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Gervonta Davis Beats Isaac Cruz by Unanimous Decision, Retains Lightweight Title

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 04: Gervonta Davis poses for media during a weigh in prior to his WBA World Lightweight Championship title bout against Isaac Cruz at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live on December 04, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Gervonta Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) didn't get the brutal knockout that fans have come to expect from him, but he still ended the night as a champion in one of the more difficult fights of his career.

The 27-year-old retained the WBA secondary lightweight title with a unanimous-decision victory over Isaac Cruz (22-2-1, 15 KOs) on Sunday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The judges scored the bout 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 in favor of Davis.

ESPN Ringside @ESPNRingside

AND STILL UNDEFEATED @Gervontaa wins a unanimous decision but Isaac Cruz gave him all he could handle. #DavisCruz (via @ShowtimeBoxing) https://t.co/dp5tIlx73R

Nothing came easy in this bout for Davis. Cruz applied pressure from the get-go, forcing the three-division champion to fight off his back foot. Davis remained composed throughout the bout, impressing the judges with his counterpunching and timing. Afterward, Davis said he hurt his left hand during the fight, per the Showtime pay-per-view broadcast.

This is only the second time the undefeated Davis has failed to record a stoppage. The first came early in his career against German Meraz in a six-round bout that Davis won by unanimous decision. This is the second loss for the 23-year-old Cruz, who was added to the card in October as a replacement fighter for Rolando Romero.

While a loud contingent of fans at Staples Center felt that Cruz did enough to earn a win, the Compubox numbers showed it was a close fight, with Davis edging out his Mexican counterpart in total punches landed.

CompuBox @CompuBox

Davis was pressed by Cruz, who landed 121 punches, most by a Davis opponent. Davis, who appeared to injur his left hand, landed 40% of his power punches in a hard-fought win. @ShowtimeBoxing https://t.co/bxQLQGNwak

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Lightweight contender Ryan Garcia was quick to call out "Tank" on social media after the bout.

RYAN GARCIA @RyanGarcia

Gervonta gets away with fighting c level fighters, out of all the lightweights he’s the weakest!!! His toughest test was Leo Santa Cruz, almost lost tonight bring it on I’ve been calling you out for awhile...

For his part, Davis remains confident he's the man to beat at 135 pounds.

SHOWTIME Boxing @ShowtimeBoxing

"All those guys are easy work...I'm the top dog." @Gervontaa isn't scared of the rest of the division 👀🔥 #DavisCruz https://t.co/NE78zxEgt1

It didn't take long for Cruz to show why he's earned the nickname "Pitbull." Fighting from a low crouch, he went right after Davis in the first round. His first big punch was a right hook to the midsection that caused Davis to stumble, and then he landed a thudding combination toward the end of the frame.

To his credit, the early push didn't rattle Davis. The Baltimore native bounced back in the second round, finding opportunities to throw some counter uppercuts that had night-ending potential, but either missed the mark or hit Cruz's gloves. With his power, though, sometimes catching the gloves on the way in still works.

SHOWTIME Boxing @ShowtimeBoxing

Bombs Away 😈 @Gervontaa | #DavisCruz https://t.co/80vXo6uq34

Davis appeared to fall in love with launching the uppercut, a tempting punch considering what he's done with it in the past. While he focused on getting the timing down for his big counters, Cruz kept coming forward and digging away at the body. 

Mike Coppinger @MikeCoppinger

Round 4: Isaac Cruz won’t stop coming forward, and he is doing damage to the body. He switched it up to the head in that round and landed a pair of good left hooks. Gervonta still landing that powerful counter uppercut but Cruz outworked him. 10-9, Cruz. 38-38

It was clear Cruz wanted to frustrate the champion and chop away at the body, banking on his chin to hold up as Davis continued to fire away with uppercuts and straight lefts. It was effective for a time, as Davis struggled to get off the back foot and throw more than one or two big punches at a time. 

ShowtimeShawn Porter @ShowtimeShawnP

Tie game after 6. I think Tank needs to start taking some chances… won’t take many, but I think that’s what it’ll take for Davis to get that shot. I’m impressed with Cruz’s defense and pressure. #DavisCruz

The sixth and seventh rounds saw Davis step up the aggression and get Cruz moving backward. It allowed him to get his jab going a bit more, which only added to the steady flow of punishment heading in Cruz's direction. Cruz refused to go away quietly, and he kept firing away with short, compact punches. When Cruz really loaded up on his shots, however, Davis did well to sidestep or duck them.

Just when it seemed like Davis might take control of the bout, Cruz had a resurgence in the final rounds. Davis was clearly favoring his left hand and was unwilling to use it, giving Cruz an opportunity to assert himself. He stalked Davis around the ring, getting in close and throwing hard punches, searching for the upset but not doing enough to sway the judges.

Rosie Perez @rosieperezbklyn

Good fight! I can’t believe how Cruz is hanging so tough! @ShowtimeBoxing #DavisCruz

While Davis kept his perfect record intact, it's something of a disappointing night for him. He didn't dominate an opponent working on short notice, and now the southpaw has to deal with an injury to his powerful left hand.

The injury and inspired performance from Cruz did allow Davis to show off other aspects of his game beyond his power—skills that he will have to continue to sharpen if he wants to continue his quest toward superstardom.

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