On paper, Leo Santa Cruz figures to be the stiffest test to date for young gun Gervonta Davis, the talented Baltimore native who has a skill set that includes above average power and hand speed.
But what looks to be on paper often doesn’t play out many would think. That is especially so in boxing, because there are so many variables going into a fight, and, straight up, we on the outside don’t always know what we don’t know.
As we look at the Oct. 31 pay-per-view matchup between Davis, who owns a 25-0 record, and the established vet Santa Cruz, who possesses a 32-1 record, can we agree that there are plenty of things we don’t know about this scrap?
The current odds for Davis vs Santa Cruz set Gervonta as a -412 favorite, on average, with the Mexican a +308 underdog. In terms of probability, the betting market gives Davis a 76.7% chance to win compared to just 23.3% for Santa Cruz. This is new territory for Santa Cruz; the only other time on record that he was a ‘dog was his rematch with Carl Frampton, which he entered around +16 on fight night before avenging his only career loss. From odds to probability can all be a bit confusing, that’s why you can 2. They are a trust-worthy platform for anyone new to any sports, with betting information that’s transferable to any sport.
Now, at the top of the list regarding unknowns is Gervonta. No, he’s not one of those guys who has that track record of having his head screwed on airtight, in impeccable shape, dialed in as well as can be coming into a bout.
On Dec. 28, 2019, the Maryland boxer faced off with Yuriorkis Gamboa, another vet, like Santa Cruz, but someone who was perhaps further off their athletic peak. Gervonta stirred drama at the scale, registering 136.2 pounds, over the 135 limit. Around two hours, Davis hit 134.8 pounds. But his outing against the Cuban-born Gamboa suggested that the effort to sweat out that last bit affected him. Many watchers were disappointed that the power hitter didn’t drop and stop the Cuban early. Compounding the criticism was the fact that Gamboa blew out his Achilles tendon on his right foot–and Gervonta didn’t get him out of there until round 12.
Now, we didn’t see obvious drama ahead of the prior bout for Davis. In a Baltimore homecoming July 27, 2019, he demolished 21-2 Panamanian Ricardo Nunez in round two. He did the expected on fight night, and he made the 130 pound limit on the first try the day before, so seemingly, it was a clear runway to takeoff for the hitter. But it would be naive to assume that is so. Davis on Feb. 1 had been captured on camera getting into an altercation with a woman who in fact is the mother of Davis’ child. That occurred at a charity basketball game in Miami, Super Bowl weekend, and was not the sort of publicity an on the rise pugilist wants.
We on the outside never know what might be going on in the life and mind of Gervonta in the lead-up to a fight.
So, only Davis knows how that on camera blowup, and how authorities and the legal system reacted, may have weighed on the boxer.
Before that bout, Davis had readied himself for a “name” test, against Abner Mares. But Mares announced he had an elbow injury, and Hugo Ruiz stepped in at the 11th hour. Mares was fibbing, a detached retina was the real reason he pulled out. Yes, drama follows Gervonta, it’s fair to say. That Feb. 9, 2019 scrap was Davis’ first in 10 months. He gloved up just once in 2018, meeting and beating Jesus Cuellar in April 2018. Too much time, it could be argued, was instead spent spinning wheels. He off and on took to social media to critique Floyd Mayweather and Mayweather Promotions, and the gossip columns contained tidbits about out of the ring matters that sounded soap operatic. Lately, it’s been smoothed out, seemingly, so if that is so and stays this way, that is not as ideal for Leo.
More cataloguing of Gervonta dramatics can be done, but you get the point. Headed to the Oct. 31 tussle with Santa Cruz, there will be extra interest in that day before weigh in. Davis’ history in making news at the scale is being referred to by the fact that a 130 and 135 pound title will be up for grabs at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Davis and the 32 year old Santa Cruz are being told to make weight for the 130 pound class. And if Davis or the vet are over, then powers that be can hold up the 135 pound belt, and re-direct attention in that direction. You won’t be labeled a super cynic if you suspect they moved the date, from Oct. 24, to Oct. 31, to give Tank more time to trim down.
On Oct. 5, Davis publicly took issue with this poster, insinuating that the publicists used a photo of him looking too chunky.
An alteration was made.
Let us re-direct attention now. Santa Cruz is no joke. He’s OLDER, yes, but not old. He just turned 32 in August, and comes in having won five straight, after suffering his first loss, to Carl Frampton. The man born in Mexico has navigated weight classes expertly, winning crowns in four different ones.
Let’s assume that he’s not at his athletic peak, but that he isn’t so far removed.
Also, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Gervonta is fully dialed in. That his weight right now is where he and his trainers want it to be, and no legal matters, or outside the ring social issues, or anything is tugging on him unduly.
We’ll be curious to see how LSC handles the Gervonta power if and when he gets tagged clean, like we saw some early on in his fight against Rafael Rivera Feb. 16, 2019. That was at 126, this is at 130, so we think a sturdy chin stays sturdy vs. Davis. And fans of LSC know that one of his strengths is volume–he threw 1,236 against Rivera, and that stood as the second most of his career.
In his last outing, Leo scored a UD12 win over Miguel Flores.
Coming into that one, he declared that Flores “is not a cherry pick.” And Flores came in his best self, but he had lost to Dat Nguyen and then Chris Avalos, before rebounding with stoppages over 11-6 Raul Chirino and 21-13 Luis May. Santa Cruz won by the scores of 117-110 x 2, and 115-112. He became the fifth Mexican fighter to win championships across four weight divisions, along with Canelo Alvarez, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and Jorge Arce. But that laurel is what it is, being that foes are so carefully screened these days. Flores has not been and will never be an “A” fighter, so LSC did what was expected of him on Nov. 23, 2019. Coming forward, with that ultra patient aggression, that won’t likely work the same way against Gervonta as it did versus Flores.
Leo admitted after beating Flores that wasn’t his best version of self. It’s possible he’ll not be able to summon the version he wishes for, against Gervonta.
And you recall what Leo said after the win, in which he “only” threw 975 punches? “I didn’t feel myself today and didn’t perform the way I wanted to. I’m going to get back in the gym and get a big fight in 2020.” Maybe he didn’t feel like himself because he’s measuring himself against the peak LSC. And that guy ain’t ever coming back.
And how is this version of LSC going to react to the hand speed of Gervonta, which is two ticks better than anything he’s contended with for a few years? When Davis is pressing the issue, as he did during some points of the Gamboa win, it seems a good bet that Leo will be surprised, not in a good way, at the speed at which the launches arrive.
Expectations are high for Gervonta, because of the flashes of brilliance he’s shown, and also because he’s being hyped, as someone who could fill the vacuum left behind when Floyd Mayweather stopped fighting. Also, this scrap will be offered on PPV. So we figure that Gervonta will feel like there’s a certain amount of pressure to stop Leo. That is a hard task, and what might happen if and when he presses, and Leo doesn’t bend, and keeps hurling? He could get frustrated. Leo having almost a 25% chance to win sounds about right to us.