By Keith Idec
CARSON, California – Gervonta Davis’ elaborate ring entrance, an homage to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” lasted longer than his fight Saturday night.
The emerging star stopped substitute Hugo Ruiz with one second to go in the first round of their 12-round, 130-pound title fight before an announced crowd of 8,048 at Dignity Health Sports Park. A right cross by Davis sent Ruiz to the canvas, brought an abrupt end to the main event of Showtime’s tripleheader and enabled Davis to retain his WBA super world super featherweight title.
Referee Jack Reiss stopped the bout at 2:59 of the first round because Ruiz didn’t react well to his commands once Ruiz reached his feet.
“Tonight I just wanted to put on a great performance,” Davis told Showtime’s Jim Gray. “I was scheduled to fight Abner Mares, but he had an injury. So my main goal tonight was to make a great performance, which I did.”
With promoter Floyd Mayweather and an array of other celebrities ringside, Baltimore’s Davis (21-0, 20 KOs) obviously wanted a first-round knockout and tried to stop Ruiz throughout those opening three minutes. Ruiz took Davis’ best shots until Davis drilled him with a brutal right cross that, after a delayed reaction, sent Ruiz to one knee.
Ruiz got up in time to beat Reiss’ count, but Reiss didn’t like the way Ruiz reacted.
“I knew it was coming,” Davis said. “When I touched the jab, I saw his arm was in front of his face, so I threw a hook or uppercut it was right in line.”
Reiss said he stopped the bout because Ruiz looked down when Reiss asked him if he wanted to continue.Reiss also suggested that Ruiz had suffered a broken nose during this brief bout.
“Ruiz didn’t answer me,” Reiss told Gray. “I told him clearly, in the dressing room, what he needed to do. When I asked him in Spanish if he wanted to continue, he didn’t answer. He was really hurt. He basically made the decision. If he just [nodded his head], we would have kept going.”
Mexico’s Ruiz (39-5, 33 KOs), a former WBA interim bantamweight champion, lost by knockout or technical knockout for the fourth time in his 12-year pro career.
“He’s very strong,” Ruiz said. “His hands were very heavy form the start. He looked like he put on a lot of weight from the time of the weigh-in. Every punch he landed hurt. I think he broke my nose.”
Ruiz replaced Mares, as Davis’ opponent on only 10 days’ notice. The 33-year-old Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs), a three-division champion from Downey, California, withdrew from his fight versus Davis last week, once he learned he suffered a detached retina in his right eye during a sparring session two weeks ago.
The 32-year-old Ruiz fought for the second time in three weeks. He took the Davis fight despite that he had just gone 10 rounds in an easy victory over Alberto Guevara on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard January 19 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Ruiz was supposed to fight the Philippines’ Jhack Tepora that nigh for a vacant version of the WBA’s featherweight title. Their fight was scrapped because Tepora came in 5½ pounds overweight January 18.
Baltimore’s Davis, 24, fought for the first time since winning a portion of the WBA’s 130-pound title nearly 10 months ago. Davis won that belt by stopping Argentina’s Jesus Cuellar (28-3, 21 KOs) in the third round April 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
His fight Saturday night should be the first of at least three appearances in 2019 for Davis. The former IBF junior lightweight champion boxed just once in 2018 and expressed frustration to Mayweather and adviser Al Haymon because he hasn’t been more active.
“I’m very confident that I will be more active this year,” Davis said. “I have three, probably four fights lined up this year. I’m happy with my team and ready for the next.”
Davis could return in July for a hometown fight in Baltimore.
“Yes, sir, we’re coming to Baltimore,” Davis said. “We’re going home, baby.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.