I’m not convinced that Gervonta “Tank” Davis is the best lightweight in the world, but he’s certainly the most exciting. He’s certainly also an elite fighter.

Frank Martin, his opponent on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, is also in the top five. 

I like the match-up. It’s not that long ago Martin was on course to fight Shakur Stevenson, and I’m curious about how good he could be at the highest level. I want to see Davis tested against the very best opposition, and while that’s possibly not happening on Saturday – Davis, unquestionably, is the real deal – we’re about to find out how good Martin can be.

A fight between Davis, the WBA champion, and Stevenson might be the best that can be made at 135lbs, but after that, a fight between him and Martin is among the next best. Another of the best fights that could be made would be between Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko; Davis recently spoke about a future fight with Lomachenko, and given Martin, like Lomachenko, is a southpaw, it’s tempting to wonder if he sees Martin as the test he needs before that takes place.

Davis-Ryan Garcia ended up being the biggest fight of 2023. Little over a year later, with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez closer to the end of his career, Davis is among those who can replace him as the sport’s biggest draw. But he needs to be busy, and he needs to fight the best opponents before he can; he has the potential star power and ability, but previously he’s been guilty of fighting unremarkable opposition on pay-per-view. 

When a fighter’s star is ascending it’s important he or she continues to fight and beat his or her leading opponents, and does so regularly. On first impressions Davis was impressive against Garcia, who he stopped in seven rounds, but they fought at 136lbs and with a rehydration clause in place, which worked against Garcia sufficiently that that night has since lost some of its shine. If he’d followed that with another two or three victories – Garcia’s since fought twice, and in a period of time in which he had to recover from his first defeat and replaced Joe Goossen as his trainer with Derrick James, who also trains Martin – that would be less relevant in June 2024.

Davis’ legal troubles have contributed to his inactivity. It occasionally can help a fighter’s profile to be involved in some forms of controversy, but in the case of Davis it’s meant him fighting less and potentially been harmful to his brand. 

If he is going to be Premier Boxing Champions’ leading figure, it also sounds like they need to do more to keep him happy. He didn’t show up to Tuesday’s grand arrivals, and complained about the way Saturday’s fight has been promoted.

Martin can fight, but Davis – particularly off the back of beating Garcia – is the fighter with big-fight experience. Without that same experience, it’s uncertain how loose Martin will be on fight night. In a fight like Saturday’s he needs to be at his loosest. The slightest hint of tightness will slow down his defensive reactions, which an opponent as heavy-handed as Davis can capitalize on. It’s the biggest fight of Martin’s career – it’s not the biggest of Davis’ – so I’m also curious about how relaxed he’s going to be. He’s almost certain to feel under some pressure. A degree of nerves and pressure are natural for a fighter in their first big fight – and an ability to control that can go a long way.

Their past sparring sessions have been mentioned, but unless Martin was completely inadequate, to the point he was totally out of his league – which I doubt – there are still things he can take out of that experience and use to his advantage.

I expect him to prove a competitive opponent. At the time of writing, the win over Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz is the best of Davis’ career – he had to make adjustments and show ability against a good fighter. I also expect Davis to win via stoppage – somewhere around the ninth round. The nature of their fight means it could even prove a better victory for Davis than that over Cruz.  

Earlier on Saturday, Subriel Matias defends his IBF super lightweight title against Liam Paro, in Puerto Rico. Paro’s a decent opponent, but Matias is a rugged, nightmarish type of opponent, and I haven’t seen enough dimensions in Paro for him to be able to deal with him. Matias has to be considered the best in the world at 140lbs.