SAN ANTONIO – Gervonta Davis chuckled Thursday, but he quickly clarified that making weight Friday afternoon is no laughing matter.
If Davis doesn’t weigh in at 130 pounds or less when he steps on the Texas Combative Sports Program’s scale, he’ll have to pay a substantial penalty to Leo Santa Cruz. Davis promised during a press conference at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter that his perpetual problems making weight won’t continue a day in advance of his debut as a pay-per-view headliner.
“The weight is great,” Davis told Showtime’s Brian Custer. “Tomorrow, we’ve just gotta see. I feel great.”
Custer asked Davis if feeling great will lead to him standing on the scale only once during this unusually intriguing weigh-in Friday afternoon.
“Definitely,” Davis replied. “It’s a big penalty, so I definitely gotta make it.”
Davis surprisingly needed two trips to the Georgia Athletic & Entertainment Commission’s scale the day before his last fight. The knockout artist from Baltimore moved up from 130 pounds to 135 for that bout, but he still initially weighed in at 136¼ pounds for his 12-round lightweight title fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa.
A couple hours later, Davis returned to the scale and officially weighed 134½ pounds. Two years earlier, Davis was two pounds overweight for his 130-pound title fight against Francisco Fonseca on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard and was stripped of his IBF junior lightweight title the day before he knocked out Fonseca in the eighth round in Las Vegas.
Motivated to avoid another weigh-in issue Friday, Davis trained for more than three months at Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas. Removed from the distractions in Baltimore that hurt his preparation for the Gamboa bout, Davis fully focused on training, hired a personal chef for the first time and lost weight at an appropriate pace for this fight.
Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) is among those convinced Davis finally learned his lesson from the debacle before he battled Gamboa. The four-division champion expects Davis to make weight on his first try Friday for their Showtime Pay-Per-View main event Saturday night at Alamodome ($74.99; 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“I think he’s gonna make weight,” Santa Cruz told BoxingScene.com after the press conference. “He’s gonna surprise everybody. I think he’s almost on weight because he’s been training hard. He’s been saying he’s on weight. So, I think he’s pretty sure he’ll be on weight, and surprise everybody.”
What the respectful Santa Cruz couldn’t say was that he hopes Davis drains himself so much to make weight that it’ll impact his performance Saturday night. That’s the type of equalizer Santa Cruz needs to diminish Davis’ advantages as the fresher, stronger, younger fighter.
If Davis is impacted physically by moving back down to 130 pounds, it’d at least give Santa Cruz a better chance to out-point the dangerous Davis in a 12-round fight. Santa Cruz’s strategy seemingly will be to apply mental and physical pressure on Davis by throwing at least 80 punches per round and making him fight at a more uncomfortable pace than Davis did against Gamboa.
Davis dropped Gamboa three times – once apiece in the second, eighth and 12th rounds. He threw only 27 punches per round, however, nearly 300 fewer overall than Gamboa, who was limited after suffering a torn right Achilles tendon during the second round last December 28 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
His performance against Gamboa disgusted Davis (23-0, 22 KOs), thus there isn’t just pressure on the A side of this event to produce pay-per-view buys. The WBA world lightweight champion admits he must atone for how he fought against Gamboa, even though he knocked out the Cuban challenger during the 12th round.
Stopping Santa Cruz would be an accomplishment, considering the resilient Santa Cruz hasn’t been knocked out in 39 professional fights. Davis doesn’t believe he needs a knockout to classify Saturday night as a success, yet he realizes a second straight subpar performance against another underdog would damage the brand of a popular fighter that Mayweather and the rest of his promotional team have touted as the sport’s next superstar.
“I don’t think it have to be a knockout,” Davis said during the press conference. “I think that, you know, I’ve just gotta go out there and put on a great performance. That’s mainly what I’m focused on. Forget as far as pay-per-view or everything else. It’s just me going out there and showing that I’m one of the top guys – I am the top guy in the boxing world. That’s mainly my goal, to go out there and show them.”
Davis’ detractors don’t think he should’ve agreed to face Santa Cruz because his upcoming opponent wasn’t especially impressive in his only appearance at the junior lightweight limit. Santa Cruz out-pointed Houston’s Miguel Flores (24-3, 12 KOs) unanimously in that 12-rounder last November 23 in Las Vegas, but it amounted to a flat performance from a fighter who generally entertains fans.
Santa Cruz is 32 and has fought only one top opponent in the past 3½ years, more reasons why Davis is a 7-1 favorite to win their 12-round fight for Santa Cruz’s WBA “super” 130-pound championship and Davis’ WBA world 135-pound crown.
Dismissive fans and media motivated Santa Cruz throughout his recently completed training camp for what he acknowledged Thursday will be the hardest fight of his 14-year pro career.
“I don’t really take offense because everybody has their opinion,” Santa Cruz said. “They could say whatever they want and everything. It’s just my job to go out there and prove them wrong, you know?”
Santa Cruz clearly sees weaknesses within Davis he feels he can exploit Saturday night. He began calling out the powerful southpaw the second the Flores fight ended 11 months ago.
He aggressively asked Al Haymon to make it happen, but only if Davis would drop back down to 130 pounds. It was a respectable business move by Santa Cruz, who deserves credit for demanding to challenge a bigger opponent who is widely viewed as one of the most dangerous punchers in the sport.
In addition to his experience, championship pedigree and toughness, Santa Cruz suspects Davis depleting himself to make weight will give him a better opportunity to pull off an upset.
Davis disagrees. But even if he meets his contractual obligation without incident Friday, we won’t know until we watch how Davis deals with Santa Cruz’s pace and volume Saturday night if moving back down to 130 pounds was worth the weight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.