Gervonta Davis survives spirited effort from Isaac Cruz to win decision

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LOS ANGELES – Gervonta Davis turned out to be human. And he was still good enough to have his hand raised.

Isaac Cruz gave “Tank” all he could handle, pressuring one of the sport’s biggest punchers relentlessly. However, Davis weathered the storm, got in his own licks, overcame an injured left hand and emerged with a unanimous-decision victory in the 12-round lightweight bout Saturday at Staples Center.

Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) had stopped his previous 16 opponents, creating an intimidating reputation in the process.

Thus, many among the 15,850 fans who packed Staples Center expected to see knockout No. 17 on Saturday night. The fact they didn’t see a stoppage probably was disappointing. But a great fight was a nice consolation.

Gervonta Davis (right) had to dig deep to beat Isaac Cruz. Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images

Cruz (22-2-1, 15 KOs) came out winging punches in the first round, much as he did when he knocked out Diego Magdaleno in 53 seconds last year. Davis, as slick as he is powerful, survived but it was clear that Mexican known as “Pitbull” meant business.

Cruz fought with more restraint thereafter but maintained pressure on Davis until the final bell, landing more punches than we’re used to seeing Davis take.

Davis decided in the middle rounds that it would behoove him to box more than brawl, a strategy that worked for him. He scored from the outside, danced out of harm’s way or clinched when Cruz got close to control those rounds.

And he did so even though the southpaw said he injured his left hand in the sixth round.

However, the compact Cruz, who was difficult to hit cleanly, took everything that Davis landed and continued to come forward. And he finished with a flourish, creating some nervous moments for Davis fans as they awaited the decision.

The scores were 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113. Boxing Junkie also scored it 115-113 for Davis, giving Cruz the final three rounds.

Some cheered when the decision was announced, some booed. That’s how competitive the fight was.

Davis was probably as relieved as he was happy afterward. Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images

“At the beginning of the fight, he came on strong,” Davis said. “I felt as the fight was going he was breaking down. But I hurt my hand, so I wasn’t able to get him out of there.”

Davis believes he injured his hand on the head of his shorter opponent.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I gotta get the hand checked out. It is what it is. That’s what comes with this sport. He’s a shorter fighter, so I was throwing down on the top of his head. I hit him with my knuckle and messed it up. I hurt my hand in the sixth round.

“No matter if the opponent is taller or shorter, I’ve got to get through it. He’s a warrior. Even though he didn’t win, a star was born tonight.”

Cruz raised his arms in the air after the final bell, apparently convinced he did enough to win the fight. He was disappointed at the outcome but handled it with class.

“I have nothing to say, the fans are speaking on who won this fight,” he said through a translator. “That’s my style. Pitbull is always going to be on the attack. I think we retained rhythm from the start to the end.

“If the fans want to see a rematch, we’ll do it.”

Davis isn’t interested in a rematch. He was asked about that possibility and responded with an unequivocal, “Hell no.”

Maybe that was a nod to the hell Cruz gave him. More likely the secondary 135-pound titleholder will now set his sights on undisputed champion George Kambosos, who is coming off his sensational victory over Teofimo Lopez.

“Whatever the best opportunity is for me, I’ll do it,” Davis said. “All of them guys are easy work. I’m the top dog.”

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