Gervonta Davis was barely into his first year as a pro and hardly on the radar of Floyd Mayweather Jr. when they first met back in 2013. Something about that photo opportunity, however, told the now retired former pound-for-pound and box-office king that a future world champion was in his presence.
It didn’t take much longer than that to sense that such talent could one day parlay into a box-office attraction.
An investment into that part of the equation will come in Davis’ next fight, as he faces four-division and reigning junior lightweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz. The two will meet on October 31, live on Showtime Pay-Per-View from The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The event marks the first PPV headliner for both boxers. For Davis (23-0, 22KOs), it comes after drawing eye-catching crowds for each of his three Showtime headliners in 2019, including sold-out crowds in his two hometowns of Baltimore and Atlanta. With that came the belief from Mayweather Promotions of PPV being the next step, though a move they believe has been years in the making.
“I believe in Tank. I’ve believed in him ever since he’s been a young kid,” Mayweather insisted during Tuesday’s virtual press conference to formally promote the upcoming event. “I told him some day he will be on PPV. It was going to come real fast, so be ready.
Mayweather—a bronze medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics—was an unbeaten two-division champion in pursuit of his third divisional title at the time of his own PPV debut. The moment came in a one-sided 6th round stoppage of Arturo Gatti in June 2005, going on to do so 15 times over the final 12 years of his incredible career.
The fight with Gatti—a renowned box-office attraction by that point who made his lone PPV headlining appearance on that night—generated 340,000 buys, with Mayweather never doing worse than 325,000 buys on that circuit. The most recognizable boxer of his generation, Mayweather has surpassed the 1,000,000- buy mark a record nine times, including his owning the four highest grossing events of all time—going beyond the 2,000,000-buy mark a record four times and twice selling more than 4,000,000 buys.
Davis’ two-division title fight with Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19KOs) serves as the second boxing PPV since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The first such event came in late September, with Jermall and Jermell Charlo scoring wins in separate co-headliners on a six-fight telecast which reportedly generated between 100,000 and 120,000 PPV buys.
The second fight between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin was the last PPV event to surpass the 1,000,000 mark, taking place in September 2018. Mexico’s Alvarez (53-1-2, 36KOs) was an established superstar by that point, his box-office appeal ironically enhanced in a September 2013 loss to Mayweather in what was the highest grossing event in boxing history at the time.
Despite the current climate and the odds suggesting otherwise, the sport’s richest athlete believes the next such occasion will take place by month’s end.
“When I fought Arturo Gatti, we didn’t have social media. We didn’t have the different social media outlets. I was pushing and promoting the first PPV, and we did some pretty decent numbers. I think we did over 300,000, maybe close to 400,000 homes the first time out. These two guys can probably beat that. The reason they can beat that is, like I said before, it’s totally different now.
“Hopefully we can get one million buys, even two million PPV buys. Anything is possible, with the different outlets we didn’t have back in that time. Both of these guys deserve to be on PPV. I’m not here to knock their skills. I want both of these guys to continue pushing it so that we can do record-breaking numbers.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox