Santa Cruz wants Gary Russell Jr. & Gervonta Davis fights
By Dan Ambrose: Leo Santa Cruz says he wants to setup a unification fight at 126 against Gary Russell Jr., and if he can’t get that fight, he plans on going after Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis at 130. Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) is focusing on facing the bigger names in unification fights or title shots. He wants to maximize the time that he has left in his career.
Santa Cruz targeting the champions at 126 & 130
Ideally, WBA Super World featherweight champion Santa Cruz wants to stay at 126 long enough to unify the division by beating WBC champ Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs), IBF champion Josh Warrington (29-0, 6 KOs) and WBO champ Oscar Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs), but if those fights can’t be made, he’ll move up to super featherweight and go after unbeaten WBA Super World 130 pound champion Gervonta Davis (21-0, 20 KOs).
“I would like to fight Gary Russell Jr., because he says he wants to fight me,” said Santa Cruz to Thaboxingvoice. “He has the WBC belt, and that’s a belt that I want. He beat me in the amateurs. I want to get the rematch. I think in the pros it’s going to be different. If I beat him, I want to unify again against Josh Warrngton, and then a third fight against Carl Frampton. We’re working on a date to see if we can get a big name. If not, we’ll just want to fight.”
Russell Jr. fights only once a year
It could be difficult for Santa Cruz, 30, to get a fight against Russell Jr. though, since he only fights once a year. Russell, 31, already fought recently in stopping challenger Kiko Martinez in the fifth round last May in Brooklyn, New York. For a fight between Santa Cruz and Russell Jr. to take place this year, Russell would need to break his once a year routine to get back into the ring to face him in 2019.
It’ll be up to Russell whether he wants to start training camp for a second fight in 2019. Although Russell Jr. has spoken recently of wanting to be more active with his career, it remains to be seen whether he really means it. This would be a good test to see if Russell Jr. does want to fight more than once a year.
Santa Cruz to fight in late summer or early fall
“They told me it’s at the end of the summer or early fall,” said Santa Cruz. “We’re in the gym getting ready. So when they tell us, we’re going to be ready. I think he’ll [Russell Jr.] will want to fight me this year. But like I said, it’ll be up to the promoters to make the fight. For me, I want to fight him,” said Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is coming off of an easy 12 round unanimous decision win over fringe contender Rafael Rivera (27-3-2, 18 KOs) last February in Los Angeles, California. The scores were 119-109, 119-109 and 119-109. The boxing public was less than impressed with Santa Cruz’s choice of opponent, as Leo already had an easy win over an over-the-hill Abner Mares in his previous fight last year in June 2018.
Before that, Santa Cruz defeated Chris Avalos by an eighth round knockout in October 2017 in yet another mismatch. The fans want to see Santa Cruz fighting quality guys instead of fringe contenders and shot fighters. Santa Cruz has flown through the last two years of his career without fighting guys that are any threat to beating him, and that hasn’t helped his popularity. He’s been milking his WBA title.
The promoters might not want to make the fight between Santa Cruz and Russell Jr. yet for whatever reason. Both guys are heading to super featherweight anyway. As such, if they choose not to make the Santa Cruz-Russell Jr. fight now, they can still make the fight happen in 2020 at 130. As long as both guys are still winning, it’ll be an intriguing match for the boxing public.
Santa Cruz says he’ll go after Gervonta Davis if he can’t get big fight at 126
“If I can’t get the big fight to unify, then I want to move up to 130, and challenge Gervonta Davis,” said Santa Cruz. “He has a fight in July. So maybe I’ll fight to get used to 130. And then if things go good, then maybe fight Gervonta Davis.”
The plan for Santa Cruz is to move up to 130, take a tune-up, and then go after Gervonta. It’s an ambitious idea on Santa Cruz’s part, but it’s possible he can make that happen. Ultimately, it’ll be up to Tank Davis’ management whether they want to put him in with Santa Cruz. Gervonta is still young at 24, and his promoters have been reluctant to put him in with guys like Vasiliy Lomachenko due to his age. But perhaps they’ll feel more comfortable in letting Gervonta face Santa Cruz, because he’s not seen as being in the same league as Lomachenko. It’s a winnable fight for Gervonta due to the size, power and youth advantage he would have over Santa Cruz.
Gervonta Davis is beatable says Santa Cruz
“I know it’s going to be a really hard fight, but Gervonta Davis has never fought anybody that throws a lot of punches and presses him,” said Santa Cruz. “Gervonta is really good if you let him. If you’re not on top of him, he’s going to throw his punches. He’s going to be able to do what he wants. If you stay on top of him, he’s not going to be able to do what he wants, and he’s going to become frustrated and tired,” said Santa Cruz.
Davis has been knocking out his opposition early in his recent fights against Hugo Ruiz and Jesus Cuellar. However, those fighters aren’t in the same league as Santa Cruz in terms of talent, but they’re still quality guys. Gervonta made it look easy in knocking those fighters out quickly. Santa Cruz is going to have to raise his game if he doesn’t want to end up as another knockout victim for Geronta.
Santa Cruz to spar with bigger fighters to prepare for Gervonta
“We’re going to spar with bigger, heavier guys that have power, and are bigger than me,” said Santa Cruz. “If I go fight Gervonta, it won’t be a problem. I think that fight could happen. It’s easy to make. We’re both with the same promoters. I even said I want to fight him, and if possible they can make it. I think if I move to 130, I have to get stronger. I have to put on a little more weight. I have to work on my power punches, because the guys up there are bigger. The most I have to work on is my power. I think I’ll be able to keep that [high volume punching,” said Santa Cruz.