June 21, 2021

Santa Cruz: I’ve Been Sparring With Bigger Guys; Hopefully I Could Take Tank’s Punches

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Leo Santa Cruz’s chin has been one of his best attributes since he turned pro 14 years ago.

The four-division champion’s lone loss was a 12-round, majority-decision defeat to Carl Frampton four years ago, which he avenged in their immediate rematch. Gervonta Davis has won all but one of his professional fights by knockout (23-0, 22 KOs) and has stopped 14 straight opponents inside the distance.

Many skeptics predict that this ambitious move by Santa Cruz will lead to the first knockout defeat of his career when they square off October 31 at Alamodome in San Antonio. Santa Cruz recognizes the danger in their 12-round, 130-pound title bout, but he is sparring against as many bigger boxers as possible to properly prepare for Davis’ vaunted power.

“The way I have prepared is, you know, I’ve been sparring with bigger guys, fighters that are like at 145, 147 right now,” Santa Cruz said during a virtual press conference recently. “So, I think that’s gonna prepare me to take their punches. When I’m right there with Tank Davis, I’m gonna be able to take his punches. I’ve been working with my neck and everything, and just, you know, eating a little bit more better and just, you know, go out there and hopefully, you know, I could take his punches.”

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Baltimore’s Davis applauded Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) for willingly taking their fight. Santa Cruz called out Davis the night the Rosemead, California, native won his most recent fight – a 12-round, unanimous-decision win against Houston’s Miguel Flores (24-3, 12 KOs) last November 23 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“Thank you, Leo, for, you know, even stepping up and calling me out, you know, to test yourself,” Davis stated during the aforementioned press conference. “You know, that just make me feel like, you know, you have a lot of heart, you know, and you wanna fight the best.”

Santa Cruz captured a then-vacant title Davis relinquished by defeating Flores.

Santa Cruz’s victory over Flores marked his only fight at the 130-pound limit. Davis has fought almost exclusively at or near the junior lightweight maximum, but he has moved back down from the lightweight division for this bout.

Handicappers have installed Davis as a 4-1 favorite to beat Santa Cruz. Davis, 25, and Santa Cruz, 32, will fight for Santa Cruz’s WBA “super” 130-pound championship and Davis’ WBA world 135-pound crown in the main event of Showtime Pay-Per-View’s four-fight telecast. 

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.