Gervonta Davis has heard all about how he’s never faced an opponent the caliber of 130-pound world champion Jose Pedraza. While he doesn’t necessarily disagree, he believes his own abilities are being sold short.
“They keep talking about his experience, but he fought a bum to get the belt,” Davis says of Pedraza. “I’ve been in the gym with world champions, sparring Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and been around Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner.
“There is nothing he brings to the table I haven’t seen before. But who has he fought with my skills?”
Gervonta Davis (16-0, 15 KOs) will get an opportunity to display those skills to the world Saturday when he challenges Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KOs) for his title at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9:30 p.m./6:30 p.m. PT).
While the 27-year-old Pedraza will be making the third defense of the crown he won in June 2015, Davis will be in his first world title fight at the ripe age of 22. That’s led some to wonder if Davis will be able to stay afloat when he makes his first dive into the deep end of the pool.
“I think it’s a tough spot for Gervonta,” says Showtime analyst and boxing historian Steve Farhood. “It’s coming very early [in his career], and I think you’ve got to make Pedraza the favorite in the fight.
“We’re going to find out a lot about Davis, because we don’t know how good he is against a top guy. He’s never been in with a guy as talented as Pedraza.”
“ Pedraza’s the best guy that I’ve faced, on paper, but to be super honest, he’s a small guy and I just see me stopping him. ” Gervonta Davis, 130-pound world title challenger
One thing that is known about Davis: The 5-foot-6 southpaw from Baltimore has anvils for fists. Not only has he stopped 15 of his 16 opponents, he’s registered 13 knockouts in less than four rounds, including seven first-round finishes. That includes a 41-second KO of Mario Antonio Macias in his most recent bout in June.
The only time Davis has gone beyond six rounds was in December 2015, when light-hitting Luis Sanchez took the fighter nicknamed “Tank” into the ninth round of a 10-round fight before being knocked out.
Davis, who weighed in Friday at 129 pounds, envisions a similar outcome against Pedraza, who tipped the scales at 129½.
“Pedraza’s the best guy that I’ve faced, on paper, but to be super honest, he’s a small guy and I just see me stopping him,” he says. “I think I’m going to wind up stopping him in the eighth, ninth or 10th round.”
A switch-hitting Puerto Rican, Pedraza dominated Andrey Klimov to win his title by wide unanimous decision. In that bout, Pedraza landed more than twice as many punches (272) than his opponent (121), winning every round on two scorecards and all but one round on the third.
However, the “Sniper” had a much tougher time in his first title defense against veteran Edner Cherry in October 2015, winning a split decision despite ending up on the wrong end of the final punch stats (Cherry had a 243-187 edge in total shots landed).
Pedraza followed the Cherry victory with a comfortable unanimous decision over England’s Stephen Smith (then 23-1) in April.
“I’m not taking anything away from Pedraza,” Davis says. “He’s beat Stephen Smith and Edner Cherry. But those guys don’t bring the power, speed, elusiveness and angles that I do.
“I’m not downgrading anybody, but they’re [Cherry and Smith] mostly average.”
For the most part, Pedraza has avoided engaging in a verbal scuffle with Davis, preferring to wait until Saturday to let his fists do the talking.
“On January 14, I will be facing a great boxer with a lot of talent, speed and power,” Pedraza says. “I expect this to be a very exciting fight. I’m going to be ready for anything that Davis will bring into the ring. I’m going to take care of business. … He’s going to have to go down.”
One of the keys to Pedraza’s success is his versatility and adaptability. In addition to being able to do damage with both hands, he’s a slick, boxer-puncher who often dictates an in-and-out, forward-moving strategy.
However, if you believe Davis’ trainer, Calvin Ford, that strategy will play right into the challenger’s heavy hands.
“We want to put on a good show for the fans, so I’m hoping Pedraza comes to fight, doesn’t fear Tank’s power and won’t try to stay away. That will bring out the best in Tank,” Ford says. “Tank’s got the ring IQ of a 40-year-old. … People are asking if Tank can keep up with [Pedraza]. But can he keep up with Tank?”
For complete coverage of Pedraza vs Davis, head over to our fight page.