LOS ANGELES – Isaac Cruz was every bit as tough Sunday night as his nickname indicated “Pitbull” would be for Gervonta Davis.
The determined Mexican contender gave Davis the toughest fight of his eight-year pro career and took him the distance for the first time in seven years in a Showtime Pay-Per-View main event at Staples Center. Baltimore’s Davis still left the ring with his WBA secondary lightweight title because judges Carla Caiz (115-113), Max De Luca (115-113) and Zachary Young (116-112) scored their 12-round, 135-pound championship match for the undefeated fighter.
Davis confirmed to Showtime’s Jim Gray in his post-fight interview that he suffered an injury to his left hand in the fifth round that prevented him from using it the way he wanted to use it during the second half of their fight. Cruz was cheered by many in the capacity crowd of 15,850 when Gray interviewed him in the ring.
The heavily favored Davis’ injury aside, the resilient Cruz took the powerful southpaw’s hardest shots and ended Davis’ 16-fight knockout streak. Before Sunday night, Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) hadn’t gone the distance since he beat German Meraz by unanimous decision in his ninth professional fight, a six-rounder in October 2014.
“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 replied, “Hell no,” when Gray asked if he would give Cruz a rematch.
CompuBox counted only 12 more punches for Davis than Cruz (133-of-462 to 121-of-553). According to CompuBox, Davis landed one more power punch (113-of-285 to 112-of-425) and 11 more jabs (20-of-177 to 9-of-128).
Nevertheless, Cruz, 23, had his eight-fight winning streak snapped. The 27-year-old Davis dealt Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) his first defeat since countryman Luis Montano out-pointed him by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder in February 2016 in Mexico City.
“I have nothing to say,” Cruz said. “The fans are speaking on who won this fight.”
Cruz replaced Rolando Romero as Davis’ opponent five weeks ago because a woman with whom Romero was acquainted accused him late in October of sexually assaulting her in the fall of 2019. Romero (14-0, 12 KOs), the WBA’s number one contender in the lightweight division, has not been charged with a crime.
Cruz kept winging wild shots at Davis throughout the 12th round, as if he knew he needed a knockout to win. Davis fell to the canvas with just over 1:05 on the clock in the final round, but referee Thomas Taylor correctly called it a slip because their legs got tangled.
Cruz connected with a left hook just before the final round ended. Davis moved a lot during the final three minutes, despite that the fight seemed close.
Cruz caught Davis with a right hand barely 35 seconds into the 11th round. Davis made Cruz miss several times with wild right hands later in the 11th round.
Cruz moved Davis into his own corner and landed a hard right hand to his head about 15 seconds into the 10th round. Davis opened up on Cruz with multiple combinations late in the 10th round, but Cruz just kept pressing forward.
With just under 1:20 on the clock in the 10th round, Taylor warned Davis again for holding Cruz down. Cruz backed Davis into the ropes again with about a minute to go in the 10th round and blasted Davis with a left hook that made him bob, weave and move away from Cruz.
Davis took two right hands from Cruz before blasting him with a left hand that Cruz took well early in the ninth round. Davis let his hands go in combination during the middle minute of the ninth round and had some success.
A left by Davis snapped back Cruz’s head as he came forward with about 30 seconds left in the ninth round.
Cruz slipped to the canvas barely 30 seconds into the eighth round. Cruz awkwardly went through the ropes approximately 1:20 into the eighth round.
Davis landed a short left on the inside with just under a minute on the clock in the eighth round. Cruz surprised Davis with a right uppercut a few seconds before the eighth round ended.
A right hook by Davis buzzed Cruz in the middle minute of the seventh round, but Cruz kept swinging away at Davis. Cruz composed himself eventually and landed two rights to Davis’ body before the seventh round ended.
Cruz connected with a left hook as Davis attempted to spin away from him with a little more than two minutes to go in the seventh round.
Davis landed a right hook 15 seconds into the sixth round. Davis then drilled Cruz with a straight left 1:15 into the sixth round, but Cruz took it well.
Cruz landed two rights to Davis’ body in the middle minute of the sixth round, though he mostly couldn’t connect with head shots in that round.
Davis tried to keep Cruz at a distance in the opening minute of the fifth round. Cruz bullied Davis into the ropes soon thereafter and landed a right to his body.
They wrestled for position a few times before Taylor warned Davis for shoving Cruz with just under a minute to go in the fifth round.
Cruz landed a left hook, but Davis shook his head with just under 1:40 on the clock in the fourth round. Davis snuck in a left uppercut with just under 30 seconds to go in the fourth round.
Davis also landed a short right hook just before the fourth round ended.
Cruz connected with a right hand as Davis moved into the ropes 25 seconds into the third round. A left-right combination by Davis landed barely 1:10 into the third round.
Cruz landed a right hand with just over 1:10 to go in the third round. Davis landed a straight left and quickly got out of Cruz’s punching range with approximately 15 seconds to go in the third round.
Davis drilled Cruz with an uppercut with 1:15 to go in the second round. With about 30 seconds on the clock in the second round, Davis caught Cruz with a counter right hook.
A right hand by Cruz to Davis’ arm knocked Davis off balance about 1:15 into their fight. Davis tried to establish some distance, but Cruz kept coming forward and landed a right and a left as Davis was backed into the ropes in the final minute of the first round.
Cruz fell to the canvas just before the first round ended, but it was obvious that he was off balance and Davis pushed him down after missing a punch.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.