In front of a sold-out crowd at Staples center, or what will soon be known as Crypto.com Arena, Isaac Cruz stepped up to fight on just over one month’s notice. His opponent, Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who was going to be a much tougher test than Davis had originally planned on against Rolando Romero. Cruz was able to give Davis almost all he could handle for 12 rounds at Los Angeles’ Staples Center before Tank was able to pull out a narrow unanimous decision win.

From the opening bell, Cruz fought as he almost always does: bulling his way forward to close the distance and keep his opponent from getting comfortable. Davis, a traditionally slow starter, made the necessary adjustments to Cruz’s style beginning around the third round, dialing in with the uppercuts and using movement to keep Cruz from getting inside.

“That’s my style” stated Cruz. “Pitbull is always going to be on the attack. I think we retained rhythm from the start to the end. If the fans want to see a rematch, we’ll do it.”

Isaac Cruz (black trunks) lands a right hand to the face of Gerovante Davis during their lightweight title bout at Staples Center. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

Davis was able to land many of his trademark power shots in a rare role as the taller man in the fight, but even as his heavy hooks and uppercuts landed, Cruz never appeared hurt. That may have been a product of Davis suffering a hand injury midway through the fight.

As the rounds wore on, whether a product of Cruz’s chin, Davis’ hand, or both, it was clear Cruz was not going anywhere and he began to turn the momentum of the fight his way, pulling increasingly close on the scorecards as both men continued to land clean, powerful strikes.

“I hurt my left hand in probably the sixth round but I’ve got to throw it,” Davis said after the fight. “I have to go get it checked out. It’s shaking but it is what it is, that’s what comes in the sport.”

Davis was able to do just a little better in just enough rounds to earn the victory, including in what turned out to be the most important round of the fight, picking up Round 12, in a spot that likely saved him from a draw as the official scorecards read 116-112, 115-113, 115-113.

Gerovante Davis (left) lands a punches while Isaac Cruz is against the ropes. Staples Center. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

Edging out the victory keeps Davis in a solid position in the lightweight division. After George Kambosos Jr. was able to upset Teofimo Lopez on Nov. 27 to capture three of the four recognized lightweight world championships and Devin Haney defended his WBC championship with a win over Joseph Diaz Jr. on Saturday, there are some big fights potentially on the table.

After dismissing the idea of a rematch with Cruz with a simple “hell no,” Davis was asked whether he’d stay at lightweight or move back up to super lightweight for his next fight.

“Whatever the best opportunity is out there for me. I’m here for it, man,” Davis said before being asked who in the lightweight division he’d most want to fight next. “All them guys are easy work. They’re easy work, man. Easy work. I’m the top dog.”

Cruz was only the second man to take Davis to the scorecards in Davis’ professional career. The decision victory ended a streak of 16 consecutive stoppage wins for Davis.

“Viva Mexico. I have nothing to say, the fans are speaking on who won this fight,” says Cruz.

For his part, Cruz did call for a rematch, claiming to have deserved the win. While a rematch seems unlikely, Davis made it clear that Cruz’s gutsy effort had made an impression.

“He’s a definite warrior,” Davis said “Even though he didn’t get the win, a star was born tonight.”

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.