Gervonta “Tank” Davis delivered a Knockout of the Year candidate over four-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz in the most significant fight of his career, retaining his WBA Lightweight title and picking up the WBA Super Featherweight title Saturday night on SHOWTIME PPV® at the Alamodome in San Antonio in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions. It was the first major boxing event with fans in attendance since COVID-19 forced a halt to U.S. sports in March with an announced crowd of 9,024.
It was both fighters’ pay-per-view main event debut, and Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) and Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) delivered an all-action war that had the fans on their feet from start to finish. The fight, which was contested at 130 pounds, saw both fighters stand in the pocket and press the action. It was in the sixth round when the defining moment of the night occurred, as Davis found an opening to land his trademark left uppercut, a knockout shot which Santa Cruz never saw coming. Davis proved that he is one of the most powerful punchers in the sport, stunning the crowd.
“The uppercut wasn’t the key coming into the fight, but I adapted to what he was bringing,” said Baltimore’s Davis. “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. 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 power and body attack of the 25-year-old Davis was the difference as he landed 55 percent of his power punches to 29 percent for Santa Cruz, who was having his best round of the fight in the sixth round prior to the defining punch. The stronger Davis lured the 32-year-old Santa Cruz into a firefight as 34 of Davis’ 84 landed punches were body shots.
“Leo is a tough warrior and a strong Mexican fighter,” said Davis, who is promoted by all-time great Floyd Mayweather. “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.”
“We didn’t get the win, but I’m okay,” said Santa Cruz, who was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
Davis vs. Santa Cruz was a rare clash in boxing history in which world titles in two weight classes were at stake. Other notable instances in recent boxing history are the 1988 Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Donny Lalonde fight for the light heavyweight and super middleweight titles, and the 2014 Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana rematch for the super welterweight and welterweight championships.
In the co-feature, San Antonio’s hometown favorite Mario Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) kept his unbeaten record intact and retained his WBA Super Lightweight title with a sixth-round KO over a game and bloodied Ryan Karl (18-3, 12 KOs) on Halloween night.
The fight broke open in the sixth round when Barrios landed a straight right hand that sent Karl down for just the third time in his career. Karl’s problems were further exasperated after an accidental clash of heads created a brutal cut on his forehead which proved to be too much to cope with. The 25-year-old Barrios smelled blood and closed the show in emphatic fashion, landing a left hook that sent Karl down and out at 2:23 of the sixth round. At the time of the stoppage, Barrios was ahead on all three scorecards (48-47 and 49-46 twice).
In the all-important sixth round, Barrios landed 29 of his 58 power punches against a very tough Karl, who threw 60 punches per round but landed just 18 percent of those punches.
“This fight is for everybody who came out here in San Antonio tonight,” said Barrios following the win. “I told them we’d get this first title defense, 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 Virgil [Hunter] was telling me in the corner. It was great to get the job done here at home”
“I feel fine but it was a hard shot that I got hit with,” said Milano, Texas’ “Cowboy” Karl. “It was a tough, good, close fight. It was a good headbutt. I was bleeding pretty good but overall I feel fine. I’m not a sore loser. I come to fight, that’s what I expected. So congratulations to Mario on the win. We’ll move on from here.”
Former world champion Regis Prograis (25-1, 21 KOs) took the first step to getting back on top of the 140-pound division, scoring a third-round stoppage of Juan Heraldez (16-1-1, 10 KOs) in the second bout of the night. Watch the stoppage HERE.
In the third round, the fight changed in an instant as Prograis took advantage of Heraldez keeping his hands too low by landing his most dangerous weapon, a dynamite left hook that sent Heraldez sprawling to the canvas. When Heraldez got back to his feet, Prograis, who was born and raised in New Orleans but now fights out of Katy, Texas, sensed his opponent was in danger and pounced on Heraldez, forcing referee Rafael Ramos to step in and stop the action at 1:23 of round number three.
On Friday, Prograis, who lost a 140-pound title unification fight to Josh Taylor last October, weighed in over the 140-pound limit.
“I’ve been out of the ring for a year so I think that had some effect on me not making weight,” said the 31-year-old Prograis. “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.
In the buildup to the fight, Prograis repeatedly stated he felt he was still the best in the world at 140 pounds and vowed to get his belt back.
“I still feel like I’m the best at 140,” Prograis reiterated to SHOWTIME’s Mauro Ranallo following the fight. “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.”
The Las Vegas-based Heraldez, who is signed to Mayweather Promotions, was disappointed he didn’t get the chance to continue the fight despite landing just 12 total punches landed compared to Prograis’ 35.
“I just thought it was an early stoppage,” he said. “I was just getting warm, loose. He stunned me, but I don’t think they should’ve stopped the fight.”
In the pay-per-view telecast opener, Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz (20-1-1, 15 KOs) wasted no time in getting the fans on their feet, scoring a stunning first-round knockout of Diego Magdaleno (32-4, 13 KOs) just 53 seconds into the night’s action.
The diminutive but powerful Cruz came out swinging immediately after hearing the opening bell, using his vicious uppercut to knock down the 34-year-old Magdaleno for the 11th time in his career inside of 30 seconds. Just 20 seconds after Magdaleno got to his feet, Cruz again unleashed a barrage of punches with Magdaleno against the ropes, finishing him off with back-to-back right uppercuts. In a short night of work, Cruz managed to land 21 of 31 punches, 20 of which were power shots.
With the win in the IBF Title Eliminator, Cruz puts himself in position to challenge lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez down the line.
“The new Mike Tyson from Mexico was born tonight,” said the 22-year-old Cruz. “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.”
The announce team for the SHOWTIME PPV telecast was led by the most experienced and decorated boxing team on television. Veteran sportscaster Brian Custer served as host for the evening. Versatile combat sports voice Mauro Ranallo handled blow-by-blow action alongside Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and four-time world champion Abner Mares. Two Hall of Famers rounded out the telecast team: boxing historian Steve Farhood as unofficial scorer, and world-renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. In addition, former world champion Raúl Marquez and sportscaster Alejandro Luna served as expert analysts in Spanish on Secondary Audio Programming (SAP).
The executive producer of the SHOWTIME PPV telecast is four-time Emmy award winner David Dinkins, Jr. The director is Bob Dunphy, son of legendary Hall of Famer Don Dunphy. The pair has been guiding SHOWTIME Sports’ flagship series SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® since its inception in 1986 and has produced the three highest-grossing pay-per-view events of all time (Mayweather-Pacquiao, Mayweather-McGregor, Mayweather-Canelo).
Davis vs. Santa Cruz was promoted by Mayweather Promotions, TGB Promotions, GTD Promotions and Santa Cruz Boxing Club.