It was just a four-round match but if drama is a factor, Kenny Davis Jr. is ready for prime time.
The lightweight boxer from Reno scored his third-straight win with a majority decision against Eduardo Sanchez (2-3) on Thursday in the opening fight on an ESPN broadcast from Las Vegas.
Davis appeared to be falling behind late in the third round when he turned the tide, landing a ferocious left uppercut to the side. Sanchez backpedaled and took a knee. Just after Sanchez went down, Davis connected with a right hook to the jaw. Sanchez barely beat the 10-count and Davis was nearly disqualified.
Energized by the knockdown, Davis stepped up his pace. Both boxers appeared tired and were breathing through their mouths in the bout’s final minute. Just as it seemed that he might be headed to a clear decision, Davis dropped his mouthpiece for the second time. Referee Robert Hoyle penalized Davis a point, making a very close fourth round critical to a decision.
Although there were no fans in the MGM Grand Conference Center, there was plenty of tension displayed by the handlers and fighters, both of whom raised their hands in victory before the judges’ decision was read.
Judge Natalie Teyrrell scored it 37-37 and both Max DeLuca and Linda Giampa had it 38-36 in favor of Davis, who improved his record to 3-2-1.
Davis took the fight on one week’s notice. He had been training daily at his father-trainer’s home gym in Reno. Davis also had sparred many rounds as he helped Carson City fighter Diego Elizondo prepare for a bout early this month.
Davis was the busier boxer in the first round against Sanchez. He mostly threw jabs to the head. Throughout the fight, there was not much lateral movement from either man. Davis, who prides himself in counter punching, did just that in the final seconds of the opening round, landing a one-two combination, but Sanchez answered with a solid hook.
Sanchez was far more active in the second round, throwing 130 punches compared to 55 by Davis, according to ESPN. Davis appeared to be waiting for a chance to land a counter punch.
Davis opened slowly in the third and a mouse on his right eye became as red as his heart tattoo on his face. Showing fatigue, Davis dropped his mouthpiece to the canvas.
But Sanchez was getting tired, too.
“I noticed he was spending a lot of energy keeping me off of him,” Davis said. “I was blocking 90 percent of what he was throwing.”
Lightning struck in the form of a right hook followed by a wicked left to Sanchez’s liver. Perhaps compensating for Davis’ late blow to the unprotected Sanchez, Hoyle’s count seemed as if it were in slow motion. Sanchez rose after the count reached nine.
“It took me a while to realize he was hurt, I thought, ‘Why am I giving him space?’” Davis said. “I lunged as he went to his knee and I couldn’t take the punch back. I felt bad because I am not a dirty fighter.”
Before the fourth, there was a delay as a doctor examined Sanchez and Hoyle reprimanded Davis, saying he could have lost the fight by disqualification for the late punch.
Both boxers fought with a sense of urgency in the fourth. An ESPN announcer described the bout as “wildly entertaining.”
After the final bell rang, Davis returned to his corner where his trainer and father gave him one final instruction.
“Pops said, ‘Get your damn hands up in the air. You won this fight!’ ”
After the decision, the fighters spoke briefly and Davis could be heard apologizing for the late punch, saying “I was in the moment.”
Tales of Davis’ troubled past have been frequently told. But his daughter’s birth motivated him to change his lifestyle. Now he has three-straight wins.
“I will be back in the gym tomorrow,” he said. “My mind was far from boxing before but now I feel like a million dollars and am ready get more victories and move up the ranks.”