Gervonta Davis has reached the point in his fast-rising career where any move he makes is going to come with its share of criticism.
The unbeaten junior lightweight titlist is moving up two weight divisions to next face secondary WBA junior welterweight titlist Mario Barrios (26-0, 17KOs), who enjoys significant advantages in height, reach and natural size. Baltimore’s Davis (24-0, 23KOs) makes the move after having just dropped back down to 130 after a one-fight stop at lightweight.
The working theory that a win in their June 26 Showtime Pay-Per-View headliner—which airs from State Farm Arena in Atlanta—makes Davis the sport’s biggest attraction in three weight divisions (130, 135 and 140). Others have the idea that the 26-year-old southpaw is cherry picking title fights.
“Are you f----in’ kidding me,” Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions rhetorically asked after briefly scanning online comments. “This is why I don’t bother paying attention to that stuff. If you sit around and listen to what others say all the time, you’re never gonna get anything done.
“Tank is barely 5’4”. This guy is damn near six feet tall. Are you kidding me? This is a dangerous fight for Tank.”
San Antonio’s Barrios has campaigned at junior welterweight since 2017, having stopped eight of his nine opponents at the weight.
The lone fight to go the distance came in a 12-round decision win over Batyr Akhmedov in their Sept. 2019 vacant title fight between unbeaten contenders. Barrios scored two knockdowns in the bout to preserve the win, making his first title defense last Halloween when he stopped Houston’s Ryan Karl in the 6th round. The bout came on the undercard of Davis’ sensational 6th round knockout of Leo Santa Cruz to regain his WBA “Super” junior lightweight title, 10 months after claiming a secondary lightweight belt in a 12th round stoppage of Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Other options existed at junior lightweight and even at lightweight, though Davis felt the need to go big for his next ring appearance. It meant a return to his second hometown of Atlanta and where he will presumably weigh the heaviest of his career.
“Honestly, I’m not crazy about this fight for Tank,” admits Ellerbe. “I’d be lying if I said I was. This is where you really have to commend Tank. He was adamant about accepting this challenge.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox