'Tank' Davis scores KO of the Year over Santa Cruz, while 'Monster' Inoue returns with vicious finish

Floyd Mayweather’s protégé starched the Mexican warrior with a nuclear left uppercut bringing to an end a fantastic fight.

Gervonta Davis celebrates his chilling knockout of Leo Santa Cruz.
Gervonta Davis celebrates his chilling knockout of Leo Santa Cruz.
Image: Ronald Cortes

UNDEFEATED GERVONTA DAVIS knocked out Leo Santa Cruz with a vicious uppercut in the sixth round in a joint WBA super-featherweight/lightweight world title clash in San Antonio on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Davis, the reigning WBA lightweight champion, surprised Santa Cruz, his super-featherweight equivalent, with a left uppercut that snapped the champ’s head back and sent him crumbling to the canvas late in the sixth round at the Alamodome Arena in San Antonio, Texas.

Hit by a punch he never saw coming, Santa Cruz landed flat on his back under the padding in the ring corner and remained that way for about a minute while doctors attended to him. He was eventually able to sit up and was even smiling once he shook off the cobwebs.

American Davis improved to 24-0 with 23 knockouts by registering the defining win of his up-and-coming career and handed the four-division champion Santa Cruz his first stoppage defeat, while relieving him of his super-featherweight title and hanging onto lightweight honours.

“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 one by one,” said Davis.

The 32-year-old Santa Cruz of Mexico, a former rival of Carl Frampton’s, dropped to 37-2-1 with 19 KOs. He was trying to win a title in his fifth weight class (though the fight took place at the super-featherweight limit, Davis’ lightweight title was also on the line for both men).

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, organisers allowed about 10,000 spectators into the 64,000-capacity Alamodome with masks and social distancing rules in place.

The fight pitted the knockout power of Davis against the endurance and dominating pressure style of Santa Cruz but the latter never got the chance to wear Davis down in the closing rounds.

The fight began with a solid first round in which the two exchanged punches in the centre of the ring. Davis fell to the canvas but it wasn’t because of a knockdown. His right leg got tangled up with Santa Cruz’s leg and he tripped.

Santa Cruz also suffered a small cut on the bridge of his nose in the opening round but his corner did a good job of repairing it.

In the second round, Davis’s temper got the best of him after he got frustrated during a clinch. Davis used both arms to throw Santa Cruz to the ground prompting a verbal scolding from the referee.

Santa Cruz was looking more comfortable in the sixth and willing to exchange with Davis. But he got careless late in the round and that was all Davis needed to counter a punch and land the brutal shot that put the champion down.

“There was nowhere he could have went. The rope was right there,” said Davis, who led 48-47 on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

Davis’s manager, Floyd Mayweather, said Davis can now pick and choose his opponents.

“‘Tank’ is the top dog,” Mayweather said. “I’m putting him in position to do what I did. Fight who he wants, when we want. He’s the top dog.”

Davis extended his six-year knockout streak to 15 straight bouts. He has a 96% knockout ratio.

He vacated the WBA super-featherweight crown to move up to the lightweight ranks last December, stopping Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa in the 12th round.

Santa Cruz, who was taken to the hospital for a checkup, captured his WBA super-featherweight title last November with a unanimous decision victory over American Miguel Flores.

Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue defended his unified WBA and IBF bantamweight world titles on his Sin City debut with a seventh-round knockout of Australia’s Jason Moloney.

The undefeated Japanese superstar floored Moloney with a shuddering punch near the end of the round to retain both belts in spectacular fashion at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

The 27-year-old Inoue landed a vicious straight right that buckled Moloney’s knees in the 118-pound fight and the Australian was unable to beat the count with just one second left in the round.

“The final punch, I’m very happy and satisfied with that punch,” said Inoue. “Moloney has great defence it was difficult to get through.”

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Inoue scored two knockdowns and improved to a perfect 20-0 with 17 knockouts while Moloney dropped to 21-2 with 18 KOs.

The unified champion dominated throughout the fight which was held inside the quarantine bubble at the luxury casino on the Las Vegas strip.

Inoue’s devastating punching power was on full display as he showed why he is nicknamed ‘Monster’.

He first knocked down Moloney in the sixth round with a left hook on the counter. He ended it one round later with a short right hand. Moloney tried to get back to his feet but was unable and referee Kenny Bayless counted him out at 2:59 of the round.

Inoue unified the IBF and WBA crowns last November by winning the World Boxing Super Series final over Filipino star Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision in a pulsating “fight of the year” contender.

The Japanese knockout specialist had dispatching his four prior foes in less than three rounds.

Inoue was to have faced another Filipino, John Riel Casimero, in April but the bout was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 29-year-old Moloney stopped Mexico’s Leonardo Baez after seven rounds in June but he was overmatched against the speed and power of Inoue.

In an expected but nonetheless noteworthy result from the Inoue-Moloney card, American super-featherweight Mikaela Mayer — long touted as a potential opponent for Katie Taylor — finally became a world champion as she earned a one-sided unanimous decision over Poland’s Ewa Brodnicka, who had lost her title on the scales.

Next up for Mayer could be a unification clash with England’s Terri Harper provided Harper can defend her own 130-pound title in the chief-support bout to Taylor vs Miriam Gutierrez on 12 November.

© – AFP, 2020

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