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Porter’s Quantity Gets Nod, and WBC Title, over Garcia’s Quality

Bernard Fernandez

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For the three individuals charged with the responsibility of determining the winner of Saturday night’s Showtime-televised main event for the vacant WBC welterweight championship, the task must have seemed like deciding where to go to dinner on a given evening. Do the prospective diners opt for quantity, and head for the all-you-can eat buffet at the neighborhood shopping center? Or do they go for something of ostensibly higher quality, but with entrees off the menu that offer smaller, less-filling portions?

If the scorecards of judges Don Ackerman, Julie Lederman and Eric Marlinski, and punch statistics compiled by CompuBox, are any indication, Shawn Porter’s unanimous decision over Danny Garcia was a collective vote for the all-you-eat buffet. Porter, known for his frenetic work rate, unfurled an astounding 270 more punches than Garcia over the 12-round distance at the Barclays Center, but connected with only 12 more and at a much lower accuracy rate (180 of 742, 24 percent,  to Garcia’s 168 of 472, 36 percent). The gap in power-punch percentile was even wider, with Garcia landing 139 of 304, 46 percent, to 134 of 544, 25 percent, for the eventual winner.

All that remained after the last punch had been thrown was for the verdict of the empaneled judiciary to offer their assessment. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. informed what remained of an audience of 13,058 spectators – a sizable portion of the red-clad Polish fans who had come to see cheer Polish-born heavyweight Adam Kownacki on his way to a unanimous, 10-round decision over Charles Martin had vacated the premises after their hero’s victory – to read the tabulated scores. After Lennon noted that the decision had been arrived at unanimously, both fighters’ corners anxiously awaited to hear which of their stylistically different approaches would be rewarded.

The nod would go to Porter, a former IBF 147-pound champion, who was seen as the winner on the cards submitted by Ackerman (116-112), Lederman (115-113) and Marlinski (115-113).

“Throughout the fight we thought we had a hold (of a victory on points), but my dad (Kenny Porter, who trains his son) wasn’t so sure, given what’s happened before (on close decisions at Barclays that have gone against both Porter and Garcia),” Porter said. “When I heard `unanimous decision,’ I just wanted to hear my name. The moment I heard my name, I was just, like, `Wow.’”

Not hearing his name called elicited the same reaction, if more frustratingly so, from Garcia, and it was much the same as he and his father-trainer, Angel Garcia, felt the last time Danny had fought at Barclays, on March 4, 2017, when the then-WBC welterweight champ lost a split decision in his unification showdown with WBA titlist Keith Thurman.

“He threw more punches than me, but I landed at a higher percentage of my shots,” a clearly disappointed Garcia said during his wee-hours turn at the post-fight press conference after the exultant Team Porter had exited. “I thought that would be enough to win the fight. It was a close fight, but I thought it should have went my way. The judges didn’t see it that way.

“It is what it is. That’s the way (Porter) fights. He got an ugly style. I don’t know how to feel right now. I’m a true champion. I thought I landed cleaner punches. My defense was good. He threw a lot of punches, but they weren’t effective. I just got to sit back now and see what’s next for me.”

Not surprisingly, Angel Garcia, the most vocal conspiracy theorist this side of film director Oliver Stone, saw his son’s latest defeat by pencil as some sort of deep-state plot that owed not so much to judges’ perception as to a more sinister rationale.

“We didn’t lose that fight, bro,” the always-combative Angel said. “It was b—s— politics. That’s all it was. Danny had the cleaner shots. We won the first seven rounds easy.

Opinions will vary, of course, but even the staunchest Garcia loyalists – and they were definitely a larger, more vocal contingent than the Porter cheering section, not surprising given the fact Garcia was fighting at Barclays for the seventh time and was coming from relatively nearby Philadelphia – might concede that Thurman had done enough to win when they squared off 18 months ago. The Porter fight, however, left enough gray area so that the consequences of the verdict will be debated for some time to come. While Garcia, still a relatively young man in a boxing sense at 30, will have to assess a future that likely will require a couple of reputation-replenishing victories to again put him in line for another title shot, Porter, also 30, finds himself in a favorable enough situation where his options all should yield high exposure and fat paydays in the foreseeable future.

Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), who has been on the shelf with injuries and whose vacated WBC title was on the line (he still holds the WBA belt), was in the house as was IBF welterweight ruler Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs), who is considered by many to be the best welterweight around and the path to the Willy Wonka-style golden ticket for all aspirants to the division’s most well-appointed throne room.

Spence entered the ring after Porter was revealed as the winner to offer himself as a true litmus test of welterweight supremacy, at a date that likely will come in the first quarter of 2019. Team Porter would prefer that that unification bout be held sooner, but Spence apparently prefers to first take a fight with another attractive opponent, WBC/IBF lightweight champ Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs), who is hot to move up a couple of divisions to test himself against a fellow pound-for-pound contender.

Asked who he would like his son to mix it up with next, Kenny Porter said, “Errol Spence, Errol Spence, Errol Spence. If anybody decides to do anything other than that, that’s not in our control. But we want to fight Errol Spence. I don’t want to see Shawn fight ’til he’s 40 years old. I want him to fight the prime guys now while he’s in his prime – Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Errol Spence, Bud Crawford. Great fighters should make each other great. Let’s fight.”

If the Spence-Mikey Garcia fight puts Porter temporarily on hold, the newly crowned champion might have to choose on waiting for Spence’s dance card to have an opening, or filling in the time with a possible defense against Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs), who scored a workmanlike unanimous decision over Argentina’s Cesar Barrioneuevo (34-4-2, 24 KOs) in a WBC welterweight elimination, which was a part of the three-fight Showtime portion of the card.

“I want the winner of Danny Garcia vs. Shawn Porter,” Ugas said after he pitched a shutout at Barrionuevo, who seemed disinclined to engage. “I’m here to compete with the top-level guys in the sport.”

Although it had been widely predicted that Garcia-Porter would be a Fight of the Year candidate, and it wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, the best fight of the night – and easily the loudest – was the close but unanimous decision for Kownacki (18-0, 14 KOs) over former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin (25-2-1, 23 KOs). So raucous were the Kownacki supporters – like Garcia, he was making his seventh appearance at Barclays – you would have thought they had been handed megaphones upon entering the building.

All three judges went for Kownacki by scores of 96-94.

“I think the fans liked it,” said Kownacki, who is ranked No. 10 by the WBC. “It was a good fight. I worked very hard to look impressive tonight.  I proved tonight that I’m a top 10 fighter at heavyweight. I need a few more fights before the title shot. But it’s coming.

“I thought I won the decision a little wider than the cards, but Charles came to fight all night. He was in shape and coming forward and I had to dig deep.”

And the vocal support of his fans, who chanted his name throughout and with fervor reminiscent of how teenage girls reacted during Beatles concerts back in the day?

“The Polish fans were awesome tonight,” Kownacki allowed.  “It definitely gave me a boost. It’s a blessing. They’re the best in the world.”

Martin, like Garcia, figured he deserved better than congratulations for a nice effort, and a nice parting gift that goes to losing game-show participants. “I believe I (should have) got the win,” he complained. “I did work on the inside and no one saw that. I did really good work on the inside.”

Not on the Showtime portion of the card, but nonetheless entertaining, was the 10-round unanimous decision for Brooklyn-born Amanda Serrano (35-1-1, 26 KOs) over Argentina’s Yamila Esther Reynoso (11-5-3, 8 KOs) for the WBO women’s junior welterweight championship. Serrano, a six-time world champion, said she believes the next move in her quest for something approaching gender equity is to get the kind of TV exposure the guys get.

“I hope this fight shows the fans that girls can fight and we can give it our all just like the men do,” Serrano said. “We deserve this platform and we deserve to be shown.”

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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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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