Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz: Bleacher Report Staff Predictions

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2020

Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz: Bleacher Report Staff Predictions

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    Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    While the world of professional boxing didn't get back to producing top-level contests as fast as Dana White and the UFC did this year after coronavirus restrictions came into force, it's safe to say that boxing has finally returned with big-fight action.

    How else could you explain another boxing pay-per-view event on the horizon featuring rising superstar Gervonta Davis and longtime fan-favorite Leo Santa Cruz?

    Davis vs. Santa Cruz takes place live on October 31 at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas. The fight will be offered live via Showtime pay-per-view beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

    But before those two fighters meet in the center of the ring on fight night, Bleacher Report's combat sports crew has assembled to predict the action.

Jonathan Snowden

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    Will power or volume take the win on Saturday night?
    Will power or volume take the win on Saturday night?Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    It's easy to watch Showtime's All Access and worry about Gervonta "Tank" Davis.

    Surrounded by luxury, excess and the constantly moving mouth of promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr., Davis is as far away as you can possibly be from the hardscrabble Baltimore of his youth.

    "Do what makes you happy. You see this private jet that we on? I got it because I did what the f--k I wanted to do," Mayweather told Davis as the two lounged in comfort in Floyd's plane. "I made over a billion dollars. You know why? Because I did what the f--k I wanted to do. I'm going to always tell Tank, do what the f--k you want to do."

    Davis has all but been anointed as boxing's next big star, looking on almost in awe as Mayweather hands out his hard-earned wisdom. Doing whatever you want worked for Mayweather—but that's because what he wanted was to work harder than everyone else en route to fistic immortality.

    Fairy tales in boxing can't be written in advance on a private plane. They're crafted in the ring, in the gym and through other-worldly effort. Not everyone has the drive to overcome their own worst impulses. And Davis has a history of both questionable decisions and not always giving his best effort—his weigh-in failure against Francisco Fonseca is a lingering reminder that the work hasn't always been done.

    Leo Santa Cruz, if nothing else, will bring that effort—and a work rate unlike anything the 25-year-old Davis has ever faced. With his constantly twitching right hand, Santa Cruz will throw punches in volume, with waves of punches coming at Davis without pause. That's what he'll need to do to win.

    Davis, owner of 22 knockouts in 23 professional bouts, only requires one. And that will be the difference.

    Davis, KO, Rd. 8

Kelsey McCarson

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    Will Davis put Santa Cruz on the other side of a TKO loss?
    Will Davis put Santa Cruz on the other side of a TKO loss?Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    "In what is being billed as a 50/50 fight..." is how a Showtime press release described the upcoming 130-pound showdown between Davis and Santa Cruz, and most unbiased observers would suggest that language couldn't be more wrong.

    Such is the world of professional boxing, where much more obvious and important showdowns between top divisional stars give way to these kinds of forced fights that are mostly just because of a promoter or management entity having the power to influence the careers of both of the main event participants.

    To put it bluntly, Davis is a naturally larger, more talented and skilled fighter who should have no problem disposing of Santa Cruz at 130 pounds.

    After all, Davis, 25, has mostly bounced between boxing's 130-pound junior lightweight and 135-pound lightweight divisions during his career.

    In his last fight, Davis stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa for a secondary world title at 135 pounds, so he stands here today apt and capable of participating in superfights in that larger weight class.

    Meanwhile, Santa Cruz is a blown-up bantamweight. That's not meant to discredit him. Santa Cruz has won legit world titles in boxing's 115-, 122-, 126- and 130-pound divisions, and his furious style has deservedly won him tons of fans in the sport.

    But the volume-punching of the 32-year-old isn't likely to serve him well against a pressure-cooking southpaw mauler who won't be deterred by his numbers game. If anything, Sana Cruz's tons of punches are likely to spell his doom.

    The only serious question I have about this fight is how it ends. Davis has won his last 14 fights by stoppage, and Santa Cruz has never felt that burn. Jonathan's concerns about Davis outside the ring notwithstanding, I lean toward Davis being boxing's next big thing, so I'll say he stops Santa Cruz to let everyone else in the boxing world in on the secret, too.

    Davis, TKO, Rd. 6

Lyle Fitzsimmons

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    Will the experience of Santa Cruz tip the scales in his favor?
    Will the experience of Santa Cruz tip the scales in his favor?John Locher/Associated Press

    Davis is a genuine tough guy.

    He comes from mean streets. He fights angry. He knocks people out.

    Given the folks he surrounds himself with—particularly that loud, confident guy who calls himself "Money"—it won't be at all surprising if he does wind up one of the sport's next big things.

    So when it comes to his fight this weekend, it's pretty easy to lean in his direction.

    As easy as 23 straight wins with 22 KOs, including 14 in a row with a 4.1-round average.

    He's bigger. He's stronger. And he's done far more in the weight class than Santa Cruz.

    But with all apologies to Gamboa, Jose Pedraza and others, I just can't pull the trigger.

    Because Santa Cruz is another breed of cat.

    Though he's beaten exactly no one of significance past featherweight and hasn't stopped a fighter with fewer than five losses since 2014, the three-division champ won't be an easy out for anyone.

    He's taller (5'7½") and longer (69-inch reach) than Davis (5'5½", 67½), has shown incrementally more credible boxing chops as he's climbed the weight-class ladder and possesses far more experience in up-for-grabs championship situations than his opponent has been forced into.

    Whether that'll matter come Saturday night certainly remains to be seen, and it's perfectly reasonable—and awfully easy—to envision a scenario in which Davis freight-trains him by the midway point.

    Still, a script that gets the fight to the second half is foreseeable, too.

    And Santa Cruz's prospects for victory presumably get better each time he's able to emerge from his corner and continue delivering the blows, particularly the body shots, that have been the signature elements of his fight plan since he won his first world title at bantamweight in 2012—when Davis was a teenage amateur.

    If "El Terremoto" manages to get things to the modern-day championship rounds, it's not beyond question that he'd have narrowed things on the scorecards. And given Davis' vast experience deficit in long-distance fights—only one bout has made it to Round 10—it will be his fight to win.

    Says here that he'll do just that.

    Santa Cruz via split decision.