Caryn A. Tate on October 31, 2020
Importantly, both men took a serious risk by taking this fight. (Esther Lin/Showtime)
In San Antonio, Texas, we had the first boxing event to allow fans since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The card took place at the Alamodome Saturday night.
In the main event, WBA “regular” world lightweight champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) faced his toughest test yet in four-division world titleholder, and now the WBA “super” world super featherweight champion, Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) in a 12-round bout for both the 130 and 135 pound titles.
The first round was close and highly competitive. Leo utilized his fast volume punching while Tank had success with sharp counters. The rounds continued largely that way; several of them were so close it was debatable who won.
Many erroneously think Davis is “just” a big puncher and don’t give him credit for his boxing ability. He’s shown it in previous fights, but tonight it was really on display. Santa Cruz forced Davis to utilize angles, footwork and foot placement, punch selection, and timing.
Most impressively, after the first round, Davis turned Santa Cruz’s famous volume punching way down. In fact I have never seen Santa Cruz throw so few punches in any fight. Davis’ sharp counters kept Leo guessing and thinking twice about letting his hands go as much as he normally does. There were times when Santa Cruz just began to think about moving laterally, and Davis cut him off before he could even get started. It revealed something special about Davis’ IQ.
And for his part, Santa Cruz performed brilliantly for most of the fight. In the third, he began letting his hands go more again, though still not his normal volume. He caught Davis with a fair amount of shots, which seemed to surprise Davis, and Santa Cruz targeted the body frequently (a smart move against a guy who doesn’t stay close to weight between fights).
In Santa Cruz’s corner, his brother (filling in for Jose Santa Cruz, Leo’s father and head coach) told Leo to hang in there till round six, when they expected Davis to start to tire and Leo could come on.
Unfortunately, round six went a different direction.
For much of the round Santa Cruz did very well. He let his hands go, forcing Davis to slip as many shots as he could and counter when he was able.
Then, Davis backed Santa Cruz into his own corner against the ropes. Davis let loose with a terrific, and perfect, left uppercut that caught Santa Cruz unawares on the right side of his chin. It snapped Leo’s head sideways and up—a devastating shot and one that immediately put Santa Cruz’s lights out. He fell, limp, to the canvas. It was a disastrous, one-punch knockout.
It took Santa Cruz a while to rise—the medical crew seemed intent on having him take his time. But he got to his feet and seemed okay, thankfully.
This was a defining fight for Davis, obviously, but also for Santa Cruz. Both men showed their greatness tonight by competing at such a high level, tit for tat, including a few close rounds. The way Santa Cruz forced Davis to kick into another gear with his volume, experience, and boxing ability was terrific. The way Davis stepped it up and went for a shot that he knew Santa Cruz wouldn’t get out of the way of, put his intelligence on display.
Importantly, both men took a serious risk by taking this fight and they should be applauded for that. It’s what fans all want to see, and the fighters don’t have to do it. When they do, we should appreciate it.
After the fight Davis gave thanks to all the fans who were there in person and those watching the pay-per-view. He also gave a shout out to Santa Cruz’s father and coach, Jose, for going through so much and persevering, and said, “He’s the real champion.”
WBA “regular” world super lightweight champion Mario Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) defended his title against Ryan Karl (18-3, 12 KOs) in a 12-rounder. Karl, trained by the excellent Ronnie Shields, came out on his toes, moving more than we’ve seen before and boxing around Barrios. It was clear Karl has been working on his technique.
In the second, Karl was breathing through his mouth. He was expending a lot of energy. The rounds were close. Barrios began to have more success by going downstairs with heavy shots and utilizing a short uppercut on the inside.
A short overhand right put Karl down early in the sixth. He made the count, and fought with a lot of heart once back on his feet. Barrios hurt him more, primarily to the body. An accidental headbutt occurred that opened a horrendous cut on Karl’s right brow, and it gushed blood. After too long a time, referee Luis Pabon called time and asked the ringside doctor to take a look. Oddly, and dangerously, the doctor told the ref the fight could safely continue. The fighters went back at it and Barrios continued to batter Karl, who was now not only hurt but also dealing with a bleeding, blinding cut. Barrios landed repeated left hooks to the body and head, Karl went down heavily. His body had given out, and the referee waved it off.
Earlier, 140-pounders Regis Prograis (25-1, 21 KOs) and Juan Heraldez (16-1-1, 10 KOs) faced off in a 10-rounder. Heraldez started well but not far into the first round, southpaw Prograis found his key when he realized his left hand rarely missed Heraldez. And the latter clearly didn’t like the feel of Prograis’ punches, nor the pressure Prograis was applying.
In the third, Prograis landed a terrific straight left hand that seemed to shake Heraldez to his toes, and down he went. He was badly hurt and the referee rightly waved it off.
The first fight on the broadcast featured lightweights Diego Magdaleno (32-4, 13 KOs) and Isaac Cruz (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a 12-round IBF title eliminator (the winner to be undisputed champ Teofimo Lopez’s mandatory).
Cruz came out like a freight train in the first round, jumping on Magdaleno immediately and throwing heavy punches in combination. He got Magdaleno backed into a corner where Cruz landed upstairs and down, dropping Magdaleno with one of his clean shots. Magdaleno made the count, but went back to doing the same thing (covering up, standing still, and trying to simply throw back); so Cruz attacked with the same gusto, mixing it up to the head and body, until he landed a devastating uppercut that separated Magdaleno from his senses. The referee waved it off. It was an impressive performance by Cruz--utilizing the buzzsaw style successfully is difficult to achieve, much less getting a first round stoppage.