Weekend Briefing: Gervonta Davis, Naoya Inoue, Oleksandr Usyk, Jaime Munguía Win

It only took about 24 hours, but four significant fight cards happened on three different networks in the U.S. Many boxing fans managed to catch almost all of it live, but some of us need to consume it later. Some of us do both. Whatever your preference, the Weekend Briefing puts it all in one place for you.

Gervonta "Tank" Davis catches Leo Santa Cruz with a huge left hand, knocking him out in round 6 of their clash at the Alamodome (Credit: Sean Michael Ham)

For many years boxing has operated as if it just can’t get out of its own way, schedule-wise. Nobody in charge offers up a logical reason as to why competing TV networks host fight cards opposing one another on the same night, yet it happens plenty. That said, the advancement of recording technology and digitization made catching all four Halloween weekend victories from Gervonta Davis, Naoya Inoue, Oleksandr Usyk and Jaime Munguía highly achievable.

When you’re a boxing fan, however, it doesn’t stop when the fight ends. Many fans still consume news about post-fight happenings, rematches and the fights themselves during the week. Why can’t there just be a single article to catch everyone up?

Strap yourselves in because that single article is right here. (But it’s looking to mingle, for those interested.)

Clacking out more than a handful of words about how lame 2020’s boxing was through seven of the first nine months feels like a waste at this point. We all know it, and now the abundance of fights are helping us past the trauma of that dry spell. The favorites all triumphed in the major fights of the weekend, but the combination of ceaseless fight cards and competitive match-ups overshadowed most action shortcomings.

DAZN – Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California

Jaime Munguía crashed onto the junior middleweight scene with a dominant stoppage of Sadam Ali in 2018. His raw punching power and tenacity conjured forth the ancient fight superlatives and made the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico native a fan favorite, though some trumpets may have sounded prematurely.

Unfortunately there wasn’t anything premature about the stoppage when Munguía literally tore Tureano Johnson‘s lip in the main event of their middleweight scrap on DAZN. Johnson didn’t answer the bell for for round 7 after some bloodthirsty ringside physician allowed him to continue for the last portion of the 6th despite a close inspection.

Tureano Johnson’s lip almost fell straight off his entire head, the result of a brutal right uppercut from Jaime Munguía (Courtesy: DAZN)

The timing of the stoppage shouldn’t detract from Munguía’s performance, which didn’t produce thrills but confirmed the 24-year-old is capable of handling middleweights. Johnson, Nassau, Bahamas, is usually good for an awkward challenge at a minimum, but he chose to shove forth and employ a style that walked him into Munguía’s power. In fairness, Munguía’s time with fellow Tijuanense Érik Morales noticeably paid off and Johnson may not have expected the youngster to fire off counters from his back foot effectively. In any case, Johnson, 21-3-1 with 15 knockouts, offered Munguía the opportunity and the latter took it.

As most fighters do after they fight, Munguía said in his post-fight interview he would be willing to take on anyone. But he also sounded more guarded about when he would be in with someone like Saul “Canelo” Álvarez. Indeed it’s not easy to gauge exactly how high in class Munguía, 36-0 with 29 knockouts, can go, but the Johnson win gifted Munguía some lesser version of the WBO middleweight title, likely lining him up for Demetrius Andrade, who holds the “legit” version.

In the co-feature, WBO junior flyweight champion “La Pulga” Elwin Soto brought his record to 18-1 with 12 knockouts, earning a 12 round unanimous decision over Carlos “Chocorroncito” Buitrago. Soto, from San Felipe, Baja California, edged Buitrago by landing the cleaner and harder punches despite a respectable effort from the Managua, Nicaragua native. Buitrago, 32-6-1 with 18 knockouts, out-worked Soto and appeared to nearly turn the tide in the middle rounds before the champion slid away with the fight and his belt.

DAZN – Wembley Arena, London, United Kingdom

If you’re someone who resents how social media-friendly Oleksandr Usyk is, you were disheartened to learn he handed Dereck “Dereeeeeck” Chisora a unanimous decision loss. But even Usyk fans might not have been optimistic about his chances against top-flight heavyweights as Chisora managed to bully the Ukrainian, forcing him to expend serious energy for the win.

Oleksandr Usyk and Dereck Chisora hang out after their fight and share burgers (via Oleksandr Usyk’s Instagram)

Chisora, 32-10 with 23 knockouts and fighting out of London, threw off Usyk’s rhythm by pressing forward, occasionally behind a hard jab, and preventing Usyk from setting his feet. As Usyk’s social media accounts attest, the former cruiserweight champion thrives on using deft footwork, and Chisora’s aggression and awkward lunges disrupted it all. Though now 18-0 with 13 knockouts, the 33-year-old Usyk could be too out-gunned against big men better than Chisora.

Usyk does walk away with another victory against a heavyweight and the good news is his chin appears sturdy thus far. That climb from even the top-15 in the division to the top-5 is steep, though.

Every heavyweight’s cash-out fight is Anthony Joshua at this point and Usyk is no different. That he shares a network with Joshua makes Usyk really no different. But the only universally-craved heavyweight showdown is an all-U.K. donnybrook between Joshua and Tyson Fury. Anything else is a likely build-up to that.

There’s always at least one obligatory weird decision in a given boxing weekend, and Australian lightweight George Kambosos, Jr. taking a 12 round split decision from Lee Selby stuck out in the co-feature. Kambosos surprised Selby with hand speed and at worst made the fight close, though one judge gifted Kambosos 10 rounds 12. Selby, Barry, Wales, falls to 28-3 with 9 knockouts while Kambosos improves to 19-0 with 10 knockouts.

ESPN+ – The Bubble, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada

I’ll skip the monster puns and catchphrases. Nothing I could come up with would be as entertaining as Naoya Inoue is in the ring anyway. His successful ascension from 108 lbs. to 118 is enough to earn him forgiveness and good will toward underwhelming performances, yet Inoue refuses to disappoint. 20-0 with 17 knockouts, Inoue turned back a respectable effort from Jason Moloney to defend the unified bantamweight championship with a jarring 7th round TKO.

Naoya Inoue uncorks a right hand to stop Jason Moloney in the 7th round and defend the bantamweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Courtesy: Top Rank)

Early in the fight Moloney actually kept up with Inoue in spots, jabbing with the champion and applying pressure. Inoue, Yokohama, Japan, has fight-changing power and accuracy, however, and ended a few rounds clearly overwhelming Moloney. In round 6 a counter left hook dropped Moloney, Kingscliff, Australia, and he maneuvered his way to the bell. There simply was nowhere to hide after that.

While telegraphing a right hand and lazily pulling back a setup jab in round 7, Moloney absorbed a crunching counter right hand that collapsed him. Inoue’s delivery of the shot was so viciously quick and clean it’s tough to imagine many bantamweights capable of fighting through punches like that.

Moloney, 21-2 with 18 knockouts, has nothing to be ashamed of. Inoue is a special fighter. His style — the kind that transcends language barriers — needs no adjusting. Attaining true superstardom or celebrity in the U.S. might not be within many fighters’ reach, much less a sub-featherweight non-American. But hardcore fight fans want access to a fighter who would have been relegated to the international fight report pages of The Ring in decades past. If Inoue’s fighting someone, we’re watching.

2016 Olympian Mikaela Mayer captured the WBO junior lightweight title with a wide decision over Ewa Brodnicka on the Inoue-Moloney card, bringing her record to 14-0 with 5 knockouts. Brodnicka, fighting out of Warsaw, Poland, lost her title on the scale for being unable to make weight, then two points for excessive clinching as Mayer moved forward and did good work to the body and upstairs. When Mayer pressed Brodnicka had no answer inside. Brodnicka is now 19-1 with 2 knockouts.

Showtime PPV – Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

When word of Gervonta Davis‘ fight against Leo Santa Cruz hit social media, reaction was understandably lukewarm. For starters it would be a $75 Pay-Per-View, but Santa Cruz could be an older 32 and notably smaller than “Tank” Davis. When Davis smoked Santa Cruz with a left uppercut to produce a frightening highlight-level knockout, most other concerns fell to the wayside. Frankly some of us are still shaken up by that punch.

Gervonta Davis’ left hand knockout of Leo Santa Cruz on Showtime PPV was the stuff of nightmares (Courtesy: Premier Boxing Champions/Showtime)

The price tag is still unappealing and Santa Cruz probably was indeed out-sized, but Davis, 24-0 with 23 knockouts, had ice in his veins when he threw that punch. Santa Cruz is tough to dent, much less put directly to sleep, and Davis put everyone from 130 to 135 pounds on notice that snacking on his punches is detrimental to their health.

Many will point out how Santa Cruz, 37-2-1 with 19 knockouts, managed to win at least a round or two from Davis, or how “Tank” looked rather pedestrian before the knockout. While valid points, Santa Cruz is deceptively-skilled and more than a mere pressure fighter. He moved and punched well on Davis, Baltimore, Md., who adjusted more than he likely anticipated having to. Additionally, it sure appeared that Davis threw caution to the wind in the last round or so gunning for the knockout.

Teófimo López, Jr. scored the shock win over Vasiliy Lomachenko, vanquishing a consensus higher-quality opponent, but Davis’ obliteration of Santa Cruz was so thorough it can’t be overlooked on the 130-135 pound landscape.

Beyond Davis’ in-ring performance, he showed class in offering support to Santa Cruz, Huetamo, Michoacán, and his ailing father afterward. The gesture also demonstrated some much-needed maturity. At only 25, a focused and determined “Tank” Davis is dangerous indeed.

Regis Prograis and Mario Barrios picked up wins on the PPV undercard, while Diego Magdaleno fell to 3-4 in his last seven bouts, succumbing to the swarming attack of Isaac Cruz González in just 53 seconds.

By the look of it, whatever boxing we missed earlier in the year is getting jammed into the final three months whether we like it or not. Luckily we like it just fine and another multi-network weekend awaits.

In the meanwhile, check out the Knuckles and Gloves Boxing Radio podcast on apps like Apple, Spotify and Google.

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