What a weekend ! One heavyweight proves he’s a contender, one small man zeros in on the pound-for-pound title and one spectacular knockout that’s sure to make the year’s best. All amidst the announcement of further lockdown in the United Kingdom.
Right when you thought boxing was again dropped to canvas and the fights made risked further threat of postponement, the sport brings us three standout performances and the British government allows big sporting events to continue, albeit behind closed doors.
The latter will bring a collective sigh of relief from British promoters, the larger of which have invested substantial sums to continue to host events behind closed doors with no prospect of fans helping to refill the coffers, other than by pay per view/box office.
In terms of action, top of the tree this weekend must be the stunning KO rendered by Gervonta Davis over Leo Santa Cruz. If you ever want to see how a fight can be stopped instantly then check this out.
The contest between two elite combatants was developing nicely through the first five rounds; Davis boxing beautifully, carefully picking shots and Santa Cruz firing back in heated exchanges, but trying to maintain distance and work off his jab. Having navigated the first five rounds the Mexican-American would’ve felt the first objective was achieved, then; pushed into a corner late in the sixth, BOOM !
A beautiful left uppercut dropped Santa Cruz like a stone. He was out before hitting the canvas and the referee waved the fight off immediately. Santa Cruz was out cold for several minutes before gradually recovering and allowing the official announcement of the 2:40 stoppage. It was the first time he’d been stopped in his 40 fight career and it was devastating. Santa Cruz drops to 37-2-1 (19 KO’s).
The 25 year old Davis (24-0, 23 KO’s) captured the spurious WBA world lightweight and super-featherweight crowns. Two divisional titles in one, work that one out. Given that Teofimo Lopez had also won their lightweight crown two weeks ago it is baffling, but sadly a factor of modern sanctioning bodies. More importantly, the Baltimore man scored a spectacular victory and potentially moves onto superfights in either division. Santa Cruz will re-group and a trilogy fight with Carl Frampton looks more likely.
Also stateside, Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue (20-0, 17 KO’s) came through as expected with a seventh round stoppage of Jason Moloney to retain his IBF and WBA world bantamweight titles. In a fight that served to showcase the Japanese pound-for-pounder in the US for the first time, he dominated the proceedings and also registered an impressive knockout. Promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation the future for the ‘Monster’ looks extremely bright.
To cap the weekend off in London, England Oleksandr Usyk came through his first real test at heavyweight against Londoner Dereck Chisora. The Ukrainian former-unified cruiserweight champion surrendered over three stone (42lbs) to the local man on the scales and Chisora came to fight taking the opening two rounds. Over the course of the next six rounds Usyk cautiously seized control, with a minor blip in the ninth which Chisora clearly won. Usyk regained control through the championship rounds (10-12) to win a unanimous decision 117-112, 115-113, 115-113. Chisora thought he’d done enough but the first card was probably closer to the truth. The Undisputed scored it 116-113 to Usyk.
In the Sky Sports post fight interview Usyk (18-0, 13 KO’s) gave himself a score of 3/10 and emphasized his goal not just to be heavyweight champion but “undisputed”. Time will tell whether he has the size and power to match his outstanding skills. He secured his pre-fight position as number one contender to Anthony Joshua’s WBO world title.
A fantastic weekend also saw good wins on the Usyk-Chisora card for Cypriot-Aussie George Kambosos Jr (19-0, 10 KO’s) on points over Lee Selby at lightweight and Savannah Marshall impressively stop Hannah Rankin to win the vacant WBO world female middleweight belt. In the US there was the successful return of former WBC world super-lightweight champion Regis Prograis (25-1, 21 KO’s) winning by third round stoppage. Kombosos and Progais should both now move onto world title shots in their respective weight classes.