Gervonta Davis wants it known that he’ll be a standout of the next boxing generation.
Better to deliver that message as rapidly as possible, Davis decided Saturday night at the newly named Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.
By delivering a powerful combination to the head closed by a right hook to the left ear of Hugo Ruiz, Davis knocked out the former super-bantamweight champion with one second remaining in the first round to retain his World Boxing Assn. super-featherweight belt.
“I wanted to make it a great performance and I did it,” said Davis, who was scheduled to fight Abner Mares before the former champion suffered a detached retina and withdrew two weeks ago.
Baltimore’s Davis (21-0, 20 knockouts) instead bloodied the face of Ruiz (39-5) during the attack, and the hurtful blows left the challenger unresponsive to the commands of referee Jack Reiss.
“He just didn’t answer … I asked, ‘Can you continue?’ He just looked down,” Reiss said. “He was really hurt. He made the decision.”
Said Ruiz: “He’s a very strong puncher. He looked like he put on a lot of weight between the weigh-in and tonight. I felt every punch. He definitely broke my nose.”
Davis, 24, a protégé of his promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr., who delivered instructions to Davis after he entered the arena on the Showtime telecast to a dance team performing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” flashed impressive foot speed and thunderous hands. Ruiz was almost entirely on the defensive, absorbing left-handed power punches to the head before being backed to his own corner for the decisive punishment as a crowd of 7,250 looked on.
“I knew [the knockout] was coming. When I touched the jab, I saw his arm was in front of his face so if I threw a hook or uppercut [and] it was right in line,” Davis said.
He said before the bout that he was hopeful of a quick stoppage, to convince his manager Al Haymon of Premier Boxing Champions to allow him to fight before a scheduled summer homecoming bout in Baltimore.
“I’m very confident that I will be more active this year,” said Davis, who fought just once last year following the birth of his first child. “I have three, probably four fights lined up.”
Said Mayweather: “If anyone can surpass what I did, it’s this young man.”
On the undercard, Mario Barrios had the ranking, but the lofty position lacked a showing that proved it was deserved. Until Saturday.
On a chilly evening between rain showers, Barrios displayed impressive punching speed and power to overwhelm Richard Zamora by a fourth-round technical knockout.
The 5-foot-10 junior-welterweight Barrios (23-0, 15 KOs) maximized the effectiveness of his four-inch reach advantage on Zamora (19-3) by pounding his body with right hands, complementing that damage with an uppercut and impressive jabs to the head.
He cornered Zamora in the third round and again in the fourth, peppering the Mexican with a combination to the chest. Zamora responded with two clean punches, but the assault by Barrios was severe.
And as Barrios resumed the smashing, referee Ray Corona stepped in to stop the fight 2 minutes 16 seconds into the fourth. Barrios outlanded Zamora, 106-27.
“He’s a hell of a warrior, total respect,” Barrios said. “Everything we worked on in camp” was in effect.
Barrios, a San Antonio native trained by Virgil Hunter, the former cornerman of retired two-division champion Andre Ward, stands as the WBA’s top-ranked contender for champion Kiryl Relikh.
What he needed was a showing to affirm his worthiness, and he assessed the dominance was exactly that.
“I’m ready for that next step,” Barrios said. “I’m going to be ready for one of those world titles — any one of them.”
With the temperature at 53 degrees at the outdoor venue, former super-featherweight champion Javier Fortuna and former lightweight title challenger Sharif Bogere started coldly, drawing jeers for the inactivity until Fortuna was scolded by his corner and let his fists fly in the sixth.
“We changed the game plan, the fighting approach,” said Fortuna (34-2-1, 23 KOs), of the Dominican Republic, who prevailed by unanimous decision on three scorecards of 96-93.
Referee Edward Collantes credited Fortuna with a knockdown after the fighters’ legs tangled. Fortuna landed a left to the face and a right hand to the back of the head as Bogere (32-2) stumbled.
In the eighth, a ringside doctor inspected a cut over Bogere’s right eyebrow, allowing the bout to continue, to the chagrin of the many who yawned through it.
Former light-middleweight title challenger Erickson Lubin (20-1, 15 KOs) knocked down veteran Ishe Smith four times — three times in the second round alone — before the fight was waved off with Smith sitting on his stool before the fourth round.
The 40-year-old Smith (29-11) originally went down on a Lubin left early in the second round and his faculties diminished as the pressure increased.
A right hand and a combination also decked Smith, who’d never been knocked down in prior meetings with current World Boxing Council 154-pound champion Tony Harrison, former champion Erislandy Lara and current middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs.
“I am a great finisher and I knew it was time to get him out of there,” said Orlando’s Lubin, in his second fight since getting knocked out by former champion Jermell Charlo in 2017. “I am going to fight whoever is put in front of me. There is a game plan, and I am going to follow it.”
Smith, meanwhile, announced on Twitter after the bout that he’s retiring.
“Love you guys. Trust me, this game won’t get the best of me. I’m done. I did it my way, going out on my terms. It was a great shot I never seen — never recovered either, no excuses from this end. Young mans game. 19 years is a story book for me, I can bow out gracefully,” Smith tweeted.