It’s a stacked card at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, this Saturday night as the WBA (Super) Super Featherweight and WBA ‘Regular’ Lightweight titles are on the line in the main event.
Baltimore’s Gervonta Davis (23-0, KO22) has been tipped for superstardom for some time, but the 25-year-old is looking for a true lift off, and may just get it in the form of California based Mexican, Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, KO19).
The fight is scheduled for the 130lb Super Featherweight limit, but somehow the titles at two weights are at stake.
Gervonta originally came of age in January 2017, when he ripped the IBF Super Featherweight title from Jose Pedraza by stopping the teak tough Puerto Rican in seven rounds, and he then ruthlessly made a first defence in London four months later, overwhelming Liam Walsh in three at the Copper Box.
‘Tank’ would be stripped of the belt ahead of his next defence for missing weight, but still knocked out Franciso Fonseca in eight.
Davis shrugged that mishap off by claiming the WBA (Super) title in April 2018, stopping Jesus Cuellar in three rounds, and made two further early defences against Hugo Ruiz (KO1) and Ricardo Nunez (TKO2).
Moving up to Lightweight Davis claimed the vacant WBA strap in his last outing in December 2019 dominating the brave Yuriorkis Gamboa to defeat in the twelfth round, having previously dropped the Cuban on three occasions.
Santa Cruz should represent the biggest test of Davis’ career, although the 32-year-old has looked slightly flat in his last few fights. He has to be respected though, as a four-weight World Champion, the first of which he won in June 2012 at Bantamweight.
Defeating solid contenders on his way through the ranks at Super Bantamweight and Featherweight, until running into Carl Frampton in New York in January 2016.
Leo lost his WBA (Super) Featherweight crown by the thinnest of margins in what was a classic in Brooklyn.
The rematch was inevitable and just as good, and Santa Cruz turned the tables with a majority verdict to reclaim his belt.
He has won four on the spin since the Frampton sequel, first knocking out Chris Avalos in eight, before taking a points win over Abner Mares.
A routine defence against Rafael Rivera then moved Santa Cruz to Super Featherweight, where he claimed the vacant WBA (Super) belt he brings to Texas, with a comfortable enough points win against Miguel Flores in November 2019.
Prediction: Although Santa Cruz hasn’t been at his brilliant best lately, he is likely to rise to the occasion here, but it’ll be a tough ask against the slick Davis.
I predict that Davis will use speed and movement to frustrate Santa Cruz, and should rack up an early points lead.
I expect Santa Cruz to close the distance after halfway, but ultimately it may prove too late, and I favour Davis to take an unanimous verdict that will become tighter by the round.
Making a welcome return is Regis Prograis (24-1, KO20) and ‘Rougarou’ comes back from an over a year layoff to take part in a ten rounder at Super Lightweight against Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, KO10).
Prograis suffered his first professional loss last time out, a razor thin majority decision reverse in the final of the World Boxing Super Series to Josh Taylor last October.
The former WBA (Super) Champion hopes to manoeuvre his way back to world title class with a good win here.
Heraldez is unbeaten, with his only blemish a ten round majority draw in his last bout, against Argenis Mendez, in May 2019. Prograis should be able to come through unscathed on the scorecards.
Diego Magdaleno (32-3, KO13) takes on a twelve round assignment at Lightweight, where he takes on Isaac Cruz Gonzalez (19-1-1, KO14).
Magdaleno has unsuccessfully challenged for world honours twice, his most recent a second round stoppage in Manchester in a bid for Terry Flanagan’s WBO Lightweight belt in October 2015.
His last defeat came at the hands of the excellent Teofimo Lopez, via seventh round knockout in February 2019, but he bounced back with a win in February this year, dropping Austin Dulay on the way to a wide points win.
Gonzalez is unbeaten in 15 following an early career points loss, but this is a big step up, and I favour Magdaleno to score a comfortable points win here.
There is a second World Title offering on the card, and it comes at Super Lightweight, where WBA ‘Regular’ Champion, Mario Barrios (25-0, KO16) defends for the first time against Ryan Karl (18-2, KO12) in what is a Texan derby.
San Antonio’s Barrios won the vacant belt in his last fight in September last year, dropping Batyr Akhmedov twice on the way to a decision win.
Houston-based Karl has won his last three, including avenging a stoppage defeat to Kevin Watts, but has been operating at a level much lower than world class, and has never been past nine rounds.
The pick here is for Barrios to force a stoppage in the middle rounds.
Lightweight, Ten Rounds: Michel Rivera (18-0, KO12) v Ladarius Miller (21-1, KO6)
Super Featherweight, Eight Rounds: Jerry Perez (12-0, KO9) v Joshua Zuniga (11-1, KO6)
Lightweight, Eight Rounds: Julian Rodarte (17-0-1, KO7) v Jose Morales (8-8, KO2)
Welterweight, Six Rounds: Kent Cruz (15-0-1, KO9) v Dieumerci Nzau (11-12, KO8)
Lightweight, Four Rounds: Anthony Cuba (Debut) v Leon Cavalli (1-1, KO1)