Often hyped up as one of boxing's rising stars and quite possibly its most savage finisher, Gervonta "Tank" Davis lived up to his billing -- and then some -- on Saturday with a violent knockout in his pay-per-view headlining debut.
At just 25, Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) created a viral highlight that's sure to gain acceptance as boxing's best knockout of 2020 as he cornered Leo Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) in Round 6 and ended a close fight with a flush left uppercut to the chin that removed the four-division champion from his senses.
Referee Rafael Ramos waved the fight off instantly without a count as Santa Cruz laid unconscious under the ring ropes in the corner. All three judges had it 48-47 for Davis at the time of the stoppage at 2:40 of Round 6.
"First, I want to say, I'm a pay-per-view star. Second, I ain't dodging nobody," Davis said. "I'm going to continue to show the world that I am No. 1. I don't have to call nobody out. I'm the top dog and everyone knows that. Just set them up and I'll knock them down, one by one."
A protege of retired PPV and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather who serves as the jewel of the Mayweather Promotions stable, Davis bested his mentor by landing his first PPV main event role three years before the 28-year-old Mayweather did against Arturo Gatti in 2005.
Davis, who made the second defense of his WBA secondary title at lightweight, also picked up Santa Cruz's WBA title at junior lightweight since the fight was contested at 130 pounds.
"I can't grade [my performance] right now but once I go back and look it over, I will be able to tell," Davis said. "[Landing uppercuts] wasn't a key but I tapped into what he was bringing. I know he was the taller fighter and he was crutching up and moving forward. So I threw the jab and then an uppercut to try and make him run into the shot.
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"He was just right there for it. He is a guy who punches but doesn't try to get out of the way of his punches. I baited him right in and there was nowhere else he could have went."
Santa Cruz, 32, was game from the early going as he jumped out to a lead in the first two rounds by outworking Davis with the jab and landing smart combinations after cornering his opponent. But Davis was able to make the necessary adjustments and began walking Santa Cruz down with much greater ease by targeting the body.
Despite starting to show signs of swelling around his right eye, Davis was visibly slowing down Santa Cruz's output the more he dug hooks downstairs. Yet regardless of which fighter was taking the lead, the pace remained quick throughout, including a fun fourth round that featured exciting two-way action.
The problem for Santa Cruz, who had just one fight at 130 pounds before facing a bigger puncher in Davis and was moving back down in weight, was the accumulation of power shots began to take a toll. Not only did Davis outland Santa Cruz 97 to 84 overall, according to CompuBox, he connected on an incredible 55% of his power shots.
"Once we started fighting, you could see in the first round that I didn't really warm up in the back," Davis said. "When I got out there, I was still cold. He was trying to counter off of my jab and I just started adapting to what he was doing.
"He is a tough warrior and a strong Mexican. He came to fight and he came ready. It's just that I was the better person tonight."
Although Davis refused to call out any names after his victory, he remains the most marketable and accomplished of the young fighters congregating around the 135-pound division, which most believe hold the future of the sport in their hands: Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, Teofimo Lopez Jr. and Shakur Stevenson.
As far as what the future might bring, Davis said he plans to defend both titles across two weight divisions.
"I will maintain both. Whatever decisions that my team comes up with, I'm going to go with it," Davis said. "I'm not ducking and dodging nobody. As you know, there ain't no safety on this Glock."
Elsewhere on the card, Mario Barrios defended his WBA junior welterweight title in thrilling fashion with a beautiful knockout of Ryan Karl in the co-main event. Barrios remains undefeated and has stopped three of his last four opponents. And his next foe may have also been in action on Saturday in San Antonio as Regis Prograis returned from an extended layoff with a TKO of his own, stopping Juan Heraldez in a featured bout. Prograis looked as fresh as ever at 140 pounds after losing his titles in the World Boxing Super Series final to Josh Taylor last year.
Finally, it may have been the end of an era in the opening PPV bout as Isaac Cruz ran through Diego Magdaleno for a first-round knockout. Magdaleno, the 34-year-old veteran looked like a shell of himself in getting blitz quickly for the stoppage. It was his second quick stoppage in as many years after Teofimo Lopez crushed him in 2019. Cruz moved to 20-1-1 with his 15th career knockout victory.
Davis vs. Santa Cruz card, results
- Gervonta Davis (c) def. Leo Santa Cruz via sixth-round TKO
- Mario Barrios (c) def. Ryan Karl via sixth-round TKO
- Regis Prograis def. Juan Heraldez via third-round TKO
- Isaac Cruz def. Diego Magdaleno via first-round TKO
Davis vs. Santa Cruz scorecard, live coverage