Davis steps up in weight in pur­suit of star­dom

Bal­ti­more boxer seek­ing sig­na­ture win to raise pro­file

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry

AT­LANTA — Ger­vonta Davis wrapped both arms around his 1-year-old daugh­ter, whis­per­ing in her ear and re­veal­ing a ten­der side as he pro­moted his next bout.

In the ring, the boxer known as “Tank” shows no mercy.

The 25-year-old Davis has a per­fect record in 22 pro­fes­sional fights, only one of which has gone the dis­tance.

Now the two-time su­per feath­er­weight cham­pion is ea­ger to make a big­ger mark, mov­ing up in weight to take on Cuba’s Yu­ri­orkis Gam­boa for the WBA’s sec­ondary light­weight ti­tle Dec. 28 in At­lanta’s first world cham­pi­onship card in more than 20 years.

“I want to keep get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter,” Davis said. “I hope Gam­boa brings the best out of me so that peo­ple can see that I’m not just a power puncher. I have a lot of box­ing skills.”

Davis has dis­played fear­some power since turn­ing pro in 2013, most re­cently scor­ing a se­cond-round TKO of Ri­cardo Nunez dur­ing a July home­com­ing bout in Bal­ti­more. No fighter has gone the dis­tance with Davis in more than five years.

Yet, de­spite his im­pres­sive record, Davis has been scru­ti­nized for a per­ceived lack of qual­ity op­po­nents. That isn’t likely to change with a vic­tory over Gam­boa, who at 37 would ap­pear to be on the down­side of his ca­reer.

For Davis, though, this is a pos­si­ble step­ping­stone to a big-money match with Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 knock­outs), who has cap­tured world ti­tles in four weight classes. The Mex­i­can most re­cently claimed the WBA su­per feath­er­weight ti­tle with a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over Miguel Flores on the un­der­card of Deon­tay Wilder’s knock­out win.

“What bet­ter op­po­nent than Ger­vonta Davis?” Santa Cruz told DAZN in the lead-up to his vic­tory over Flores. “I think he’s the most dan­ger­ous of all the peo­ple that they want me to fight and once I do that, I think peo­ple are go­ing to know that I’m not scared of no­body and that I could fight who­ever.”

Davis is cer­tainly will­ing to make that match.

Like Santa Cruz, Davis is seek­ing a sig­na­ture vic­tory to raise his pro­file on box­ing’s crowded cham­pi­onship land­scape. He is ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing one of the sport’s big­gest stars, ac­cord­ing to his trainer, Calvin Ford.

“Tank can re­ally box and put on a show,” Ford said. T`hat’s what it’s all about: en­ter­tain­ing the crowd, giv­ing the crowd some­thing to go home to talk about — other than the knock­out.”

The fight with Gam­boa came to­gether af­ter they fought to­gether on the Bal­ti­more card. The Cuban scored an im­pres­sive

WBA light­weight ti­tle se­cond-round knock­out of Rocky Martinez.

“I proved to the naysay­ers that I have a lot left in the tank,” said Gam­boa, an Olympic gold medal­ist at the 2004 Athens Games who is 18-2 in his pro ca­reer.

The pro­mo­tion for the December fight be­gan at lunchtime in a west At­lanta night­club, where Gam­boa spoke through an in­ter­preter and Davis an­swered most ques­tions while hold­ing his daugh­ter, Ger­vanni.

When they went through the manda­tory stare-down for the cam­eras, Gam­boa held his grim look but Davis quickly broke into a smile and yukked it up with his fans.

Af­ter the ti­tle bout in Bal­ti­more, Davis wanted a fight in what he con­sid­ers his se­cond home. He moved to At­lanta a cou­ple of years ago and pushed for the chance to show his skills for a grow­ing fan base that in­cludes lo­cal pro ath­letes and hip-hop stars.

It will be a rare op­por­tu­nity for the A-T-L, which has hosted nu­mer­ous ma­jor events but has lit­tle his­tory in the fight game. Most no­tably, it was the city that held Muham­mad Ali’s come­back fight af­ter he barred for more than three years over his re­fusal to be drafted dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to fight here,” Davis said. “At­lanta has ac­cepted me with open arms. Bal­ti­more is al­ways my first home but be­ing able to come here is special.”

PAUL NEW­BERRY/AP

Boxer Ger­vonta Davis sits with his daugh­ter as he speaks with the me­dia at box­ing news con­fer­ence on Tues­day in At­lanta.

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