A look at "Tank's" greatest performances as the undefeated superstar aims to deliver another highlight-reel KO when he defends his world lightweight title against fellow undefeated hard-hitter Rolando "Rolly" Romero Saturday night on SHOWTIME pay-per-view.
This Saturday, Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) will have his chance to shut up the 26-year-old Romero (14-0, 12 KOs) in defense of his WBA World Lightweight Title in a Premier Boxing Champions headliner, live on SHOWTIME PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
A bona fide boxing superstar, the 27-year-old Davis has captured five world titles through three weight divisions. He has only gone the distance twice, stopping the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Mario Barrios and Jose Pedraza. And he’s done it with an acute ability to adjust mid-fight using a potent arsenal of hooks, uppercuts and crosses.
“Tank” won his first title at the Barclays Center back in 2017 when he was just 22. Now he returns to the venue as one of the biggest names in the sport and an emerging crossover star. Before he steps inside the ropes on Saturday night, here is a look back at the five fights that have made him one of the sport’s finest fighters, pound for pound.
5 RICARDO NUNEZ
Date: July 27, 2019
Location: Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
At stake: Davis’ WBA super feather title
Records at the time: Davis 21-0 (20 KOs); Nunez 21-2 (19 KOs)
Result: Davis KO 2 (1:33)
Significance: There is usually a good dose of heat when a world champion returns home for a title fight defense. It didn’t show on Davis, who was fighting in his hometown Baltimore for the first time since his knockout win over Rafael Casias in his fourth pro fight in July 2013. In the second, Davis landed two big lefts flush on his face, followed by a right which snapped Nunez’s head back and caused his body to sag along the ropes. Referee Harvey Dock immediately stepped in, to Nunez’s dismay and to the delight of the sellout crowd of 14,686 at the Royal Farms Arena. Nunez would take years off before scoring two knockout wins in 2021. “Tank” continues to roll on.
4 ISAAC CRUZ
Date: December 5, 2021
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
At stake: Davis’ WBA lightweight title
Records at the time: Davis 25-0 (24 KOs); Cruz 22-1-1 (15 KOs)
Result: Davis UD 12 (116-112, 115-113, 115-113)
Significance: This victory seems to age better with time. “Pitbull,” who looks and fights every bit like a pitbull, was a late replacement for Rolando Romero five weeks prior to the fight. He proceeded to extend Davis the distance for the first time since October 2014. Cruz’s non-stop aggression kept Davis on his backfoot all night. Despite suffering an injury to his left hand in the fifth round, Davis began chopping away at the resilient Cruz. He utilized his oft-overlooked boxing skills to lead and counter Cruz, while pivoting away from return fire. A dominant final round sealed the emphatic win for Davis. Cruz proved he was no one-fight wonder in April 2022, when he devoured Yuriorkis Gamboa inside five rounds.
3 JOSE PEDRAZA
Date: January 14, 2017
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
At stake: Pedraza’s IBF super featherweight title
Records at the time: Davis 16-0 (15 KOs); Pedraza 22-0 (12 KOs)
Result: Davis KO 7 (2:36)
Significance: Davis’ first world title bout occurred on the James DeGale-Badou Jack undercard although one wouldn’t know he wasn’t the main event from the raucous crowd that arrived early solely to see “Tank.” This fight showed great parts of the Davis arsenal. The previously undefeated world champ Pedraza discovered that hitting Davis was like trying to hit a moving wiffleball. The idea was to stay outside and box Davis behind a high guard. The problem was Pedraza could not keep Davis away. Showing his punch versatility, Davis closed the distance using crosses and hooks to the head to break down Pedraza. Finally, in the seventh, a Davis right hook downed Pedraza. The gallant Puerto Rican star got up but was out on his feet, prompting referee Ricky Gonzalez to wave it over.
2 MARIO BARRIOS
Date: June 26, 2021
Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta
At stake: Barrios’ WBA super lightweight title
Records at the time: Davis 24-0 (23 KOs), Barrios 26-0 (17 KOs)
Result: Davis KO 11 (2:13)
Significance: Facing Barrios was Davis’ first foray at 140 pounds and it was an impressive jump. Not only was Davis moving up from 135 to 140, he was doing it against a daunting, undefeated champion in Barrios. Increasing the degree of difficulty was Barrios’ length. At 5-foot-10, with a 71-inch reach, Barrios was almost five inches taller with nearly a five-inch advantage. Early on, those measurables mattered. Barrios used his jab to keep Davis away. Tank adjusted by the middle rounds and found his range. He dropped Barrios twice in the eighth and clipped him with a left body shot in the 11th, sending him down on all fours. Barrios tried fending off Davis, but referee Thomas Taylor saw that Barrios was defenseless and waved it over at 2:13 of the 11th, sending the capacity crowd of 16,570 into a frenzy. It was one of the finest performances of 2021.
1 Leo Santa Cruz
Date: Oct. 31, 2020
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio
At stake: Davis’ WBA lightweight title, Santa Cruz’s WBA super featherweight title
Records at the time: Davis 23-0 (22 KOs), Santa Cruz 37-1-1 (19 KOs)
Result: Davis KO 6 (2:40)
Significance: If there was one fight that launched Davis into becoming a crossover star, this might be it. Davis was making his pay-per-view main event debut. He was doing it against an incredibly formidable opponent in veteran four-division world champion Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz boxed well in the pocket, and at times, even got the better of Davis. But if you play with fire long enough, you are bound to get burned. And as Davis has shown, he makes strong mid-fight adjustments. He clinically disarmed Santa Cruz’s tactics until the Mexican legend had no choice but to stand and trade. He would pay a heavy price. In the sixth, with Santa Cruz’s back against the ropes, Davis made a subtle step to the left as Santa Cruz threw a right. Davis leaned forward and caught the Mexican with a pulverizing left uppercut that left him in a heap on the canvas. Referee Rafael Ramos didn’t bother to count.
“He was right there for it,” Davis said afterward. “He punches, but he doesn’t try to get out of the way. There was nowhere for him to go on that knockout because I got him into the corner. I’m a pay-per-view star. Everybody knows I’m number one and I showed it tonight.”
No one doubts him now.
For a closer look at Gervonta Davis, check out his fighter page.