Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s influence on Gervonta Davis is undeniable. It has helped the fighter affectionately known as “Tank” become one of the biggest attractions in boxing. But it also has burdened him with a decent amount of criticism from the so-called “hardcore” fight fan.
On Sunday, Davis will face the relatively unknown Isaac Cruz in a defense of his WBA (Regular) lightweight championship on Showtime pay-per-view. If you look at Davis’ peers, they all have been involved in fights with significantly more challenging opponents. But not on pay-per-view.
Teofimo Lopez was upset by George Kambosos Jr. last week in the follow-up to his stunning victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko for the IBF, WBO and WBA (Super) lightweight championships. Devin Haney is preparing to defend his WBC lightweight title Saturday against top contender JoJo Diaz. Ryan Garcia pulled himself off the canvas to stop former Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell earlier in the year. Shakur Stevenson dominated Jamel Herring to claim the WBO junior lightweight title. WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen Fulton found himself in a war against WBC champion Brandon Figueroa and pulled off the victory to unify the titles.
MORE: Kambosos reveals method to prefight madness vs. Lopez
Tank? He’s facing Cruz, who stepped in after Rolando Romero was pulled from the fight because of sexual assault allegations. Neither fighter was thought to be much of a threat to Davis. Yet he’s the one on PPV.
But that has all been by design.
Davis is 25-0 with 24 knockouts and each knockout has gone viral. His disintegration of former champion Leo Santa Cruz in October 2020 turned heads. A wicked drubbing of previously unbeaten Mario Barrios last June had celebrities from all walks of life taking to social media to explain how Davis is must-see TV.
“I give them what they want to see,” Davis told Sporting News on why he has become such a big attraction despite the criticism that he hasn’t faced the toughest challenges. “Knockouts.”
It has worked thus far. Davis has amassed more than 3 million followers on Instagram, which is more than Haney, Stevenson, Lopez and Fulton combined. (Ryan Garcia is on his own planet when it comes to social media with just under 9 million followers.)
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh when asked about how he has amassed such a significant following by possessing the “it” factor. “I guess people can relate to me and what I’ve been through. They can see me. I just do me, be me and mind my business. A lot of people don’t like it. Honestly, some people are just jealous of what I have going on. They want to be me. Some people like it and some people hate it, but they are all watching and that’s the main goal.”
SN IN 2019:
Davis’ life is a movie | Aiming to be bigger star than Mayweather
The Mayweather rub certainly hasn’t hurt, but Davis has also taken care of business inside the ring. His fights are exciting and end with devastating knockouts. They intrigue casual boxing fans. You could go as far as to say that Davis is an interesting mix of Mayweather and Mike Tyson, down to the controversy that follows Tank outside the ring.
He was indicted last March in a 2020 hit-and-run and was charged on two counts of domestic abuse stemming from a February 2020 incident with his girlfriend at a college basketball game in Miami. He hasn’t been convicted, but the turmoil has become part of the attraction for the Baltimore-born-and-raised fighter.
Controversy sells. And selling is exactly what Davis does.
It is expected that Davis will bring out a variety of celebrities to Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The unique connection that Davis has with entertainers is not something he takes for granted. He understands that they want from him what he has received from them: entertainment.
“It feels amazing that I have the power to bring all of these celebrities out,” he said. “They aren’t just coming out for me, they are coming out to be in the mix with other celebrities. They aren’t coming to just a boxing match, they are coming to an event. And if I can continue to be the person that people want to see.
“I need to continue to be that person as a fighter, as an entertainer and an athlete.”
MORE: Davis arrested in 2018 over $10,000 bar tab
Mayweather has routinely said about Davis’ rise that “nothing happens overnight.” But Davis has arguably exceeded Mayweather’s star power when the retired fighter was Tank’s age. Mayweather has gone so far as to suggest that the 27-year-old Davis can potentially be a bigger star than him, so long as he stays on the right track.
Some fight for legacy, others fight for money. Gervonta Davis?
“I fight for whatever makes the most sense,” he said after trying to find the words to explain the balance he is looking to achieve. “I just want to be the fighter people want to pay to see fight.”
And as long as Tank continues to win, more lucrative opportunities and world title fights are certain to come.