Davis and Santa Cruz is a battle of opposites
By John J. Raspanti
Years ago I remember the late Don Chargin raving about Leo Santa Cruz.
“He reminds me of some of the fighters from the Olympic,” said Chargin, nicknamed “War-A-Week” for his matching aplomb. “Always throwing punches. All action. He’d have sold the place out. He’s going to be a champion soon.”
Santa Cruz’s career was in its early stages when Chargin made his championship prediction. As usual, he was right. The Southern California native has been a champion, and then some.
On Halloween night, Santa Cruz will face the biggest challenge of his career when he fights Gervonta “Tank” Davis. On the line will be Santa Cruz’s WBA super featherweight title and Davis’ WBA lightweight belt.
The heavy-handed Davis, a former super featherweight champion, has starched 22 of 23 opponents. Twice a champion in the 130-pound division, Davis added the 135-pound strap to his collection last December by stopping over-the-hill Yuriorkis Gamboa. Davis didn’t look particularly sharp that night, but the outcome never appeared in doubt. Call it winning ugly.
Santa Cruz (37-1, 19 KOs) has captured world championships in the bantamweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, and super featherweight divisions. His lone loss was to “The Jackal” Carl Frampton in 2016, a setback he reversed six months later. His easy-going personality belies a super competitive spirit. When he lost to Frampton, he blamed nobody but himself, and added he’d have to work harder next time. He did, and it paid off. Both fights were thrilling back-and-forth tussles.
Davis, who turned professional at 18, drew raves immediately for his punching power. He halted his first eight opponents in less than five rounds. Davis captured his first title in 2017 when he stopped Jose Pedraza. A few months later, he traveled to Merrie Olde England and crushed hometown hero Liam Walsh in three rounds. Five more knockout victories have followed.
At times his toughest opponent has been himself, culminating in charges of assault (dropped) and battery (pending) and losing his title on the scale. To prepare for Santa Cruz, manager Floyd Mayweather decided to move Davis and his team to Las Vegas.
Things have gone smoothly since.
"My training is going very well,” Davis said during a virtual media workout last week. “I could make weight tonight if I wanted to. Overall, making the decision to bring my team and train in Vegas was the best for me. I think I’ll be training here for all my camps. I’m thinking about buying a property here so I can have a place to stay when I come here. I’m ready. My weight is on point and we’re just looking forward to October thirty-first."
For perhaps the second time in his career, Santa Cruz, 32, seven years older than Davis, enters a fight an underdog. A pretty substantial underdog. Santa Cruz is using that perception as motivation.
“People are doubting me,” Santa Cruz said during his own virtual media interview. “So that just makes me want to go out there even more and give a great fight. I want to prove myself, compete, and give it my all.
"Being the underdog is definitely extra motivation. People think I’m the smaller guy, but I asked for this fight for a reason. I’m ready to prove everyone wrong."
Santa Cruz is the smaller guy as far as body frame goes, but he’s also the taller fighter by a few inches, and equal in reach.
Two questions come to mind.
Can he take it when Davis lands one of his sledgehammer shots? And can he hurt Davis? Guys moving up rarely bring their power with them.
I wish Don Chargin was here to ask.