Knockout Of The Year Nominations:
Alex Povetkin TKO5 Dillian Whyte
Gervonta Davis KO6 Leo Santa Cruz
Eleider Alvarez KO7 Michael Seals
Naoya Inoue KO7 Jason Moloney
Joe Smith Jr. KO9 Eleider Alvarez
Jose Zepeda KO5 Ivan Baranchyk
Winner: Gervonta Davis KO6 Leo Santa Cruz
Gervonta Davis must like the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” as the end of his high-profile battle with former champ Leo Santa Cruz provided an object lesson in the meaning of the old saw. Caught once by Leo Santa Cruz’s right hand in round six, the undefeated southpaw would not be fooled again. And then he made his rival pay dearly for thinking he could play the same trick more than once.
This was in round six of Gervonta’s maiden appearance as a pay-per-view headliner, Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions positioning “Tank” as a superstar-in-waiting. It was Halloween night, at the Alamaodome in San Antonio, and in the midst of a sequence capping a round-of-the-year candidate, the action hot and heavy before “Tank” violently ended Leo’s night. With thirty seconds left in the round, Davis bulled his adversary to the ropes; Santa Cruz, ever the valiant warrior, pushed back and landed a lead right off the ropes.
Cruz clearly relished the sensation of his right fist colliding with Gervonta’s face because he went back for more. But when he attempted to land the right again, Davis parried it away. Leo should have interrupted himself right then and there and changed his tactics, but instead — perhaps with another old saying in his mind, namely, “If you don’t succeed, try, try again,” — Cruz desperately launched the same shot, in the same manner, for the third consecutive time. Bad move.
Anticipating the punch, Davis slipped to his left and uncorked a hellacious left uppercut from the orthodox stance that detonated on Santa Cruz’s chin and immediately shut his lights out. The former champ collapsed and slumped backwards to lie underneath the corner turnbuckle. The referee took one look and signaled the fight was over. It was obvious to all that Leo was out cold.
It was a brutal finishing shot demonstrating both the beauty and the savagery of the sport we love. In one corner, Santa Cruz, a tough and tenacious warrior who had never before been stopped, let alone knocked out, was looking up at the lights and wondering what had happened. In the opposite corner, Davis leaped up and onto the ropes to bask in the glory of his biggest win, not to mention the most impressive knockout, of his career so far. And also, The Knockout Of The Year. — Jamie Rebner