Boxing: Previews, picks for Davis-Santa Cruz, Inoue-Moloney and Usyk-Chisora

·Combat columnist
·5-min read

In 2014, Floyd Mayweather met a then-19-year-old Gervonta Davis, who at the time was less than a year into his professional career. Mayweather autographed Davis’ phone, inscribing it “to the future champ.”

Davis has fulfilled Mayweather’s vision and is a two-division world champion. On Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in the main event against Leo Santa Cruz, he’ll attempt to win two belts at once.

He’s long been regarded as one of the sport’s top prospects. He’s now into his prime and enters the bout with Santa Cruz with a 23-0 record and 22 knockouts.

But in Santa Cruz, he’ll face a four-division champion who won’t be intimidated and who knows his way around the ring. Santa Cruz is 37-1-1 with 19 knockouts and is one of the savviest fighters in the sport.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 20:  Gervonta Davis of The United States celebrates with Floyd Mayweather following victory against Liam Walsh of England in the IBF World Junior Lightweight Championship match at Copper Box Arena on May 20, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Gervonta Davis celebrates with Floyd Mayweather following his victory against Liam Walsh in the IBF junior lightweight championship match at Copper Box Arena on May 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Davis clearly has the edge in power, but his competition level hasn’t been as good as Santa Cruz’s. When Davis won his first title, on Jan. 14, 2017, he did it by dominating then-unbeaten Jose Pedraza and stopping him in the seventh.

That was a prime and very highly regarded opponent and the then-22-year-old Davis tore through him.

“Gervonta is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport,” promoter Floyd Mayweather said. “He has the equalizer that can completely change a fight in one moment. He can put you to sleep with either hand.”

The key for him is to get inside on Santa Cruz, who has a two-inch height and reach advantage. Santa Cruz isn’t a knockout puncher, but he throws in volume and gives angles and controls distance well.

But because he throws so much, it will open himself up to counters, which he said he’s aware of and will be careful to try not to do.

“Gervonta is a big guy and I know he’s going to come hit hard,” Santa Cruz said. “But I’ve trained with bigger guys all camp and I’ve been able to take everything thrown at me. The fans want you to go and make it a back and forth war. I know against Gervonta I have to fight smart.”

Santa Cruz’s father, Jose, who has been ill, will be with him in San Antonio, and that should provide motivation.

But Davis is younger, quicker, more powerful and has less wear-and-tear on his body.

Kevin’s pick: Gervonta Davis is -750 at the MGM Grand Sports Book. Santa Cruz is +500. I like Davis to win by knockout, but I don’t want to lay that kind of money. Play Davis by KO or TKO (EVEN) instead.

Inoue-Moloney fight

The highly anticipated Las Vegas debut of Naoya Inoue will be Saturday at the MGM Grand Conference Center when he defends his IBF-WBA bantamweight title against Jason Moloney

Inoue is one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in the sport and is a dynamic athlete, with quick hands and good feet.

Moloney is a solid professional with no discernible weaknesses, but he is not as quick as Inoue nor nearly as powerful.

“I love being the underdog, and I love proving people wrong and going out there and, as I’ve said before, shocking the world,” Moloney said. “I know a lot of people don’t give me a chance in this fight, and that just gives me extra motivation and extra fire in the belly to go out there and show people what can be done.”

Inoue is a massive -1100 favorite, while Moloney is +650.

Kevin’s pick: I like Inoue to stop Moloney (-371) somewhere between the sixth and ninth rounds.

Usyk continues heavyweight roll against Chisora

Oleksandr Usyk, who is No. 6 on the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list, faces Dereck Chisora in London, in a bout that would make him Anthony Joshua’s mandatory challenger with a win.

The former undisputed cruiserweight champion is one of the best pure boxers in the sport and isn’t going to slug with Chisora.

“There will be no war,” Usyk said. “I bring peace — pure, clean boxing. He will definitely want to hurt me badly but I won’t stand in front of him. I don’t know why everyone is talking about a test at heavyweight because, all of my life, I have been tested by heavyweights. In the World Series of Boxing, I was a heavyweight. People wanted to hurt me but didn’t manage to. If the king of animals would be considered according to the size, then it would be elephant, not the lion. An elephant is a friend of the mouse!”

Chisora, though, is far better than anyone Usyk saw in the World Series of Boxing.

Kevin’s pick: Usyk is -950 and Chisora is +600 on BetMGM. I am going to take the money and lay $100 on Chisora to win $600. Usyk didn’t look good when he was hit by Chazz Witherspoon, and Chisora is far better and hits much harder than Witherspoon.

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