As the sport of Boxing looks to continue adapting to the changing environment and landscape caused by the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, some anticipated encounters are starting to occur even as some of the sport’s biggest stars continue to sit out due to both health concerns in the potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus as well as financial reasons in not wanting to sacrifice a portion of revenue by competing in a fan-less environment. One such encounter will take place on October 31st at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX as Gervonta Davis will square off against Leo Santa Cruz.
The fight, which is being promoted by the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters and will be broadcast here in the United States and Canada on cable-satellite pay-per-view on Showtime pay-per-view, was originally scheduled to take place on October 24th in one of two fan-less environments that the PBC have used for their events since the sport began attempting to resume in June, in this case the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. As sports across the board are attempting to gradually incorporate fans into their respective events at limited capacity due to safety concerns caused by COVID-19, the decision was made to push the Davis-Santa Cruz bout back one week and move it from Uncasville, CT to San Antonio, TX where the venue, the Alamodome can hold 10,000 spectators while also complying with both state and federal social distancing guidelines.
While the number of COVID-19 cases here in the United States continues to increase and it remains to be seen whether the decision of not just Boxing promoters, but other sports and more specifically public officials to seek allowing spectators in any measurable number to attend events while the epidemic continues proves to be a wise decision, the fight between Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz nevertheless does bring together two of the top stars in the sport. This fight will also have a unique distinction in that two championship belts in two separate weight classes will be at stake.
This observer is referring to the WBA Jr. Lightweight and a WBA interim designation in the 135lb. Lightweight division. Although this does have some similarities in following a historic battle that took place in November 1988 when WBC Light-Heavyweight world champion Donny Lalonde met Sugar Ray Leonard for not only his world championship, but also the then newly created WBC Super-Middleweight world championship, this is not a fight of that historical significance. The reason for that is because when Lalonde and Leonard met nearly thirty-two years to the day of this encounter between Davis and Santa Cruz, the sport did not have interim championship designations much less designations where multiple fighters can be designated as having interim/regular champion status in an organization’s respective ratings in a given weight class at any time. Although such structures and designations can create confusion amongst Boxing fans and to be more specific those fans for whom the sport is of casual interest, it does not diminish what is likely to be one of the best fights of the turbulent year 2020.
In some ways, this fight resembles the recent unification clash for the Undisputed Lightweight championship of the world between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez in that on paper this appears to be an encounter that pits a puncher in Davis against a boxer in Santa Cruz. As we saw nearly two weeks ago when Lopez defeated Lomachenko by a convincing twelve round unanimous decision, sometimes no matter how a fight might look on paper, it does not always translate into what occurs when two fighters are squaring off in the ring. While the strategy implemented by Teofimo Lopez, a fighter known for his ability to score quick knockouts, in choosing a tactical Boxing strategy to both out box and outwork Vasyl Lomachenko over the course of twelve rounds was unexpected, that does not necessarily mean that something similar could happen in this fight.
Gervonta Davis will enter this fight against Leo Santa Cruz unbeaten in twenty-three professional fights and having scored knockouts in twenty-two of those bouts. Much like Lopez, Davis is known for having devastating knockout power and can end a fight with one punch should the opportunity arise. In his last fight in December of last year, Davis scored a twelve round stoppage over a very “Game” Yuriorkis Gamboa. Although Davis was able to knockdown Gamboa three times throughout the fight, Gamboa was able to provide Davis with a significant test, despite being injured early in the fight in suffering a torn right Achilles before being stopped in the twelfth round.
What was impressive about Davis’ performance in that fight was how he was able to keep his composure and wait for the knockout to develop rather than to be reckless and head hunt where so many fighters who have built reputations as “Knockout Artists” have fallen into a sense of complacency when they are able to score knockdowns early in a fight and in some cases end up losing a fight. Although that fight will forever be known for the courage Yuriorkis Gamboa displayed in fighting under what had to be excruciating pain, it also cannot be overlooked the performance that Davis put forth in that encounter.
In this fight Davis is likely to be tested again against Leo Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, who will enter the fight having won thirty-seven of thirty-nine professional fights, is currently on a five fight winning streak since suffering his lone career defeat to Carl Frampton in July 2016. Although much like Davis Santa Cruz has also demonstrated that he can score a knockout should the opportunity present itself, he is more of a boxer/puncher having scored knockouts in nineteen of his thirty-seven career wins.
What this fight comes down to in my eyes is whether or not Santa Cruz will be able to extend Davis, nullify his power, and win rounds. Even though no one can dispute the courage Yuriorkis Gamboa showed when he fought Davis last December, he suffered three knockdowns over the course of the fight and, despite having periodic success throughout the fight, he was not able to really nullify Davis’ punching power. The challenge for Leo Santa Cruz will be to avoid Davis, who has shown an ability to knockout an opponent with either hand, for twelve rounds.
Although as we saw with the Lomachenko-Lopez fight that no one can really say for certain what will happen when two fighters enter the ring to do battle, it is logical to assume that Santa Cruz’ strategy will be to out box Davis and try to win a decision. Nevertheless, whenever there are two fighters with contrasting styles going against each other, it is always intriguing to see what will happen.
This fight like the recent doubleheader featuring twin brothers Jermall and Jermell Charlo will headline a pay-per-view card with a rather expensive price tag. Although much like it was when the Charlo brothers defeated Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jeison Rosario respectively last month, the criticism directed towards both the PBC group of promoters as well as the television network producing the pay-per-view broadcast, Showtime, should not be directed the fighters, one does have to wonder how successful this card will be given the state of the ongoing global epidemic, the economic recession that it has caused here in the United States, as well as the financial hardships that many are going through.
In contrast, the decision by sports cable network ESPN as well as promoter Bob Arum and his company Top Rank, Inc. to put the Lomachenko-Lopez bout on the main ESPN network on cable and satellite as well as making it available on the network’s direct to consumer digital subscription streaming network ESPN+ for those who do not have access to the linear ESPN networks via traditional cable-satellite providers or live TV streaming providers, proved to be a wise decision as over three million viewers tuned in to see the fight as well as its full undercard across both ESPN’s main linear network as well as via ESPN’s streaming apps.
It is rare to see any Boxing event achieve that kind of number in terms of live viewership for a card such as Lomachenko-Lopez, but the number does indicate the increasing trend that the traditional pay-per-view model not only no longer serves Boxing’s best interest, but also that consumers may no longer be willing to pay an increasingly expensive price tag to watch the sport on a per card basis regardless of who might be on the card and why networks and promoters who to date have been resistant to the changing landscape and thus far are unwilling to adapt a digital subscription model at a reasonable price point much like networks such as ESPN+ and DAZN, should rethink their strategy.
With not only this card headlined by Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz as well as the upcoming Welterweight world championship bout between undefeated unified IBF/WBC world champion Errol Spence and former two-division world champion Danny Garcia both slated to be broadcast on pay-per-view, and also factoring in that the Charlo brothers doubleheader only did an estimated 100,000 buys on pay-per-view at a $74.99 price point, one can only imagine the audience both here in the United States as well as globally that the PBC group of promoters as well as networks like Showtime, who broadcast the Charlo doubleheader, who will also be broadcasting the Davis-Santa Cruz pay-per-view card as well as Fox Sports who will be producing the Spence-Garcia pay-per-view event are missing out on by continuing to rely on outdated and overpriced model. The true shame is the fighters themselves are being denied the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of as many eyes as possible, especially in the midst of an ongoing epidemic that does not appear to be improving.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Davis vs. Santa Cruz takes place on October 31st at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. The fight as well as its undercard can be seen in the United States on a pay-per-view basis beginning at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT (U.S. time on Showtime pay-per-view across cable and satellite providers as well as through the Showtime app across mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/smart TVs for $74.99. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for ordering information or visit: www.SHO.com/PPV to order the event and information how to download and access the Showtime app on compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs. Check your local listings internationally. For more information about Premier Boxing Champions please visit: www.PremierBoxingChampions.com.
The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.
Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison.