Gervonta Davis is an unbeaten pay-per-view star, a three-division and five-time champion and perhaps the premier knockout specialist in the sport.
And if you ask two-time welterweight champion Shawn Porter, “Tank Davis” is “the best fighter at 130, 135 and 140” pounds.
“We just finished five rounds of sparring with Tank Davis. I think Tank Davis has been the best fighter at 130, 135 and 140. It’s no secret that he’s not going back to 130, so we can eliminate 130,” Porter said following a recent sparring session with Davis 9,000 feet above sea level at the B.E.S.T. Program Gym at The Spring Mountain Detention Camp an hour outside of Las Vegas.
“Tank is the best fighter at 135, and I believe he’s the best fighter at 140,” Porter added. “I have not seen anyone at 140 who can handle Tank. Tank is a sharpshooter who is very fast and who is a very good counterpuncher who can throw the right punch at the right time. That speaks well of him going into his next fight.”
The “next fight” for Davis (25–0, 24 KOs) is a Dec. 5 defense of his WBA “regular” 135-pound title against Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (22–1–1, 15 KOs), who could represent the southpaw’s 17th straight knockout victim when they clash at Staples Center in Los Angeles in a Premier Boxing Champions event on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
“I definitely appreciate the words from Shawn Porter,” said Davis, a Baltimore native who turned 27 on Nov. 7. “Shawn is a top guy who has been in with the top guys, so I appreciate that.”
Porter’s assertion came two weeks before his 10th-round TKO loss to the WBO’s 147-pound champion Terence Crawford (37–0, 28 KOs) on Nov. 20, after which he announced his retirement.
“Those are wonderful comments from Shawn Porter, and Tank is one of the best fighters in the world,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “But our focus isn’t that. Tank just has to go out there and continue to be the best version of himself.”
Porter’s declaration encompasses a trio of 135-pounders in IBF/WBA/WBO and WBC (franchise) champion Teofimo Lopez (16–0, 12 KOs), WBC counterpart Devin Haney (26–0, 15 KOs) and three-division title winner Vasyl Lomachenko (15–2, 11 KOs).
Lopez will be in action against Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. (19–0, 10 KOs) on Saturday, Haney battles former champion Joseph Diaz (32–1–1, 15 KOs) on Dec. 4, and southpaw Lomachenko fights former champ Richard Commey (30–3, 27 KOs) on Dec. 11.
“I’m excited and grateful to be in this position,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to continue to grow as a fighter and just improve each day.”
Also included are WBO 130-pound titleholder Shakur Stevenson (17–0, 9 KOs) and IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO 140-pound titleholder Josh Taylor (18–0, 13 KOs), who has a clash of southpaws with Jack Catterall (26–0, 13 KOs) on Feb. 26.
Davis holds the WBA’s 140-pound “regular” title with Taylor being that organization’s super champion.
“We knew many years ago when other fighters were pound-for-pound at that time that Floyd Mayweather was one the best fighters in the world,” Ellerbe said. “It’s no different with Tank. It’s just a matter of time before everyone catches on, and then, it’s going to be what it’s going to be.”
Cruz represents the third straight pay-per-view opponent for Davis, whose past three victories are a 12th-round knockout of three-division title winner Yuriorkis Gamboa (December 2019), a sixth-round KO of four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz (October 2020), and an 11th-round TKO that dethroned previously unbeaten WBA 140-pound champion Mario Barrios (June 2021).
Gamboa hit the deck three times as Davis won the WBA’s vacant lightweight crown, a ripping left uppercut left Santa Cruz knocked out for the first time in his career and Barrios was floored three times to fall to 26–1 (17 KOs).
“Barrios had decent power and I felt it,” said Davis, who yielded both height (5-foot-5 and a half to 5-foot-10) and reach (67 and a half to 71 inches) to Barrios, 26.
“It was so powerful that I didn’t want to get hit cleanly multiple times. Me fighting at 140, in the future, that will probably be good, but for right now, I wanna stay at 135 and focus on Isaac Cruz.”
Fighting for the third time this year, Cruz is 17–0–1 (12 KOs) since falling by eight-round unanimous decision to Luis Miguel Montano in February 2016.
“The Pitbull’s” aggressive style portends an action-packed fight with Davis, particularly in light of his past four bouts, three of which went the distance.
“Defeating Gervonta Davis is the only thing on my mind. When I win, I know he’s going to want the rematch,” Cruz said. “I can promise that I will train twice as hard for that fight when it happens. I am going to pull off the upset, and a brand-new star will be born on Dec. 5.”
In consecutive bouts in February and October 2020, Cruz earned a 10-round majority decision over Thomas Mattice, who entered at 15–1–1 (11 KOs), and scored a two-knockdown, 53-second stoppage of two-time world title challenger Diego Magdaleno.
Cruz followed those triumphs with consecutive 12- and 10-round unanimous decisions over Jose Romero and Francisco Vargas in March and June, respectively. Romero entered at 24–0 (8 KOs) and Vargas at 27–2–2 (19 KOs).
“Cruz has impressed me in his past fights. He comes in there to win. He doesn’t look to just hang in there. Cruz is one of those people who come forward and throw a lot of punches,” Davis said.
“We will both come forward. I can box and I can hit. We’ll see what he’s saying when he gets hit in the face. People say I’m only a power puncher, but this will be another chance to display my boxing skills.”
Those skills were on display against Barrios.
“Being that Barrios was my first time fighting at 140 with eight-ounce [gloves,] I didn’t know how hard he hit,” Davis said. I didn’t wanna get caught by someone who is a natural 140-pounder and get clipped. The first couple of rounds, I really didn’t throw that many punches.”
“I just let him wear himself out, making him throw punches and miss, being there and not being there,” Davis added. “It makes you more tired when you’re throwing punches and not hitting anything, so I let him throw his punches, wear himself out, and then I started attacking.”
Davis’ only distance fight was in October 2014 against hammer-fisted German Meraz, who was floored twice during a shutout unanimous decision loss. A year later in October 2015, Davis scored a two-knockdown, third-round TKO of former world champion Cristobal Cruz.
“Tank” earned his initial crown via seventh-round TKO in January 2017 by dethroning previously unbeaten IBF 130-pound champion Jose Pedraza and defended it that May in London by flooring previously undefeated southpaw Liam Walsh for a third-round TKO.
An overweight Davis lost that title on the scales in August 2017 before scoring an eighth-round knockout of previously unbeaten Francisco Fonseca in his next fight, doing so on the undercard of Mayweather’s victory over Connor McGregor.
In succession, Davis regained the WBA’s version of the crown via three-knockdown, third-round TKO of left-handed former champion Jesus Cuellar in April 2018, and made two defenses of the WBA crown in 2019 — first- and second-round knockouts of former titleholder Hugo Ruiz (February) and Ricardo Nunez (July) before rising to face Gamboa.
After Pedraza lost to Davis, the switch-hitter’s second loss was at 135 pounds 23 months later in December 2018 by unanimous decision to Lomachenko.
Pedraza had won three straight 135-pound bouts after falling to Davis before being floored twice during a 40-plus punch 11th round by Lomachenko, a two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist whose run of eight straight knockouts ended against Pedraza.
In October 2020, Lomachenko lost a unanimous decision to Lopez, who added Lomachenko’s WBA, WBC (franchise) and WBO 135-pound belts to his IBF version. Lomachenko rebounded with June’s ninth-round TKO of Masayoshi Nakatani.
“I believe that Tank’s style and Lomachenko’s style match up very well. I can’t pick a winner, but I think Tank is fast, strong and sharp enough to beat Lomachenko,” said Porter, who also serves as a ringside boxing analyst and commentator.
“What I feel now about a fight between Tank Davis and Vasyl Lomachenko is that it is the best fight that can be made at 135. I have Tank No. 1 and Lomachenko No. 2 at 135, even though Teofimo has all of the belts.”
How does Davis believe he does against Taylor, Lopez, Lomachenko, Haney or Stevenson?
“We’ve just got to wait and see. But those days are gonna come,” Davis said. “I’m just ready to put on a great show on Dec. 5.”
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Kristen Butler