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The Raskin PPV Running Diary: Hopkins vs. Dawson (Part I)

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To a man, everyone in the boxing community agreed from the start: Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson shouldn’t have been on pay-per-view. But it was. There’s no undoing it. There’s no getting your $60 back (though surely some of you will write angry letters to Golden Boy and Gary Shaw and try). The damage is done, so let’s try to look for silver linings. Here’s one: If it hadn’t been on pay-per-view, you wouldn’t have the pleasure right now of reading one of my world-famous pay-per-view running diary columns! And these things are basically a $60 value that you’re getting for free, right? (Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. Do I hear five dollars? Two bucks? A nickel?)

In any case, I watched Saturday’s PPV with my usual cohorts. We had a small crew, but it was an all-star, no-fat collection of boxing writers: me, former Ring magazine editor-in-chief and future Boxing Hall of Famer Nigel Collins, the host with the most (and podcast co-host with the co-most) Bill Dettloff, and Bill’s dog, Duva. At 91 years of age in dog years, Duva is officially the oldest Duva in boxing, beating out Lou by two years. However, if it turns out Lou Duva is actually a shar pei, as many boxing insiders have long suspected, then he’s 623 in dog years and still can claim seniority.

But enough talk about canines. When they make a mess, all you need is a plastic bag to clean it up. The mess made by the Hopkins-Dawson PPV will be considerably more complicated to dispose of. Let the healing process begin with a two-part running diary (we’ll go up through the end of the undercard today, then deal with the main event and the post-main-event extracurriculars tomorrow):

9:05 p.m. EST: Usually in these running diaries I mock Dettloff for his late arrivals, but since he’s hosting, I steal his trademark move and knock on the door five minutes after the start of the broadcast. I hate to deprive running-diary readers of a description of those first five minutes, so let’s assume I missed Jim Lampley using the words “cogitative” and “superannuated” and Emanuel Steward busting out the phrase “the best I’ve ever saw” twice.

9:09: The big favorite in the opening bout, Paulie Malignaggi, gets wobbled by a right hand from unknown Orlando Lora in the first round. Gale Van Hoy makes it a 10-3 round in Lora’s favor.

9:31: One of Lora’s cornermen has thick wads of what appears to be gauze and tape wrapped around his first two fingers, making them look somewhat like white corndogs. Bill comments, “I thought that was something out of Bernard Hopkins’ wife’s bedroom drawer.” (If you don’t get that joke, it must mean you’re wasting your life away not listening to Ring Theory. But you can enjoy a three-minute free preview of the October 4 episode at the following link, then that joke will make sense: http://tinyurl.com/3rdrwt4.)

9:32: Harold Lederman delivers his first, “I gotta tell you something, Jim” of the evening. Now it’s officially an HBO Pay-Per-View event. For what it’s worth, Harold has Malignaggi up 5-1 through six rounds.

9:39: CompuBox stats show that Lora has landed in single digits in seven of the first eight rounds, while Malignaggi has landed more than 20 punches in seven of eight rounds. Moments later, Lampley calls out, “hard right hand by Malignaggi,” leading me to wonder: Should anyone ever call any punch Malignaggi lands “hard”?

9:41: An interesting conversation develops between Steward and Max Kellerman about whether punching to the body does more damage to fragile hands than punching to the head, and the gentlemen in the Dettloff living room all agree, Max is off-base on this one with his assessment that it’s safer to go downstairs. Lampley weighs in by comparing hitting a man’s elbow to punching a doorknob. Interestingly, Antonio Margarito once loaded his elbows with actual doorknobs for a fight.

9:46: Bill is talking about how much bigger Malignaggi is looking these days as a welterweight and shares his theory that “every boxer is on steroids.” (Note: The opinions of Mr. Dettloff do not reflect those of the author of this article or of anyone else associated with TheSweetScience.com. In fact, we suspect Mr. Dettloff made this statement while roid raging himself.)

9:48: After a reasonably entertaining 10th round that features the first real two-way slugging of the otherwise forgettable fight, Lederman announces his final scorecard, pausing momentarily to sneeze. I’ve often wondered why we don’t witness more live on-air sneezing. I feel like by the law of averages, at least once a week a SportsCenter anchor should sneeze while reading the teleprompter. It never seems to happen, though. There must be some sort of physiological explanation for how the human body repels the urge to sneeze in high-pressure situations.

9:49: Michael Buffer announces Malignaggi as the unanimous decision winner. I’m as excited for the prospect of Malignaggi vs. Devon Alexander as I was before the fight—which is to say, not at all. Ken Hershman’s first order of business at HBO: Just say no to Malignaggi vs. Alexander.

9:54: With Danny Garcia and Kendall Holt making their way to the ring, the conversation turns to the Ring Theory “Quick Picks” points at stake. My once-imposing lead of eight points over Dettloff has been whittled to just two, and I picked Holt to win this one by knockout (I let an actual coin flip make that decision for me), whereas Bill needs Garcia by decision. If indeed Garcia wins by decision, the Quick Picks score will be tied. High drama in suburban Allentown, Pennsylvania.

9:55: Buffer announces that this fight card is “presented by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, proudly freaking out families for 90 years.” Resisting … urge … to … make … plastic … surgery … joke …

9:59: The Staples Center crowd gives us our first loud “ooooh” of the evening after Holt lands a short right hand to the chin in the opening round. Little do I realize this will be about as close as I’m going to come to any Quick Picks points.

10:00: I notice that Manny Pacquiao is seated directly behind Richard Schaefer at ringside. My source seated nearby texts me a transcript of the conversation. Pacquiao: “My English is really coming along, I wrote an entire three-sentence email in English yesterday and there were only two grammatical mistakes.” Schaefer: “Impressive. Would you like a job as editor of The Ring magazine?”

10:02: We get our first Emanuel Steward “crispier” declaration of the show. If it wasn’t officially an HBO Pay-Per-View before, it definitely is now.

10:06: Garcia is really beginning to do some damage against Holt in round three. He’s also doing damage to my Quick Picks hopes. That’s what I get for picking against the Philly fighter. I should know by now that bad things NEVER happen in Philadelphia sports.

10:14: Duva the dog assumes a suggestive position on the floor, flat on his back, all four legs pointing toward the sky, nether regions exposed. “He looks like he’s been KO’d,” Nigel offers. It could be worse. We could be looking at Lou Duva in this position.

10:24: Ref Jack Reiss asks Holt and Garcia to punch their way out of a clinch, rather than officiously breaking them up the instant they draw close to one another. I like this Reiss fella.

10:26: Holt enjoys a very strong seventh round, but Lederman gives it to Garcia anyway, seemingly a case of Harold being in cruise-control mode. Bill’s expert analysis as a biased observer rooting for Garcia: “I love Harold Lederman. Impeccable.”

10:28: We have ourselves a little Mayweather Moment, as Garcia throws a punch when Holt isn’t ready; fortunately, Holt isn’t hurt. Reiss stops the action to warn the fighters to keep it clean, and Dettloff goes nuts, yelling that the ref should stay out of it and let the fighters display a little anger and throw punches if they feel like it. Oh well, I still like ya, Jack.

10:32: Holt lands a half-decent punch. I overreact, startling Duva out of his rigor mortis pose.

10:40: Garcia has Holt wobbling all over the place in the 11th round, and I’m now resigned to rooting for Garcia to knock Holt out so that Bill only gets one point in our picks competition. I’m rooting for anything, really, that will prevent the official result from being a Garcia decision win. I’m not above rooting for a Fan Man incident.

10:46: In his new segment in which he profiles the ringside judges, Lederman tells us that Wayne Hedgpeth, usually a referee (you may remember him recently stopping the Saul Alvarez-Alfonso Gomez fight a couple of punches early), has been called into judging action as a last-minute sub. This information proves meaningful when we learn that Hedgpeth scored the fight 115-113 for Holt in a bout in which it seemed fairly obvious that Garcia won at least eight rounds. If Ivan Goldman was still a boxing writer, Hedgpeth would definitely be getting a Magoo Award.

10:57: Jorge Linares and Antonio DeMarco are in the ring for the final undercard bout, and with Linares wearing pink gloves, Lampley speaks about breast-cancer awareness and how both Golden Boy and Shaw are supporting the cause. Everyone in the room makes their own Shaw/mammogram joke.

11:00: Nigel begins sharing stories about former Ring editor Nat Loubet (one of the guys behind the 1970s ratings scandal), including one that saw Loubet shoot a prisoner of war in the stomach and another that explains how Nat nearly lost an ear playing football. Loubet also met Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, ran all the way across the country, and impregnated Jenny Gump.

11:06: Linares lands a ridiculously fast uppercut from about two feet farther away than you should ever throw an uppercut, prompting Lamps to declare, “That was sick!” With Linares in total control early, this is threatening to be one of the least compelling PPV undercards in history.

11:11: It’s Dettloff’s favorite part of every PPV broadcast, the ref giving prefight instructions in the dressing room! Currently, Pat Russell is in Dawson’s dressing room. I’m not quite sure how this developed, but we all soon end up engaged in a discussion about the fact that boxing writer Tom Hauser wears his coat like a cape.

11:18: Linares-DeMarco is turning into a hell of a fight in the sixth round, with DeMarco coming on and Linares bleeding profusely from a cut on the bridge of his nose. I love how DeMarco yells, “Woo!” every time he gets hit. He’s behind in the fight, but starting to win the mental war.

11:19: Ref Russell is in Hopkins’ dressing room, explaining the rules. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Bernard knows the rules of boxing by now. (Unless there’s a rule about losing by TKO when you get thrown to the canvas and separate your shoulder. Oops, am I getting ahead of myself?)

11:27: Linares sustains a second bad cut, this one over the right eye. Soon thereafter, Kellerman comments, “The fight would feel a lot different had Linares’ face not fallen apart.” The once-handsome Venezuelan is about 75 percent of the way to looking like Gus Fring.

11:32: Nigel observes how when Linares’ cutman applies pressure to the eye, blood spurts from the cut on his nose. I’m not a doctor, but I think this sequence of events is coincidental.

11:38: In a thrilling, high-drama 11th round, DeMarco is landing one flush shot after another, and the ghoulishly bloody Linares is starting to look like he wants out. Ref Raul Caiz Sr. obliges and stops it with 28 seconds remaining in the round. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing that much blood pouring off a fighter’s face.

11:42: Buffer does one of my least favorite Buffer things, editorializing as he announces the result: “We’ve just seen one of the greatest displays of courage in the ring.” I’m not even sure if he’s talking about DeMarco or Linares. In any case, it was a stirring victory for DeMarco, the kind of fight that makes the price of the show worthwhile no matter what happens in the main event. (Or so I think at the time.)

11:47: With Hopkins-Dawson moments away, we’re shown highlights of Dewey Bozella’s undercard fight. I mention this strictly so that I can link to my Grantland feature from last week about Bozella and Hopkins (http://tinyurl.com/3cjgxne). Enjoy.

11:50: Amir Khan, tweeting about his stablemate Linares, uses the word “wiv” instead of “with.” And wiv that, I conclude Part I of the PPV running diary. Check back tomorrow for Part II—or as I like to think of it, “the part every boxing fan on the planet wishes never happened.”

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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Usyk vs. Chisora Sets the Table for a Strong Night of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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It’s been largely lost in the ragout, at least on this side of the pond, but Saturday’s busy fight docket includes the return of Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic gold medalist who left the cruiserweight ranks as a legitimate four-belt champion. The 33-year-old Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), opposes tough but erratic Dereck Chisora, a 36-year old Londoner by way of Zimbabwe. Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs), has won five of his last six, the setback occurring in his second encounter with arch-rival Dillian Whyte.

Usyk vs. Chisora, a Matchroom promotion, will play out at Wembley Arena with no fans in attendance. The Ukrainian southpaw is ranked among the top three heavyweight contenders by all four major sanctioning bodies although he has fought only once as a heavyweight, turning away under-trained late sub Chazz Witherspoon who was all in after seven frames. Usyk weighed 215 for that contest and is expected to come in about 230 for Chisora.

Usyk, who has anglicized his first name to Alexander on his English-language twitter feed, is a big favorite, but this is a tricky fight for him. The consensus 2018 Fighter of the Year, Usyk has fought only twice since unifying the cruiserweight title with a lopsided decision over Murat Gassiev in July of that year and 55 weeks have elapsed since his last start. If he needs the early rounds to shake off ring rust, he could find himself clawing out of a hole, and sometimes the hole is too deep as Usyk’s stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko can attest. Moreover, Usyk has yet to face a naturally bigger man who can bang as hard as “Del Boy.”

The Usyk-Chisora card will air in North America on DAZN with the main event ring walks anticipated about 6 pm ET.

The tiff is hitched to an interesting undercard. Once-beaten Welshman Lee Selby, briefly the IBF featherweight champion, tangles with Australia’s undefeated (18-0) George Kambosos Jr. Savannah Marshall, who saddled Claressa Shields with her only amateur loss, meets former Shields opponent Hannah Rankin with a vacant world middleweight title at stake, Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy opposes Belgium’s Bilal Laggoune for a domestic cruiserweight title, and then there’s the heavyweight fight attracting buzz between popular Yorkshireman David Allen and Christopher Lovejoy.

The buzz surrounds the mysterious 36-year-old Lovejoy who is 19-0 as a pro with all but two of those KOs coming in the opening round.

All of Lovejoy’s fights were staged in Tijuana. Only one of his opponents brought a winning record. For a certain stripe of fighter, Tijuana is the equivalent of a feed lot, a place where livestock go to get fattened up before they are sent off to the slaughterhouse. David Allen is limited, but the most likely scenario in this fight is that it ends with Lovejoy sitting on his stool.

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Diego Magdaleno is Locked and Loaded for Saturday’s Fray in San Antonio

Arne K. Lang

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Diego Armando Magdaleno, the son of a former semi-pro soccer player, was named for Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona. But Diego’s father Jesus is hardly disappointed that his son devoted his energies to a different sport than soccer as Diego, the oldest of Jesus’s three boys, has carved out a nice career as a boxer. On Saturday, he faces Isaac Cruz at the San Antonio Alamodome and a win could thrust him into a third crack at a world lightweight title. Magdaleno vs. Cruz will be televised as part of a SHOWTIME PPV event anchored by a battle between title-holders Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

The bookies don’t know what to do with the Magdaleno-Cruz matchup. One can find odds on fights of lesser importance, but with the fight only four days away the pricemakers were in quandary. Team Magdaleno, however, is approaching the fight as if they are the “B” side. Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz, who boasts a 19-1-1 record and is undefeated in his last 15 starts, has a fan-friendly style and is only 22 years old. In theory, he has more value to the promoter going forward than Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) who turns 34 this week.

Magdaleno relishes the underdog role. He was the “B” side in his most recent fight when he opposed Austin Dulay in Dulay’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and he carved out a clear-cut 10-round decision. Dulay, the younger man by nine years and less experienced at the pro level, was in over his head. Their fight was nationally televised on FOX.

Diego Magdaleno was born in Beverly Hills, California, but unlike many folks born there wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “We were more like the Beverly Hillbillies,” says Diego, a reference to the popular sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971.

For many years, Diego’s father, an immigrant from Sahuayo in the Mexican state of Michoacan, worked at the flagship West LA branch of an iconic Greater Los Angeles hamburger chain. Diego’s parents now manage a 7-11 in Las Vegas.

When Magdaleno first laced on the gloves it was at the Brooklyn Avenue boxing gym in the gritty Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, the same gym where Oscar De La Hoya trained for the Olympic Trials. He continued with the sport after his family – he has three older sisters – moved to Las Vegas.

Diego influenced both of his younger brothers to become boxers. Jessie Magdaleno surpassed him in name recognition when he upset Nonito Nonaire in November of 2016, earning him the WBO world super bantamweight title. Jessie lost the belt in his second defense, succumbing to Isaac Dogboe, but has won three straight since that mishap, advancing his record to 28-1. The youngest Magdaleno brother, Marco, was 4-0 as a pro when he abandoned the sport, having secured a job with good pay and benefits in the construction field.

Diego has applied some of his ring earnings toward a real estate investment in Scipio, Utah, where he owns a parcel of land adjacent to a pioneer home. Scipio is a four-hour drive from Las Vegas and figuratively a million miles away. What does one do for fun in Scipio, pop. 288? The first thing that popped up in our internet search was to go grab a sandwich at the Burger Barn.

There’s a back story there. The pioneer home, built in 1886, was recently purchased by Diego’s fiancée Shannon Torres, a descendent of one of Scipio’s founding families. She and Diego are restoring it. Diego professes to be amazed at the craftsmanship. “When we pulled up the carpets,” he said, “the original hardwood floors were still in great condition.”

Shannon Torres has a boxing background, having fought as an amateur and having sparred with the likes of Mia St. John. She is also a nutritionist. Diego confesses to having a sweet tooth, being fond of cheesecake and anything with peanut butter. “She knows how to make those things for me so they are not as unhealthy,” he says.

Magdaleno’s first loss came in April of 2013 when he lost a split decision to Ramon Martinez in Macao. Diego thought he won the fight, but only one of the judges concurred. At stake was Martinez’s WBO 130-pound world title. His second world title opportunity came against WBO lightweight champ Terry Flanagan on Flanagan’s turf in Manchester, England. That didn’t go well.

“When I got in the ring, it felt like there was sand under my shoes,” said Diego. “My right foot was sliding underneath me. I overcompensated and that caused me trouble.” Magdaleno loaded up on his punches, a fatal mistake, and was knocked out in the second round.

Top Rank dropped Magdaleno after that fight but would eventually bring him back to fight their rising star Teofimo Lopez. His fight with Austin Dulay was his first fight back after his loss to Lopez (TKO by 7) and his first with new trainer Bones Adams (pictured on the left) in his corner.

Mag

Isaac Cruz poses a different threat than Dulay partly because Cruz, who stands only 5’4 ½”, is a lot shorter. But Magdaleno is confident the result will be the same.

“His style is attack, attack, attack; it’s one-dimensional,” says Diego. “I have been in there and done things that this kid has never seen. I am a big step up for him.”

Unlike many prizefighters, Diego Magdaleno knows where he is heading after his career is finished; he is already a licensed real estate salesman with one listing to his credit. He’s bi-lingual despite having spent only three months living in Mexico, that as a first-grader, and his linguistic versatility will come in handy in his second career. “I know just enough Spanish to get by,” he says, but having heard him speak in his parents’ native tongue we can attest that he’s being much too modest.

For the time being, however, Diego isn’t looking past Saturday night. Magdaleno vs. Cruz is expected to go first on the four-fight PPV portion of the card which kicks off at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.

Magdaleno/Dulay photo credit: Stephanie Trapp

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Will Leo Santa Cruz’s High Volume Punching Stymie Big Hitter ‘Tank’ Davis?

Bernard Fernandez

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WBA “super” 130-pound champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis, short (5’5½”), short-armed (a 67½-inch reach) and powerful, has been described by some as a miniature Mike Tyson, which seems reasonable for an undefeated fighter who has won all but one of his 23 professional bouts inside the distance, more than a few of those knockouts of the spectacular variety. And if Davis’ comparisons to “Iron Mike” weren’t enough to stamp him as an emerging superstar, there is also the fact that he is a protégé of Floyd Mayweather Jr., the vainglorious owner of a 50-0 record and distinction as the richest prizefighter ever to lace up a pair of padded gloves. “Money” bills himself as TBE, “The Best Ever,” and he goes so far as to suggest that the big-hitting southpaw from Baltimore for whom he has such high hopes might someday approach his status as a cash-cow and true icon of the ring.

“The ultimate goal is to get him to surpass me,” the 43-year-old and ostensibly retired Mayweather said of the financial and fistic potential of Davis, who turns 26 on Nov. 7 and arguably is in the early stages of his prime. “I’ve been his age. Where he’s trying to go to, and what he’s trying to accomplish, I’ve already accomplished.”

Although Davis has appeared on the undercard of two Pay-Per-View shows headlined by his famous and fabulously wealthy mentor, both he and Mayweather consider his watershed Halloween night confrontation with WBA “super” featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs), in San Antonio’s Alamodome, as Tank’s real coming-out party. It is, after all, Davis’ first time atop his own Showtime PPV event, perhaps the first of several such marquee appearances if the level of public interest in him continues to spike. Ascending to PPV status is a rite of passage both men consider to be a significant key to all the boxing kingdom has to offer, an exclusive club to which many aspire but only a chosen few are allowed to join. The tariff to boxing fans is a $74.95 subscription fee.

“I said, `Tank, you under Mayweather Promotions. So, it’s May-Per-View,” Mayweather told the kid who would be he during the first episode of Showtime’s “All-Access,” the infomercial whose purpose is to help convince pandemic-strapped fight fans to open their wallets.

“I’m grateful for what Floyd did for me, as far as opening doors,” said Davis, who signed with Mayweather Promotions in 2015. “If it wasn’t for Floyd, I wouldn’t have been a champion at 22. He gave me a chance to fight on his Pay-Per-View card. Now I’m here, on my own Pay-Per-View.”

To hear Mayweather and Davis tell it, it is Tank’s singular, reputation-boosting turn in the spotlight, with Santa Cruz more or less along for the ride. The Vegas sports books seemingly are complicit in that perception, with Tank anywhere from a -$350 to a whopping -$710 favorite, odds which could fluctuate throughout the rest of the week as more and larger wagers are placed. Despite his being a four-division world champion, Santa Cruz, the 32-year-old, Mexican-born resident of Rosemead, Calif., whose current title is that of WBA “super” super feather ruler, also considers this particular bout to be historic as it is also his first PPV appearance. And, no, he isn’t bothered by the long odds against him (which range from +260 to +475) or Davis’ reputation as a compact instrument of pugilistic destruction.

“Nobody believes in me,” he said, almost reveling in his rare role as an underdog. “They think I’m this other guy. But I asked for this fight for a reason ’cause I want to prove myself. I’m going to compete and give my all. I’m not scared.

“Gervonta Davis is a great fighter with great skills, great power. I think he’s the most dangerous fighter in the division. Why not go after him? To prove to the people that I’m not scared of nobody.”

Santa Cruz might not pack as much power as Davis, but his forte is high-volume punching. When he defeated Vusi Malinga via 12-round unanimous decision for the vacant IBF bantamweight strap on June 2, 2012, in Carson, Calif., CompuBox statistics revealed he had unfurled a remarkable 1,350 punches, an average of just under 113 per round. Nor were those numbers an aberration for the human perpetual motion machine; in his two confrontations with Abner Mares, both of which were won on points by Santa Cruz, the read-out showed Leo connecting on a combined 730 of 2,115. Many opponents scarcely have time to think, much less react, when Santa Cruz is firing shots with machine-gun rapidity. No wonder he dares to believe Davis will be similarly flustered.

“I think so,” Santa Cruz said when asked if the quantity of his fusillade will more than offset Davis’ superior quality in terms of power. “When you have a fighter on top of you, throwing punches, he’s not letting you think; he’s frustrating you. He’s not letting you do nothing.

“If I do that, it could be dangerous ’cause he’ll be waiting to counterpunch me, to land those big shots, the uppercuts and hooks. So, I got to do a very smart fight, a perfect fight, to beat him.”

For TV purposes, the storyline outside the ropes sometimes is nearly as important in selling the product as what takes place inside them. In that regard Davis and Santa Cruz, so seemingly different in some regards, are strikingly similar in that they were children of poverty, hardly unusual for a sport where years of deprivation can stoke a burning desire to succeed. Santa Cruz’s motivation might even be hiked a bit higher because of the ongoing medical circumstances of his trainer-father, Jose Santa Cruz Sr.

Jose Sr. could be the star of his own medical reality series, the most recent episode being his near-death brush with COVID-19. But the patriarch of a boxing family (brothers Jose Jr., Antonio and Roberto are also involved in Leo’s career) had previously survived a bout with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection, and, in 2016, the diagnosis of Stage 3 myeloma, a blood cancer, that invaded his bones. The father had to undergo weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, and although he pulled through Leo cited concerns for his dad’s health as a contributing factor in his sole pro defeat, in which he relinquished his WBA super featherweight title, by 12-round majority decision, to England’s Carl Frampton on July 30, 2016. Santa Cruz avenged that setback, also by majority decision, six months later.

Jose Sr. continues to serve as Leo’s trainer, but so many medical crises have been met and overcome by the father that the son has learned, as best he can, to cope.

And the COVID-19 which again could have brought Jose Sr. the eternal 10-count?

“When he went (into the hospital), they gave us little hope,” Leo said of his dad’s most recent downward plunge on an emotional roller-coaster on which the entire family has been obliged to have seats. “They said he was going to pass away, that he wasn’t going to last the night. We were all depressed and crying. His lungs were failing, his heart was failing. He coded two times; he died and they brought him back to life.

“I had memories of when he used to go on the bus with me, pushing me in the gym, telling me what to do. All those memories were playing in my mind. I really didn’t think he was going to make it. I thought they were going to call us and say, `Hey, your dad passed away.’ But we prayed, we had hope. Thank God, the next day we were told our dad was still in critical condition, but he was doing a little bit better. Day by day he improved. God listened. He made a miracle. My dad survived. Even the doctors were saying that they didn’t know how that happened.”

As was the case with Santa Cruz, who recalls the occasions when the family’s electricity was shut off because of unpaid bills, Davis’ childhood also was hardly a real-life version of Leave It To Beaver. In 1999, while his father was in prison and his mom was battling drug addition, he was placed into child protective services at the age of five. For the next several years he shuttled between foster homes and shelters. But then, at seven, he found his way into the boxing gym run by Calvin Grove, who knew the pitfalls of life on the streets (he had served 10 years behind bars on drug offenses) as well as the need throw-away children such as Gervonta Davis had to finding someone and something to believe in. Ford, now 56, is so much more than Tank’s trainer now; he also is his father-figure and inspiration not to become another faceless, nameless crime statistic.

“Boxing, I would say, saved my life,” Davis said. “All the guys I came up with that were older than me, they got killed. If you got one foot in the street and one foot in the gym, it’s not going to work. You got to be all the way committed with something.

“When I came to the gym, I felt the love that I needed as a child. Calvin basically raised me. What I been through and what I seen coming up, I knew I don’t want to go backwards in life. I know what that brings.”

In addition to Davis-Santa Cruz, the PPV portion of the undercard features the return, after a layoff of 13 months, of former WBA and WBC Diamond super lightweight champion Regis “Rougaroo” Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs), in a 10-rounder against Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10 KOs); the WBA junior welterweight title matchup of San Antonio’s Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) vs. Ryan Karl (18-2, 12 KOs), and a lightweight scrap pitting Diego Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) against Isaac Cruz Gonzalez (19-1-1, 14 KOs).

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Mayweather Promotions

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