Saturday, November 7, 2020

Belated Thoughts On Davis-Santa Cruz


In the year 2020, there have been few fights throughout combat sports that have had significant public demand. Of course, this has nothing to do with the fights that promoters have been working their hardest to present under what until this year was unprecedented circumstances, but because of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic who’s true impact we are likely not to know in full degree as the crisis continues to worsen around the world. As such, a persistent theme of many columns and other content penned by this observer here at The Boxing Truth® throughout the year has been how Boxing has attempted to resume operating under circumstances that differ significantly from what the sport sees when it is in it’s normal active state. 


One of the recurring sticking points that I have done my best to point out whenever appropriate even if it borders on repetitiveness has been the fact that many of the sport’s top stars have remained sidelined both due to the risk of potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, but also for financial reasons as due to the epidemic, portions of revenue that are normally afforded to Boxing’s biggest attractions have been unavailable for reasons including, but not limited to the fact that there has not been circumstances where crowds have been allowed to attend sporting events and other public gatherings due to the epidemic. This has resulted in several anticipated encounters that fans want to see being delayed. 


As yours truly has discussed here on the website in recent weeks, the worsening circumstances and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 epidemic has also created a dilemma for many fighters. Whether to continue to see out for what are in most cases justifiable reasons and wait for the circumstances of the virus/epidemic to improve, and in the process potentially do long-term damage to their skills simply by being inactive, or take the risk not only of possible exposure to the virus, but a risk in terms of their current position within the sport by returning to active competition. Obviously, this is not a simple decision for most as there are families and other factors that one must consider, but for many of the sport’s top stars, the decision to return also carries with it the likelihood of reduced purses when they compete at least until circumstances regarding COVID-19 legitimately improve. 


The month of October saw a slight shift in the dynamic as several top fighters throughout the sport have made the choice to return to the ring to active competition and more specifically, return in what would be considered by many to be difficult bouts even under normal conditions. October 2020 closed on Halloween night with one such encounter between Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz. Two top fighters in the sport who have each been world champions in their respective careers in an intriguing style clash of a boxer versus a puncher. 


While this observer expected the clash of styles that this fight appeared to be on paper, the encounter between the two exceeded expectations in many ways. What was surprising even though when discussing a fight between two of the top fighters in the entire sport and thus when two such fighters are pitted against each other, one usually expects to see the highest level of competition Boxing has to offer, was to see both fighters display a varied mix of skills that do not necessarily fall under their respective styles. 


For those who might be curious as to what yours truly means by this, logic would suggest that you would expect a fighter with the reputation as a “Knockout Artist “ such as Davis to go in seeking a quick knockout and put power behind every punch. In contrast, you would also expect a boxer/puncher such as Leo Santa Cruz to try to box early in an attempt to stretch the fight into the middle and late rounds with the possibility of trying to get a stoppage as the fight progresses if the opportunity presents itself. Neither scenario is necessarily what happened in this fight. Instead, what we saw was a tactical fight that was fought at a high pace where both fighters elected to fight in the pocket. This scenario saw both fighters successfully display their respective skill sets as both boxed and both boxers showed a willingness to stand and exchange offense.


While the performance of both fighters was impressive, what stood out in my eyes was the patience that Gervonta Davis showed in this fight. As this observer has said in the past, a conundrum for fighters that are able to establish themselves as ‘Knockout Artists” is that the reputation that many who carry that label is such that there is almost an expectation amongst some fans that if a fighter can’t end a fight early, the odds of success is less for said fighter. There can also be an assumption when a fighter has a high knockout percentage that punching power is the only facet of a fighter’s skill set.


In this fight, Gervonta Davis not only displayed patience in allowing the opening for a knockout to develop naturally rather than head hunting, but also showed hand speed, defense, as well as showed that he could beat Leo Santa Cruz to the punch in some fast-paced exchanges. What some might say the most important thing that Davis showed in this fight was the ability to take a punch, which is usually one of the main questions that are often asked of “Knockout Artists.”


While both fighters displayed their respective skills in what was every bit the compelling fight that it appeared it would be on paper, the ending of this encounter was the definition of what most think of when what draws them to the sport comes to mind. A sudden and devastating left uppercut to the head late in round six sending Santa Cruz down and out on the canvas. The very definition of an”One Punch Knockout.”


As is normally the case after a fight like this, the obvious question is what comes next for Gervonta Davis. The reality is with positioning in the World Boxing Association (WBA) rankings in both the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight and 135lb. Lightweight divisions, it may come down to what opportunities are available, when they are available, and against whom that will likely determine what Davis does next inside the Boxing ring. Whether or not rival promoters and broadcast platforms across both traditional and digital streaming realms will work together to make some fights that will garner the attention of Boxing fans on varying levels of interest remains to be seen.


While Gervonta Davis clearly is enjoying the success of the biggest win of his career so far, it also remains to be seen how successful the Davis-Santa Cruz bout did as a pay-per-view attraction at a $74.99 price point. The full card at the Alamodome, which consisted of eight total bouts, only saw four bouts aired on the Showtime Pay-Per-View broadcast.


 Those bouts, which saw Issac Gonzalez score a first round knockout of Diego Magdaleno in the Lightweight division in fifty-three seconds,Mario Barrios score a sixth round knockout over Ryan Karl, and former unified Jr. Welterweight champion Regis Prograis score a third round stoppage of Juan Heraldez combined with the Davis-Santa Cruz main event for just over two and a half hours of airtime on the pay-per-view broadcast at that $74.99 price point. It is indeed true that promoters and networks cannot legitimately be held responsible for the length of bouts they present once two fighters are in the ring. 


The amount of content that was offered for the price of the pay-per+view card however, underscores the problem that promoters and networks that have thus far continued to insist on the increasingly outdated and undervalued model of pay-per-view continue to face in an ever evolving technological landscape where digital subscription streaming models have emerged offering both a legal low cost alternative for consumers as well as considerably more content for their money. With at least one more pay-per-view event to come in 2020 promoted by the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters, who have promoted two pay-per-view cards carried by Showtime Pay-Per-View over the last two months and with the upcoming unified Welterweight world championship bout between undefeated champion Errol Spence and former two-division world champion Danny Garcia slated to be televised on December 5th by PBC broadcast partner Fox Sports Pay-Per-View here in the United States and likely to be at a similar, if not identical price point, if you are a consumer, you can only hope that if the PBC and its broadcast partners continue to insist on the pay-per-view model that they will at least offer more value in the form of offering more content for the pay-per-view price.


 Without that or adapting a reasonably priced digital subscription model as more and more consumers transition to streaming and away from traditional cable/satellite pay-TV providers, those promoters and networks who are resistant to the changing landscape rather than choosing to adapt to it may continue to find disappointing returns in terms of buy rates no matter who is featured on a pay-per-view card. The true disappointment however, will be for fighters like Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz, who gave everything they had in one of the better fights in a turbulent 2020, who unfortunately were probably deprived of competing in front of what likely would have been a significantly larger viewing audience. Not because of a lack of interest in the fight itself or a lack of appreciation for each fighter’s skills, but simply because the audience has essentially been priced out of being able to watch the fight take place live on television. 


A decision by both the promoters and networks involved should be questioned on and have to answer for, especially as the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic worsens and large groups of people, many of whom are Boxing fans are struggling to get by. The reality the networks and promoters have to face in addition to the changing technological landscape is even for the most loyal Boxing enthusiast, most will opt to take care of necessities when asked whether or not they will pay an increasingly expensive price point to watch the sport they love on a per card basis or whether they will put their money to use to make sure they and their families will be able to get by in increasingly difficult times. As great as the sport of Boxing is, most will choose the latter.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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