Leo Santa Cruz did not get to win titles in four weight divisions without long ago realizing his strengths and his limitations.
The reigning junior lightweight titlist knows the uphill battle he faces in his upcoming showdown with unbeaten former two-time 130-pound title claimant and current secondary lightweight beltholder Gervonta Davis. The bout marks just the second at the weight for Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19KOs), whose first title win came at bantamweight more than eight years ago and has since emerged as one of the sport’s best in the world.
His talents and ability to absorb will be put to the test versus Baltimore’s Davis (23-0, 22KOs) in their October 31 Showtime Pay-Per-View main event at The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. California’s Santa Cruz often gets the job done through sheer aggression and volume punching, though his ring IQ will be a key part in attempting to conquer one of the hardest punchers pound-for-pound in the world today.
“The truth, we have to fight like that. We have to fight from the outside,” Santa Cruz acknowledged during a virtual conference held Tuesday afternoon to promote the PPV event. “We know that Tank can hit. We will try to box for 12 rounds.”
It’s a daunting task, but not an impossible one. Davis has been the distance just once in his career, going six rounds in a shutout win over German Marez, whom he dropped twice in their October 2014 affair. The 25-year old southpaw has since scored 14 straight wins inside the distance, including a 7th round stoppage of then-unbeaten Jose Pedraza to win his first title at 130-pounds in January 2017.
Most recently, Davis was taken into the 12th round by resourceful former featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa before ending the fight with just 103 seconds to go in their Showtime headliner last December in Atlanta. The bout took place at lightweight, where Davis collected a secondary title but who will drop back down to junior lightweight with his belt and Santa Cruz’s 130-pound title at stake.
Santa Cruz enters riding a five-fight win streak since suffering the lone loss of his career, a 12-round decision to Carl Frampton in their Fight of the Year-level July 2016 war. Their rematch proved nearly as entertaining, though more memorable for Santa Cruz who avenged his lone defeat to regain his featherweight title which he defended four times over two title reigns—and more often than not, always delivering on the entertainment front.
“You know me, I try to give the fans a great fight,” notes Santa Cruz, who doesn’t mind testing the deep end in the first few rounds. “So, I’m going to go in [early], brawl with him and make it a great fight, an exciting fight. Back and forth, throwing punches.
“If I see that I can take his punches, I’m going to stand in there and make it a fight. If I find out that he can hurt me, I’m going to fight smart, go out there and fight the perfect fight and take him [the distance].”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox