Davis introduces Santa Cruz to tank warfare with a devastating, 1-punch knockout

Exit velocity came to boxing Saturday night in a glorious and grotesque way.

No one actually measured the speed of Gervonta Davis’ left uppercut as Leo Santa Cruz lowered his head and took its full force right on the jaw.

Santa Cruz’s fall to the canvas, in his own corner, was nearly as immediate.

Rafael Ramos, the referee, rushed over and saw no need to count. Davis, known as “Tank,” moved to 24-0 with 23 knockouts, none starker than this one, with 20 seconds left in Round 6, that gave him Santa Cruz’’s WBA super-featherweight title and preserved his own WBA lightweight belt.

“I thought, ‘Damn, is he OK?’’’ Davis said later, which is what the well-spaced crowd of 11,000 in San Antonio’s Alamodome must have thought, too.

Santa Cruz was on his back for an uncomfortably long time. His head bounced off the bottom turnbuckle, and while he lay there, his dad Jose reached over and put his hand on Leo’s arm.

Eventually Santa Cruz was raised to sit on his stool, where he flashed his familiar smile, and walked out of the Dome with no assistance. It was the first time he ever has been knocked out. The 32-year-old is now 37-2-1 after his wish to fight Davis was fulfilled. This is not a loss he will be eager to avenge.

Santa Cruz was enjoying a solid 6th round. He was rocking Davis with left-right combinations and seemed to be absorbing the vicious left hooks and uppercuts that the left-hander from Baltimore features.

Backed into the corner, Santa Cruz threw a right hand that missed, and then another. Davis had the uppercut fully loaded, and it landed like a murderous drone.

“He wasn’t trying to get up,” Davis said. “He was out. We fighters go in there with killer instinct. But in the end we have families to go back to.

“Leo was right there for that shot. In the first few rounds I was a little anxious. Floyd keeps telling me that it’s a 12-round fight, to calm down. I’m learning.”

Floyd is Floyd Mayweather, who promotes Davis and has adapted him as the next version of himself.

It was a respectful promotion from the beginning, although Davis teased Santa Cruz by wearing a sombrero during his ringwalk.

Davis singled out Santa Cruz’s dad, calling him “a real champion.” Jose has always been Leo’s trainer, through years of fighting bone cancer and going through chemotherapy. This year Jose came down with COVID-19 and was on a ventilator at City of Hope. His heart stopped twice during the ordeal, and he has been in a wheelchair, but he walked into the ring Saturday night.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 for Davis at the time of the knockout.

“It was an amazing performance,” Mayweather said. “I used to be that same kid, sitting right there. I’ve put him in the same position I was in. He will fight when he wants to fight, and who he wants to fight, and he’ll keep proving he’s the best.”

Given 12 rounds this might have been a Fight of the Year contender. There was no feeling-out process in the first round, and Santa Cruz, with a 2-inch reach and height advantage, was not holding back.

But Davis connected on 55 percent of his power shots, and he nicely turned some of Santa Cruz’s most malicious shots into grazing blows.

Davis was happy that he’d spent 15 weeks in Las Vegas training at Mayweather’s facility and said he would be back there again “in a week and a half or so.”

“I began by throwing the jab and I saw he was trying to counter me,” Davis said. “I saw that and adjusted. I threw and then got out of the way. Then I started throwing his left a little wider and that worked, too.

“I would hit his gloves at times but it would still knock him back. I could tell I was breaking him down. His body was telling him he couldn’t do it but his mind was telling him to keep going. That’s what a great warrior does.”

“We had been working on the last shot,” said trainer Calvin Ford. “And he closed the show with it.”

Davis, who had to get below 130 pounds to make this fight, said he will continue boxing at both 130 and 135 in order to hold both belts. A multitude of quality fights are there for him, but lightweight Ryan Garcia has been the loudest petitioner.

At the very least Davis should be included in the mythical Top 10 pound-for-pound list. A super-fight could loom with Teofimo Lopez, the unified lightweight champ, although it would take some delicate negotiation. Davis fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, and Lopez fights for Top Rank.

“You keep lining them up, we’ll keep knocking them down,” Davis said. “I’m not ducking or dodging.”

He looked for a more ominous metaphor.

“I don’t have to call anybody out,” he said. “There ain’t no safety on this Glock.”

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Teofimo Lopez’s upset of Vasiliy Lomachenko turns boxing head over heels

He did his usual backflip in the midst of the ring. Then he lay there and did several snow angels, right in the middle of that winter wonderland known as Las Vegas.

As he did so, blood droplets peppered the canvas, coming from a 12th-round cut in his right eyelid.

You saw everything about Teofimo Lopez right then, as if he hadn’t shown you enough.

Lopez was not going to talk his way past Vasiliy Lomachenko, the 32-year-old holder of the three lightweight belts that Lopez didn’t hold. He did not become the unified champ through slapstick and one-shot power. He did not charge Lomachenko in those early rounds when the Ukranian was getting his engine warm, and he used his three-inch reach advantage to protect himself and frustrate the most poised man in boxing.

Later, Lomachenko found himself so far behind that he entered the danger zone, and at times he rocked Lopez with jabs and uppercuts. But the kid has a chin to match his mouth, and when he got a chance to fight the first 12th round of his career, he understood what that meant. Lopez staggered Lomachenko and was ready for a finishing crescendo when Lomachenko accidentally head-butted him in the eye and brought loose the blood. It flowed well, thanks to a forceful heart.

“He hadn’t fought in 14 months,” Lopez said. “I knew he’d probably get off to a slow start. With him you gotta keep pressuring him, press the gas, stick the jab and don’t give him the opportunity to set up. Every time he wanted to throw, I had something ready for him.

“But at the end, I knew he was coming. I can bang, too. I’ll take one to give one.”

“I spent all week with him,” said super-middleweight Edgar Berlanga, who scored his 15th one-round knockout (over Lanell Meadows) in his first 15 fights. “We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were chopping it up all week, talking about the future. There’s a new generation coming in boxing. My brother (Lopez) took a leap of faith. He’s 23 years old and he’s an undisputed champion.”

Lomachenko was the decisive favorite, because of experience and intangibles and the sneaking suspicion that Lopez wasn’t quite ready for the adult table.

Ignored was the fact that Lopez was younger, bigger and, as it turned out, quicker, with a longer reach. Lomachenko’s only response was a resume. It couldn’t even raise a paper cut on Lopez.

Lopez won the first seven rounds on every judge’s card. In the third, Lomachenko only landed two punches. Lomachenko finally shelved his apparent strategy of letting Lopez beat himself when the eighth round arrived, and his pressure finally put Lopez in a discomfort zone. But by then Lopez had banked too many rounds.

Judge Julie Lederman gave Lopez a 10-point victory, and Tim Cheatham favored Lopez 116-112. Steve Weisfeld had it 117-111.

If you like analytics (and who doesn’t?), Lopez piled up 148 power shots, a high for any of Lomahencko’s opponents.

“We did something nobody thought we could do,” said Teofimo Lopez Sr., father and manager. “We outboxed him. It was a matter of hitting and not getting hit. We just made the best boxer in the world look like nothing. He (Lomachenko) had 370 amateur fights and we beat him at his own game.

“We got a thing called the pyramid. We can hit you and you can’t hit us, and once you get inside us, you’re gonna pay. Then he went for broke, going crazy, hitting my son with his head, trying to make the fight dirty. My son could have taken him out but he didn’t want to, and I liked that. He just ended up giving him a whuppin.’.”

In case Lopez Sr. hadn’t made himself clear, he yelled “Blowout!” when Teofimo came to the stool after the seventh round.

Senior also said Junior would most likely graduate to the 140-pound division, which is loading up by the second. Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez will unify that one, and Arnold Barboza Jr., of El Monte, moved into the line of succession with a solid decision over Alex Saucedo.

It’s also possible that Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis will become super-lightweights, too.

Lopez joked that he wanted the equally loquacious Haney, whom he called the “two-time e-mail champion of the world,” but then admitted, “I just like messing with people.”

The messing will continue. That’s part of being undisputed.

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UFC 253: Israel Adesanya defends belt, Jan Błachowicz wins title

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Unbeaten Israel Adesanya defended his middleweight title in style with a dominant second-round stoppage of Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on Sunday

Poland’s Jan Błachowicz also stopped Dominick Reyes late in the second round on Fight Island, the mixed martial arts promotion’s bubble performance venue in the Middle East, to claim the light heavyweight title vacated by Jon Jones.

Adesanya (20-0) carved up his previously unbeaten Brazilian opponent with flair and ease, battering Costa with leg kicks before ending it late in the second round. Adesanya crumpled Costa with a combination at the center of the octagon, and the champion finished on the ground with 61 seconds left in the round.

“I told you guys that it was going to be violent, and it was going to end fast,” Adesanya said. “That’s what I did. It was a little bit sloppy, but I’m a dog, so I do what I do.”

The win was the ninth straight in the UFC for Adesanya, the Nigeria-born, New Zealand-based phenomenon who has soared to prominence in mixed martial arts over the past three years.

In UFC 253′s co-main event, the 37-year-old Błachowicz (27-8) capped his late-career surge by winning his first UFC title.

After controlling most of the action in a slow first round, Błachowicz apparently broke Reyes’ nose during the second round, and he abruptly ended it when he landed a high left hook to the side of Reyes’ head. Reyes wobbled, stumbled and fell, and Błachowicz promptly finished him on the ground with 24 seconds left in the round.

“I still don’t believe it, but it’s here,” Błachowicz said. “It’s not a dream, right? It happened. I have the legendary Polish power, I proved it one more time. … Even a pandemic can’t stop me right now.”

Unheralded flyweight Brandon Royval also had a highlight-reel win on Fight Island, stopping Kai Kara-France with a guillotine choke in the second round.

Adesanya won his title last year by beating Robert Whittaker, but he was in need of a redemptive performance after defending his belt last March with a stupendously boring decision over Yoel Romero in Las Vegas.

The champion known as “The Last Stylebender” reminded the UFC just what he can do while dispatching Costa with ease

The heavily muscled Costa opened the fight with a cocky swagger, daring Adesanya to kick his lead leg by putting his hands behind his back. Adesanya preened back at Costa, but largely kept his distance and tagged Costa with kicks, while Costa’s own kicks were less successful.

Costa’s striking game never got going, and Adesanya wore him down before finishing the fight.

“I built a beachfront condo inside his head from the first time we met,” Adesanya said. “The way he was fighting, you just want me to stand there so you can punch me. I’m not stupid, dummy.”

While Adesanya was a favorite, Błachowicz’s victory was a surprise. He is the first fighter other than Jones or Daniel Cormier to hold the UFC light heavyweight title since 2011, when Jones began his rocky reign.

Jones vacated his belt three times during the ensuing nine years for doping offenses and criminal misbehaviors, but always reclaimed it. But he voluntarily relinquished the title earlier this year after lengthy negotiations over the future of his career with the UFC, apparently receiving the financial incentive to move to heavyweight.

But Jones doesn’t have a fight booked at heavyweight, and Błachowicz isn’t buying the move.

“Only one man is in my mind,” Błachowicz said. “Jon Jones, where are you? Don’t be a quitter. This is how we do it in Poland. I’m waiting for you.”

UFC President Dana White said he wouldn’t stop Jones if the former champion wanted to fight Błachowicz, a six-year UFC veteran. He earned this title shot with three straight wins, including stoppages of former champion Luke Rockhold and Corey Anderson.

Reyes is a former college football player from Southern California who only recently devoted himself to the sport full-time, but his 12-0 start to his career landed him a title shot at Jones in February. Jones won their matchup by decision, but most observers thought Reyes had nearly pulled off the monumental upset, keeping him first in line for a second title shot when Jones vacated.

Adesanya also said he wants to fight Jones soon, and he would be willing to move up to do it.

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