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Leo Santa Cruz witnessed ‘a miracle’ amid pandemic; now he plans to shock the world

Leo Santa Cruz prepares to work out in front of the media while standing in front of his father, Jose, center.
Leo Santa Cruz prepares to work out in front of the media while standing in front of his father, Jose, center, who nearly died from the coronavirus. Santa Cruz hopes to pull off an upset over Gervonta Davis on Saturday night.
(Sean Michael Ham / Premier Boxing Champions)

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is looking to coronate pupil Gervonta Davis as the next big boxing pay-per-view attraction, but the wrecking ball knockout artist is more of a smaller Mike Tyson prototype than the new version of his mentor.

Now a promoter, Mayweather is officially ready to pass the torch to the Baltimore-bred Davis, who faces Los Angeles’ homegrown four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday in front of a maximum limit of 10,000 socially distant fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Staging lucrative fights requires a sweet science of skills, matchmaking and marketing, and no fighter has done that better than Mayweather, who closed his career with 16 of his last 17 fights on pay-per-view and a 50-0 record.

Mayweather made his maiden voyage to pay-per-view in 2005 against fan favorite Arturo Gatti in arguably the most one-sided and vicious beating of the century.

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A -700 favorite in some sportsbooks, Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) is expected to dominate the smaller Santa Cruz.

Gervonta Davis works out with a Leo Santa Cruz punching bag during his media day session.
(Sean Michael Ham / Premier Boxing Champions)

Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) is no slouch, however, and doesn’t feel as if he has signed up for a slaughter, especially after enduring one of the most turbulent times of his life during the pandemic.

The Mexico-born, Corona-based boxer felt the uncertain wrath of coronavirus firsthand. His 18-month old daughter Luna caught it, as did his brother and head trainer Antonio. So did father Jose, the patriarch of the family and part-time trainer, who was in a coma and died twice at the hospital before he was resuscitated.

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The Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz news conference in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday.

“We were already planning his funeral and to bury him,” the 32-year-old Santa Cruz said. “My last few months were hard. I was crying because my dad has always been in my corner. Thinking about not having him there with me, I didn’t even know if I was going to take the fight against Davis. I couldn’t fight without my dad. I was going through a rough time. But we prayed, and God made a miracle. He’s with us now for the biggest fight of our life.”

Jose was a picture of motivation on stage next to his son at a news conference Thursday.

When Leo won his first world title in 2012, he handed the belt to Jose and dedicated it to him for his coaching and perseverance in life.

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“He throws everything with power and tries to knock you out. I have the reach to outbox him. That’s going to frustrate him and get him tired.”

Leo Santa Cruz on Gervonta Davis

Davis moved camp to Las Vegas to prepare for the biggest fight of his life under Mayweather and lifelong coach Calvin Ford.

The Mayweather Boxing Club in Sin City became the temple for Davis to avoid distraction.

“I believe in ‘Tank.’ I’ve believed in him ever since he was a young kid,” Mayweather said of Davis. “He’s still a kid in my eyes, but he’s a young man now.”

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Gervonta Davis, left, and boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. speak during a training session in October 2020.
Gervonta Davis, left, and boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. speak during a training session in October ahead of Davis’ fight against Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night.
(Scott Hirano / SHOWTIME)

“I’m so happy with what Gervonta has done in his career. He’s one of the biggest stars in the sport ... You haven’t seen the best Gervonta Davis yet.”

Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Gervonta Davis

Davis tipped the scales at 129.75 pounds Friday, and Santa Cruz came in at 129.5 and appearing more carved than ever.

Davis’ power has given the granite-chinned Santa Cruz cause for concern even though he’s never been knocked down.

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“Hopefully we can take his punch. Gervonta can hit,” Santa Cruz said. “He’s the bigger guy, but speed and smartness defeats power, and that’s what I have to do.

“He throws everything with power and tries to knock you out. I have the reach to outbox him. That’s going to frustrate him and get him tired.”

Santa Cruz has been a champion at 118 pounds, 122, 126 and 130, but outside of his sequels with Abner Mares and Carl Frampton, who handed him his lone loss, he hasn’t been tested much or very effective at higher weights.

Leo Santa Cruz, left, jabs Miguel Flores during their WBA super featherweight title boxing match in November 2019.
(John Locher / Associated Press)
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“I’m not a stepping stone for anybody. Gervonta is beatable, and I’m going to go out there and shock the world.

Leo Santa Cruz on being the underdog to Gervonta Davis

Complete coverage of the Dodgers winning their first World Series championship since 1988 after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2020 World Series.

“I’m not a stepping stone for anybody,” Santa Cruz said. “Gervonta is beatable, and I’m going to go out there and shock the world. A win against Gervonta will put me at the top, and I’ve already had a dream that I beat Gervonta, and my hand was raised.

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“I get the fighting spirit from my father. When I fight, it keeps my dad fighting for his life as well. This is what motivates him. As long as my dad is alive, I will continue to fight.”


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