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Gervonta Davis: Next Big Thing or Implosion Waiting to Happen?

In boxing, comparisons to legends get tossed around like snack-size Snickers on Halloween. It seems that every other week, some “next big thing” is being compared to a Hall of Famer. Sometimes, though, those comparisons are valid.

In the case of Gervonta “Tank” Davis, it might be alright to whip out that “he’s the next so-and-so” talk.

The 25-year-old Davis is already a three-time, two-division world champ– but belts don’t make the man these days in a sport full of straps, titles, crowns, and other assorted trinkets. What makes Davis special is the immense talent contained within his compact 5-foot-5/5-foot-6 frame.

Comparisons have been made to a mini-Mike Tyson, just with more boxing ability. He’s also been compared to Roy Jones Jr., just with more one-punch power. One knowledgeable boxing person in this writer’s circle of friends described him as “a pinch of Meldrick Taylor, a smidgen of Aaron Pryor with a hint of Mike Tyson.”

Needless to say, that’s some mighty high praise.

So far in Davis’ seven-year career, he’s yet to be really challenged and has only been past round seven three times in twenty-three fights. Right now, there’s not a lot of heft on his resume, either, but he does have some solid names there. He’s fought Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jose Pedraza, Jesus Cuellar, and Liam Walsh– and he’s stopped all of them.

This Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas he will face the stiffest test of his career in four-division champ Leo Santa Cruz. At stake will be Davis’ WBA lightweight title and Santa Cruz’s WBA super featherweight title– but, again, the belts mean little. The greater importance in this PPV encounter is the fact that, in Santa Cruz, Davis will be facing the toughest, most-skilled, closest to prime fighter he’s ever encountered. And while betting odds favor him and Santa Cruz will be at the disadvantage of, essentially, being the smaller fighter, this is still a legit challenge for him and a test of whether he belongs on the main stage as an elite player.

The Baltimore native’s story of poverty and battling through the foster care system as a child resonates with even the coldest, most-callous of fans. And, of course, having an explosive, entertaining ring presence doesn’t hurt his marketability, either. It’s also to his advantage that he’s promoted by boxing box office king and headline-generator, Floyd Mayweather.

The best thing going for him, however, may be that he’s sitting smack-dab in the middle of a weight range absolutely loaded with quality talent. The 130-140 lb. talent pool features new sensation Teofimo Lopez, former pound-for-pound kingpin Vasiliy Lomachenko, Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, Jamel Herring, Tevin Farmer, Miguel Berchelt, and, of course Leo Santa Cruz.

There’s plenty of star-making opposition out there from which to choose. And he’s coming into this treasure trove of possible legacy-defining bouts just as he enters his physical prime.

At this point, it looks like only Davis, himself, can move him from the fast track to superstardom. A couple of run-ins with the law and battles with the scale have soured some on his long-term viability as a main stage star, though.

There definitely exists the possibility of implosion with this young talent and that makes things less than fully “sure thing” when it comes to his rising star.

But “Tank” Davis is damn fun to watch. Whether he rises to the highest level or crashes and burns spectacularly, it’ll be entertaining, must-watch TV.

Paul Magno
Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com
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