“There are many reasons why a person can’t be objective,” said trainer Stephen Edwards, “and it’s not all racism.”
‘Undervalued’ Gervonta Davis Follows Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Footsteps, To The Irritation Of Some
When it comes to Gervonta Davis and boxing media, there is fact, and there is fiction.
Davis, who may be boxing’s biggest draw this side of three-belt welterweight champion Errol Spence and four-division champion Canelo Alvarez, has dominated superior opponents to those of his junior lightweight, lightweight or junior welterweight counterparts and has proven to be the premier fighter at all three weight classes.
That’s a fact.
Just ask two-time welterweight champion Shawn Porter, who called “Tank” Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) “the best fighter at 130, 135 and 140” following a sparring session in November.
“It didn’t take the sparring session for me to know that Gervonta Davis was the best fighter at 135,” said Porter, an analyst for Showtime, Premier Boxing Champions and host of The Porter Way Podcast. “I already knew Tank was the complete package. Tank brings speed, power, explosiveness and ruthlessness just like Terence Crawford and Canelo Alvarez. Tank is definitely the best fighter at 130, 135 and 140.”
Those divisions include current and former lightweight titleholders George Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs), Devin Haney (27-0, 15 KOs), Teofimo Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) and Vasyl Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs) at 135 pounds as well as undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs).
Kambosos holds the 135-pound IBF/WBO and WBA super titles, Haney the WBC version, and Davis the WBA regular, wth Kambosos slated to face Haney on June 5 in Melbourne, Australia.
Yet Davis, a 27-year-old Baltimore native, is portrayed as unproven by boxing media compared to Kambosos, Lopez and Lomachenko despite having more stoppage wins than each member of that trio has victories, and three knockouts less than Haney’s win total.
That unproven part is certainly fiction.
“Gervonta Davis has been under-valued by some media,” said Sean Zittel of FightHype.com. “Gervonta is an elite, pound-for-pound guy with the whole package in terms of power, speed and skills.”
A three-division, five-time titleist, Davis has stopped all but two of his 26 opponents for a 96-percent knockout ratio that is second among world champions only to that of IBF/WBC 175-pound titleholder Artur Beterbiev (17–0, 17 KOs).
“Davis is one of the best punchers in boxing. I would say top 10 and maybe top five. He’s a brutal puncher with a variety of punches from both hands,” said trainer Stephen Edwards, author of the Daily Bread Mailbag on BoxingScene.com. “But Davis is much more than a puncher. He has elite-level boxing skills and elite stamina. Thus far, he’s been durable, shown an excellent chin and the ability to adjust.”
“Gervonta Davis is riding a three-fight streak against fighters ranked within the top 10 of their weight classes by TBRB or The Ring,” said boxing historian Cliff Rold of BoxingScene.com, referring to Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. “Romero will break that streak for Davis, but those are solid credentials for contemporary guys.”
A skin irritation?
Davis’ Hall of Fame promoter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., is a millionaire, five-division retired champion who believes the fact that “Tank” is following his blueprint angers some in boxing. Mayweather succeeded as his own promoter with no sponsorships, crediting boxing manager, Al Haymon, who created the Premier Boxing Champions platform.
“If you’re working with Al Haymon, you’re working with Floyd Mayweather because we’re one,” said Mayweather, 45, whose career record is 50-0 (27 KOs). “They don’t wanna see Tank win because they feel like they’re beating me because I dominated the game for so long.”
In December 2019, Forbes listed Mayweather as the highest-paid athlete of the decade, whose $950 million was $115 million more than any other athlete. In February, Celebrity Net Worth ranked Mayweather as the seventh-richest athlete on the planet with an estimated net worth of $450 million.
Is skin color a factor given that Davis, Mayweather and Haymon are black?
“Yes. But it’s not just summed up with 100 percent racism,” said Edwards. “It irritates some people that a black fighter can make above market value in terms of purses without taking 50/50 fights or fights as an underdog.”
“I think it aggravated people that Floyd Mayweather was able to do that over the last part of his career. It aggravates them even more that Tank Davis has been able to do it following a similar business module as Floyd Mayweather and making it without fighting any of his contemporaries.”
Edwards surmises that some members of the media are compromised by their relationships with promoters.
“There are many reasons why a person can’t be objective, and it’s not all racism. The issue comes up when a person on a big platform can’t be objective,” Edwards said. “Some of it is if they tell the truth, they will lose access to the fighters and won’t be able to interview them, go to their gyms and get video coverage anymore, so they suppress their integrity.”
Davis scored a seventh-round TKO of former champion Jose Pedraza 23 months prior to the Puerto Rican’s route-going loss to Lomache.
While a reporter’s account of Davis’ victory over Pedraza credited the Baltimorean’s ability to “land his accurate power shots seemingly at will,” the writer also attributed that to “questionable tactics of Pedraza, who took the fight directly to the explosive young puncher.”
“Pedraza was a world-class fighter,” said boxing analyst Ray Flores of Premier Boxing Champions, TGB Promotions and Fox Sports among others. “But the [narrative] was, ‘well, Pedraza fought the wrong fight.’
Nearly two years later that same writer called Lomachenko “the most versatile 135-pounder in the sport” in the aftermath of the Ukrainian’s triumph over Pedraza, as well as “a brilliant, creative boxer.”
‘Davis is the real deal’
Davis won his last fight in December by unanimous decision over Isaac Cruz despite injuring his left hand in the sixth round. “Tank’s” streak of consecutive knockouts ended at 16 against Cruz, but he says he aims to make quick work of Romero.
“I have unfinished business with ‘Rolly’ and still plan on punishing him for as long as the fight lasts,” said Davis, who will be in his fourth straight pay-per-view event against Cruz. “I’m going to be ready to put on a show on May 28 in front of all the great boxing fans at Barclays Center and around the world.”
From a monetary and popularity standpoint, Davis has consistently produced between 200,000 and 230,000 pay-per-view buys during his victories over the past two and a half years, including a 12th-round TKO of three-division champion 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).
Davis has since informed WBA President Gilberto Mendoza that he has vacated the crown he won from Barrios.
“When Gervonta knocked out Leo Santa Cruz at 130 pounds, it was, ‘well, Santa Cruz was a blown-up 126-pounder,’” said Flores. “When he went up two weight classes to 140 to beat Barrios, who was undefeated at the time , it was, ‘Barrios had a secondary title.’”
Porter admires how Davis overcame adversity against Isaac Cruz.
“I’ve never seen Tank under-perform, which says a lot about his courage, character and integrity. Davis had that hurt hand and remained consistent, not slowing down or becoming less aggressive when it was clear that something was wrong,” Porter said.
“That’s why Gervonta Davis is a sellout and the main attraction in Los Angeles when he’s from Baltimore. From a media standpoint, it’s long past the time to give this man the credit he deserves.”
Davis handled Cruz before a sold-out crowd of 15,850 at Staples Center that included Kambosos as well as current and former NBA stars Magic Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Paul Pierce, Kenny Smith and Kawhi Leonard.
“Cruz was putting hard pressure on Davis. Davis hurt his hand and still kept his focus and won the fight. Santa Cruz was even with Davis when he went to the body and took the fight over,” Edwards said. “Barrios was giving him serious trouble, and he turned the fight around with a right hook when most associate his power with his left hand. Davis is the real deal.”
‘The numbers don’t lie; this young man sells out’
A capacity crowd of 16,432 packed State Farm Arena in Atlanta to see his three-knockdown triumph over Barrios, and 14,686 witnessed Davis’ second round TKO of Ricardo Nunez at Royal Farms Arena in his native Baltimore in July 2019.
More than 9,000 witnessed Davis’ KO-Of-The-Year caliber victory in October 2020 at the Alamodome in San Antonio over Santa Cruz, who was knocked out for the first time — and knocked cold. It was the first time that fans were allowed to return to ringside following pandemic restrictions.
“We were in Atlanta a few months ago, and we had more fans at our fight than the [NBA’s Atlanta] Hawks had at their playoff game,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, which handles Davis.
“The numbers don’t lie. We’ve gone to the UK, we’ve gone to Baltimore, we’ve gone to New York. Everywhere Tank goes, this young man sells out. You can feel the energy [during his ring walk]. Tank has proven he’s the cash cow at 130, 135 and 140.”
Lomachenko won his last fight in December by unanimous decision over Richard Commey before only 8,555 at Madison Square Garden, and Kambosos floored and dethroned Lopez by split-decision in November at The Hulu Theater in New York, whose capacity is just 5,600.“Tank and [IBF/WBC/WBA welterweight champion] Errol Spence are bigger than any other mother**kers out there besides Canelo Alvarez,” Ellerbe said. “If there are opportunities that make sense in other weight classes then we’ll take a look.”
‘A comparative advantage’
“Davis has stopped at least seven current or former champions compared to Lomachenko’s six,” Rold said. “If you exclude Barrios — and you should in a world where Josh Taylor is an undisputed 140-pound champion – it’s tied at six.”
“Tank’s” run of 16 straight knockouts matches each of the win totals of Lomachenko and Lopez, and Davis has comparative advantages against common opponents over Lomachenko and Haney.
The then-22-year-old Davis’ victory over Pedraza earned the IBF 130-pound title in January 2017 and made him the sport’s youngest reigning champion at the time. Davis then traveled to London for his initial defense in May 2017, flooring Liam Walsh for a third-round TKO.
“When Gervonta beat Pedraza, Pedraza was an undefeated world-class champion. Then Gervonta went overseas for his first defense and obliterated an undefeated fighter in Liam Walsh,” said Calvin Ford, Davis’ career-long trainer.
“But the media still puts Lomachenko on a pedestal, and he’s not even an American fighter. Meanwhile you have a kid in Gervonta who came from the streets of the city of Baltimore, which is hardcore.”
Davis also scored three knockdowns during a 12th-round stoppage of Gamboa 11 months before the Cuban three-division champion’s decision loss to Haney. Gamboa was also floored three times on April 16 during a fifth-round TKO loss to Cruz.
In another comparison, Barrios rose in weight to 147 pounds for his next in February after falling to Davis and lost a 12-round unanimous decision to two-time champion Keith Thurman.
In November, Kambosos scored a first-round knockdown and rose from the canvas in the 10th for a split-decision victory that dethroned Lopez as IBF/WBA/WBO champion.
A 13-to-1 underdog, Kambosos dominated the 11th and 12th rounds against Lopez, who, in October 2020, won a unanimous decision over Lomachenko to add the Ukrainian’s WBA and WBO 135-pound belts to his IBF version.
Davis-Lomachenko is “an even fight at this point,” according to Edwards.
“Davis is getting better and in his prime, and I think Loma is slightly past his prime but still a great fighter,” Edwards said. “The fight will be contested in the mid-range where both fighters are comfortable. Neither fighter shies away from contact. I think it’s a classic in the making.”
But Porter gives Davis a clear advantage over Lopez, Lomachenko or Kambosos.
“Gervonta demolished a guy in Pedraza that Lomachenko wasn’t able to stop.” Porter said. “I would put my money on Gervonta to beat Lomachenko, Lopez or Kambosos because of his power and explosive abilities. Put Tank in the ring with either of those guys and I see him coming out on top.
Styles make fights
His injury-hampered victory over Cruz notwithstanding, Davis has never under-performed and consistently displays superior finishing skills than his opponents.
Lomachenko, for example, was floored in the sixth round by an aging Jorge Linares during his 10th-round TKO victory in May 2018. Lomachenko hit the canvas against a past-his-prime 32-year-old Linares, who had previously been knocked out in the first and second round of losses.
Linares was stopped in the first round yet again in January 2019 during a three-knockdown TKO loss to Pablo Cesar Cano. But in May 2021, Linares wobbled, mocked and nearly stopped Haney in the 10th round of a 12-round unanimous decision loss that Haney hung on to win.
“Haney received lots of criticism for getting hurt and not stopping Linares. Haney is not the puncher that Davis is,” Edwards said. “I think that’s obvious, but it doesn’t mean that Davis is better. It just means he’s a bigger puncher.”
Haney remains the lone opponent to defeat but not stop Linares, who has been knocked out six times in seven losses.
“I think Haney going 12 rounds with Gamboa after Gervonta stopped Gamboa in the 12th lent more credibility to Gervonta’s win over Gamboa than a lot of us originally thought,” Zittel said. “Right now, I’ve gotta give it to Gervonta [over Haney] because of Lopez losing recently, and I think that his wins over Santa Cruz and Barrios have been under-valued. Gervonta is coming into his prime, and he has the power that Haney doesn’t quite have.”
Josh Taylor was a 13-to-1 favorite entering his February bout with Jack Catterall, who floored the undisputed 140-pound champion in the eighth round and left him with cuts above and below his right eye following a widely disputed split-decision victory described as “a gift” in one report.
Taylor had also struggled to win his previous fight in May 2021 by unanimous decision (114-112 three times) over Jose Ramirez, who defeated Pedraza in his next fight in March by unanimous decision (115-112 three times).
“I don’t know if that was a bad night for Taylor or if Catterall is that good,” Edwards said. “Let’s see Taylor’s next fight for a better assessment. Taylor has hinted that he struggles with making 140 pounds.”
Edwards summoned the boxing axiom “styles make fights.”
“Dynamic offensive fighters look better against common opponents than well-rounded fighters. Tito Trinidad KO’d William Joppy in five rounds. Bernard Hopkins went 12 rounds with Joppy, but Hopkins was able to beat Tito [by 12th-round TKO,]” Edwards said. “Floyd Mayweather went the distance in beating Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto, who were both knocked out by Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather beat Pacquiao.”
‘I’ll whoop that ass for free’
Davis voiced a direct challenge to Kambosos on Dec. 1, according to Elie Seckbach of ESNews.
“Gervonta was heading to the gym for his workout. Gervonta was in his car, talking just to me out of the window,” Seckbach said. “He was talking about George Kambosos when he said, ‘I’m whooping that ass. Tell him to come see me. Tell him to hold onto those belts because I will whoop that ass for free.’”
Edited by Richard Pretorius and Matthew B. Hall