By David Greisman
It was a night spotlighting the 130-pound division — with two shows headlined by junior lightweight title fights.
One of them went completely as expected, with Gervonta Davis making quick work of Hugo Ruiz. The other brought a complete surprise, with Andrew Cancio — a supposedly second- or even third-tier fighter — getting up off the canvas and shocking Alberto Machado for a huge upset win.
More on each of those below.
After Taking Hugo Ruiz Out in One, Gervonta Davis Looks to Stay Busy
This wasn’t the fight Gervonta Davis was supposed to have. But he clearly made the best of a bad situation.
Davis was in against a late replacement opponent. If he put away Hugo Ruiz quickly, then he would be criticized by some for the mismatch. But if Davis struggled with Ruiz, he would be lambasted for having trouble against an undersized, lesser-skilled foe.
It was better for Davis to ensure the first option — win easily and then go on toward bigger things.
Davis was originally supposed to face Abner Mares on Saturday night in Southern California. Mares pulled out a week and a half before the fight, however, after suffering a detached retina in training camp.
Davis was favored to win against Mares. He was the natural 130-pounder, while the smaller Mares was coming up from 126 pounds. But Mares brought name recognition and a good reputation — he was a former three-division titleholder. While he hadn’t been one of the best at featherweight, Mares at least had been competitive with one of the best, dropping a pair of decisions to Leo Santa Cruz.
Replacing Mares was Ruiz, who was also moving up in weight. Ruiz had briefly held a world title at 122 pounds back in 2016, knocking out Julio Ceja but then getting stopped, surprisingly, by an old version of Hozumi Hasegawa.
Ruiz moved up to 126 in January, defeating Alberto Guevara easily on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner. Twenty-one days later, Ruiz was back in the ring.
And three minutes later, he was out of it.
Ruiz was the taller fighter. But size is measured in other ways. Davis was the bigger man. Ruiz could tell that from the outset.
“As soon as he started landing punches, I could feel them,” Ruiz said afterward.
Davis’ power is already considerable when in with fellow 130-pound opponents. Ruiz just couldn’t handle it.
Davis began the fight by attacking the body with single shots. That helped set up blows upstairs, one of which brought blood from Ruiz’s nose. Ruiz tried to keep Davis off him — landing a right upstairs about halfway through the round, attempting a right hand soon afterward but eating a counter left instead, battling his way out of the corner at another point with three missed punches.
As the round neared an end, Davis sent out a southpaw jab that was blocked, missed with a left cross, but used all of that to set up a right hook around Ruiz’s gloves. Ruiz remained standing at first, deciding to drop to a knee as Davis approached to follow up. Ruiz was hurt and didn’t want to take any more punishment.
Referee Jack Reiss counted to eight. Ruiz stood up. Reiss asked in Spanish multiple times if Ruiz wanted to continue. Ruiz didn’t respond. Not a word. Not a nod.
Reiss — who’s known for giving fighters a chance to continue, given that he is the same ref who allowed Tyson Fury to get up from that huge knockdown against Deontay Wilder last year — waved off the fight.
Davis is now 21-0 with 20 KOs. He’ll owe a fight to whomever wins a March bout between Edner Cherry and Ricardo Nunez. But given how little damage he took Saturday — if any at all — expect Davis to come back with another fight before then. Davis would love to headline in his hometown of Baltimore. He’s only fought there once before, back in 2013 when he was a 3-0 prospect. Davis has also performed five times just down the road in Washington, D.C., or in a nearby suburb.
Staying busy will be a welcome change for Davis. He fought three times in 2017 but only once last year.
Ruiz, meanwhile, is now 39-5 with 33 KOs. He’ll return to featherweight, of course, and will continue to work his way toward a title shot there. The 130-pound division is not for him. That is a painful lesson, but at least he learned it quickly.
Cancio Rises from Early Knockdown, Scores Shocking TKO of Machado
Andrew Cancio isn’t a superstar. He’s not even a star. That’s not meant to be an insult. It’s just the truth. Unlike many top prospects, contenders and world titleholders, Cancio must work a full-time job in order to make a living and support his family, all while training and fighting to try to turn his dream into a reality.
That discipline and dedication brought the 30-year-old the biggest victory of his career on Saturday night — a huge upset technical knockout win over Alberto Machado, earning Cancio a world title in the process.
He’ll have Monday off, he said. Then it’s back to work.
Yet this is still a big moment in Cancio’s life. This victory will earn him at least one more big fight. And, for now, he deserves the spotlight.
The spotlight was supposed to be on Machado, a titleholder who had been favored going into this fight for a good reason — and not just because of Cancio.
Machado had captured the title in 2017 from Jezreel Corrales, who himself had unseated longtime titleholder Takashi Uchiyama. Machado had defended his belt twice since and appeared to be improving further under the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach. He had height, standing tall over his opponents at 5-foot-10, and he had the kind of power that made his “El Explosivo” nickname suitable.
So when Machado knocked Cancio down in the first round, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Machado had thrown a southpaw left cross, missed with a right hook when Cancio ducked, but then caught Cancio with an uppercut. Cancio teetered down.
It was only a flash knockdown. It still seemed as if Machado’s power was going to be too much, as if a fighter like Cancio — who had lost four times before, had never beaten anyone near Machado’s level, and had basically retired from the sport in 2016 before coming back last year — stood no chance.
But then Cancio stood up, and stood up for himself.
He wasn’t badly hurt. He didn’t back down, coming forward undeterred and firing away. Cancio began to target Machado’s body in the second round, mixing in shots upstairs, sending out extended combinations. Machado seemed willing to exchange, retaliating with his own combinations when Cancio was done, then remaining in range when Cancio returned fire.
That wasn’t a wise choice for Machado. He was hittable, and Cancio was digging to the body with hard blows and also landing some flush punches to the head. Cancio seemingly rocked Machado with one of those shots as the second round came to a close.
“My coach said, ‘You’re hurting him up top,’ and I was. But he was standing up, so they’re like, ‘Start attacking the body.’ I listened to them,” Cancio said afterward.
Cancio went from battering Machado’s head in the third round to digging to the body in the fourth. About halfway through the round, Cancio landed a right to the body that put Machado down on one knee. Machado rose, and Cancio knew exactly where to go. More body shots had Machado down for a second time, and then a third, and then it was over.
Cancio is now 20-4-2 with 15 KOs. He will continue to be doubted by those who believe that the lanky Machado was weakened by making weight, by those who still feel he doesn’t have the speed or power to compete against the upper echelons of the 130-pound division.
But Cancio will at least get a chance to prove them wrong yet again.
Machado suffered his first loss and is now 21-1 with 17 KOs. He may end up heading to the lightweight division.
“I felt weak in there,” Machado said afterward. “The rematch would be nice, but I think I have to move up.”