Gervonta Davis: Why a PPV with Leo Santa Cruz makes sense for 2020
On Saturday, December 28th, at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, rising star Gervonta "Tank" Davis stopped former two-division world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa in the twelfth and final round of an entertaining but occasionally awkward scrap in front of a capacity crowd of 14,129.
With the hard-fought victory, the 25-year-old puncher picked up another world championship in his third weight class, winning the vacant WBA "Regular" Lightweight Championship.
During what was officially billed as "Peach Bowl Saturday" throughout the city of Atlanta, the star-studded turn-out was very impressive...especially for an American born fighter in the 135-pound weight division.
And while Davis dropped the former two-time Olympic gold medalist three times en route to scoring a definitive knock-out victory, many of his harshest critics have since been busy picking apart his first performance as a Lightweight fighter.
The scrutiny began on Friday afternoon when Davis failed to make the Lightweight limit of 135 pounds in his first attempt at tipping the scale. The 5'5 1/2" fighter was forced to burn off a full 1.2 pounds before finally making the division limit two hours after his initial try. Because Davis was moving up in weight to compete for the vacant WBA title, the struggle to make weight wasn't a very good look to most interested observers.
And although his opponent was indeed a former unified world champion and Olympic gold medal winner, many ringside critics felt Davis should have dominated his opponent with greater relative ease. Gamboa, who ruptured his Achilles tendon during the second round of the main event, entered the contest as a wide betting underdog with odds as high as 12 to 1 on some sportsbooks.
With the high expectation invested in the talented 25-year-old puncher by PBC, Mayweather Promotions and Showtime Sports, many fans and media members are starting to question whether or not Davis should be considered among the elite of boxing.
While no one expects Gervonta Davis to step in the ring with Vasyl Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney or Ryan Garcia in 2020, questions remain as to how "Tank" ranks among the highest-rated Lightweights of the sport.
What most fans and critics fail to recognize is Davis ranks highest where it seems to matter most; the ticket box office.
With boxing's limited number of genuine ticket sellers in America, all invested parties are most concerned with nurturing his ability to pack venues.
The Baltimore native is an exciting fighter who brings great drama when he performs. Paying customers naturally seem to gravitate to the talented puncher, so time is a luxury Mayweather Promotions has when mapping out Davis' very bright future.
CEO Leonard Ellerbe expounded on the future of his budding superstar.
"There's a lot of really great talent in the 135 pound division, which is why we moved up," stated Ellerbe to FightHype.com. "We want all the smoke...all the smoke. Tank can beat any of the 135 pounders out there. He's the real deal, and he hasn't even had to go into his bag...ya'll ain't seen nothing yet!"
Although the decision has already been made to test the PPV waters in 2020, expect Davis' handlers to take baby steps with their potential cash-cow in the immediate future.
Yes, match-ups determine how well a PPV ultimately performs, but don't count on Mayweather Promotions to look for a Davis/Lomachenko or Davis/Haney main event just yet.
It's a promoter's job to nurture elite level match-ups to the point where it maximizes an event's earning potential, which is why you'll often hear promoters and advisers talk about "marinating" fights. As it stands, Gervonta is the breadwinner of the division, with Vasyl Lomachenko being the recognized lineal champion and division kingpin.
Despite being a secondary titleholder in an incredibly deep weight class at 135 pounds, look for Mayweather Promotions to pair Gervonta up with fellow PBC athlete, former lineal Featherweight champion and current 130 pounder Leo Santa Cruz within the first half of 2020.
While the decision to pair Davis with a fighter outside of the talent enriched Lightweight division would undoubtedly be a very unpopular one at this time, let's examine the path of progress Golden Boy Promotions took with their cash cow, Canelo Alvarez.
Does anyone remember when a match-up between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez was the most debated topic of every boxing forum around the world? And does anyone remember the scrutiny Canelo received when he and GBP decided to relinquish the Mexican fighter's WBC Middleweight title rather than defend it against the undefeated Kazakh?
How about now? Does anyone even consider that controversial period when examining Canelo's current stature in the sport?
When all is said and done, the GGG feud will resemble nothing but a minor footnote on the future Hall of Famer's impressive resume.
Mayweather Promotions would be wise to follow a similar strategy with their future star.
A PPV debut against Leo Santa Cruz makes the most sense right now.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. always understood that a PPV event's success in America was contingent on the Hispanic fight crowd's involvement, which is why boxing's biggest attraction often preferred to face Latino fighters, regardless of ranking or draw. Because the Mexican-American demographic is consistently the most supportive of all fight fans in the US, it would make sense to stick Gervonta Davis opposite a popular Mexican fighter.
A style match-up with El Terremoto would be a great one, fusing the relentless aggressor with the sharp-shooting counter puncher. And because Leo is an established Headliner with a healthy fanbase, the earning potential would more than likely exceed that of any proposed match-up with any of the young guns at 135 pounds; with of course the exception being a mega-fight against Vasyl Lomachenko.
Yes, any fight with Leo Santa Cruz is a risky endeavor, but it's a calculated risk at this juncture of the 31-year-old fighter's career. While the Mexican favorite would most certainly throw with greater volume, the explosiveness of Davis's power shots would undoubtedly seem to be the most eye-catching to the judges at ringside, should the fight go the twelve round distance.
It's not a safe fight, but one with considerably less risk than any critically acclaimed pairing at Lightweight.
In the immortal words of Floyd Money Mayweather: "If it makes dollars, it makes sense!"
Right now, it makes more sense to nurture the Gervonta Davis brand, rather than trying to appease his harshest critics. They'll still tune in to see him fight...whether they want to or not.
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