By Andreas Hale
23-year-old Gervonta “Tank” Davis appears to be primed for stardom and will seek to maintain his undefeated record while extending his 10 fight knockout streak this weekend when he faces Jesus Cuellar for the vacant WBA (Regular) super featherweight title at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
It’s positioned as a showcase fight of sorts against arguably Davis’ toughest opponent to date. Regardless, Davis is a pretty significant favorite with sports books having him as a -800 favorite to take down Cuellar. But it’ll be of particular significance to see just how good Davis performs considering how bright the spotlight has been shining on the Mayweather Promotions fighter over the past couple of years.
Questions about how Tank will handle the fame and attention have been asked by boxing pundits and fans alike. He’s confident, bordering on cocky but undeniably talented. Whether or not he can successfully put it together and become one of boxing’s next big stars has yet to be seen.
If this sounds familiar, it is.
A little over five and a half years ago, Adrien Broner was in a similar position. Yet another undeniably gifted athlete appeared to be on the brink of stardom as he rolled through the super featherweight division and starched Antonio DeMarco when he bumped up a weight class to take the WBC lightweight title. Broner’s brash attitude had many people questioning whether or not he had what it takes to reach that next level. And, for many, that next level was his then “big brother” Floyd Mayweather.
However, Broner’s antics outside of the ring affected his in-ring performance and “The Problem” lived up to his nickname. Instead of being the next Mayweather, Broner became the next Zab Judah, which isn’t a terrible comparison considering Judah was a multiple-time world champion in the lightweight and welterweight divisions. But even Judah will tell you himself that he squandered his prime years by letting everything outside of the gym affect his performance.
And that’s where Davis stands between. He can be the next Floyd Mayweather or Adrien Broner. Of course, there’s a lot of hyperbole between the two comparisons. But considering the company that Davis keeps, it’s hard to not compare him to Broner and Mayweather. After all, it was Broner who introduced Davis to Mayweather, which led to him signing with the kinda, sorta retired boxer’s promotional company.
Davis’ next few fights are going to be very important to his career when it comes to how he is viewed. He left a bad taste in the mouths of some boxing fans when he missed weight and lost his IBF super featherweight title on the scale against Francisco Fonseca. It was only made worse because he was the co-main event on the biggest card of the year when Floyd Mayweather faced Conor McGregor. It was his opportunity to showcase his ability and he ultimately underwhelmed with a controversial 8th round knockout.
Maybe he learned from his weight cutting mishap and will move forward with a new determination. Hopefully, it’s not the start of a trend. He’s far too talented for that. But the same was said about Broner and it always feels like he’s leaving talent at the table when he fights. For whatever reason, Broner has yet to put it all together. Or, maybe he has and we’re unwilling to accept that we’ve already seen the best that Broner has.
Davis is in a similar situation. He’s a tremendous offensive force but can he make adjustments when the firepower is being sent back his way. Like Broner in the early stages of his career, Davis has overwhelmed his opponents with natural ability. Sooner or later we’re going to have to see how Tank reacts when he gets hit. Can he adjust? How’s his chin? This isn’t to say that Cuellar will be the guy to test him, but he’s certainly enough of a litmus test to get an idea of where Davis is at. Cuellar lost a split decision to Abner Mares, but the scorecard given to Cuellar was generous, at best. He relies heavily on his power and isn’t slick enough to give a decent boxer trouble. And we’d like to think that Davis is more than a decent boxer, right?
With talk about facing Vasyl Lomachenko lingering, it’s imperative that Davis takes care of business against Cuellar and everyone else placed in front of him. Not only that, he can’t allow the celebrity status to blind him and create a false sense of reality where he believes that he’s already great and that hunger begins to fade away. It’s truly the difference between Mayweather and Judah. Both were superbly talented but only one of them worked tirelessly on his craft while the other got caught up in the fast life of money, women, alcohol and nightclubs. One became the richest athlete in the world while the other will always have a “what if” lingering over his career.
If Davis remains disciplined, and it has often sounded like he will, then he has a very bright future ahead of him. However, if he falls into the trappings of pseudo success, he’ll end up as yet another fighter who never reached his full potential.