By Lem Satterfield
“Gervonta Davis is, hands-down, the best 130-pounder in the world,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “He’s the biggest star of the division, and he’ll get his chance to showcase that very soon.”
A two-time 130-pound champion, Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) told FightHype.com on Tuesday that will pursue his 12th straight knockout and second defense of his WBA “super” super featherweight crown against three-division champion Abner Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs), who will make his 130-pound debut.
Ellerbe would not comment on the exact date or venue for Davis' return. But The Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire indicated February 9 to be the date, and the venue to be in Southern California near the hometown of Mares, who turns 33 on November 28 and is 5-for-5 against southpaw opponents since 2008.
Cuellar was the lone fight of 2018 for “Tank” Davis, a stocky, 5-foot-5 ½ southpaw from Baltimore who displayed speed, power and superior boxing skills during stoppage victories in January, May and August 2017.
“Definitely for Gervonta 2018 was a wash for a number of reasons, and I think that [Davis] has expressed that in the interviews that he’s done,” said Ellerbe of Davis, who turned 24 on November 7.
“But we’re really happy about what’s gonna happen in 2019. Looking back at 2017, he had three fights by September 1. In 2019, he’s gonna be very active just like he was in 2017.”
Davis is coming off a title-regaining two-knockdown third-round TKO of fellow southpaw Jesus Cuellar (28-3, 21 KOs), of Buenos Aires, Argentina, whose 130-pound debut ended a 16-month ring absence since falling in December 2016 by split-decision to Mares and being dethroned as WBA 126-pound champion.
In victory over Cuellar, Davis returned to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where a then-22-year-old became the youngest reigning champion in January 2017 with a seventh-round knockout that dethroned switch-hitting IBF titleholder Jose Pedraza.
For his initial IBF title defense in May 2017, Davis traveled to London, where he dropped and stopped previously undefeated southpaw Liam Walsh (21-1, 14 KOs) in the third round in front of Walsh’s hometown fans.
But Davis lost his crown on the scales before his second defense in August, an eighth-round knockout victory over Francisco Fonseca (22-1-1, 16 KOs) on the under card of Floyd Mayweather’s 10th-round TKO of Conor McGregor.
For Cuellar, Davis switched trainers to Kevin Cunningham from career-long corner man Calvin Ford, who served as an assistant. Cunningham was prophetic when he vowed that Davis would “obliterate” Cuellar, coming full circle by becoming a repeat 130-pound champion where he had earned his first crown.
“I’m very happy with Gervonta’s mindset, where he’s at, and what’s going to happen in 2019,” said Ellerbe. “We’re just very excited about him getting back out there, doing what he does, and that’s putting on these electrifying performances.”
Plans are for Davis to unify the division, said Ellerbe.
The WBC’s Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31 KOs) has won 14 straight, including 13 by knockout, having made his sixth defense and scored his third consecutive stoppage in the ninth round of his last fight on November 3 against Miguel Roman.
Fonseca has rebounded with three straight knockouts and challenges IBF 130-pound champion Tevon Farmer (27-4-1, 6 KOs) on December 15. WBO counterpart Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) of Japan meets Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10 KOs) on December 30.
Last month left-handed WBA “regular” champion Alberto Merchado (21-0, 17 KOs) scored three knockdowns during a first-round stoppage of Yuandale Evans in his second defense.
“We’re going to line these guys up and knock them down, one-by-one in no particular order,” said Ellerbe.
“We’re very confident that [Davis] is the best 130-pounder in the world.”