl in the sixth with a straight right, though he was decent shape to continue. With 1:49 left in the round, Karl nailed Barrios with a right, and six seconds later, the fighters clashed heads, opening a gaping cut between Karl’s eyebrows. With 1:03 left in the round, Karl was pulled over to see the ringside doctor and given the okay to continue.
A Barrios left hook sent Karl back to the canvas. The fight was waved over at 2:23 of the sixth.
“I’m in the sport to give fans exciting fights,” said Barrios. “A fight with Regis Prograis would be huge. That’s a fight that’s very likely to happen.”
Regis Prograis returns with dominant, third-round TKO over Juan Heraldez
Prograis’ wife is expecting the couple’s third child any day now. In addition, the fight was Prograis’ first in over a year, since losing a razor-thin decision to Josh Taylor in October 2019.
Prograis (25-1, 21 KOs), the southpaw from New Orleans, La., who has relocated to Texas, reminded fight fans why he just might be the world’s best super lightweight with a sterling performance on this night.
“Rougarou” first knocked down Heraldez with an overhand left in the third round. Heraldez got up quickly, but he was clearly unsteady. Prograis jumped on Heraldez again, this time nailing Heraldez from different angles until it was mercifully waved over at 1:23 of the third.
“I’ve been out of the ring for a year, so I think that had some effect on me not making weight,” Prograis said. “There’s no excuses, but the bubble also had some effect. Mainly it was the layoff 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, and I think if it had happened in the U.S., I would have won. We know that one day we’ll have to rematch at 140 or 147.
“I’m just glad to be back. My grandpa died on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and this win is dedicated to him. If the (Mario) Barrios thing is on the table in the future, then we’ll do that.”
Isaac Cruz KO’s Diego Magdaleno in one
Cruz dropped Magdaleno 20 seconds into the round with a right uppercut. It marked the 11th time Magdaleno had been floored as a pro. Cruz kept up the attack, pummeling a stunned Magdaleno against the ropes, and knocking him down again with consecutive right uppercuts.
“The new Mike Tyson from Mexico was born tonight,’ Cruz said. “I thought it would go longer tonight, 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. I’m happy to be in this position in the division.
Miller (21-2, 6 KOs) rallied late but the 22-year-old Rivera held a comfortable lead on the scorecards. A veteran southpaw from Las Vegas, Miller came in three pounds overweight on Friday.
For a closer look at Davis vs Santa Cruz, check out our fight night page.