Gervonta Davis has patterned his career trajectory after that of his idol and mentor, Floyd Mayweather Jr. And given the Hall of Fame-worthy résumé of his hero, Davis isn’t off to a bad start.
Mayweather was 21 years old when he won his first world championship in October 1998, gaining an eighth-round stoppage of Genaro Hernandez in his 18th career bout to earn a 130-pound title.
Mayweather’s victory came almost two years to the day after his pro debut, and made him the first member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic boxing team to win a world title.
Gervonta Davis (16-0, 15 KOs) now has an opportunity to win his first world title Saturday night when he challenges 130-pound world champion Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KOs) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The bout serves as the co-main to the 168-pound title unification between champions Badou Jack and James DeGale (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT).
“When Floyd recruited me to join Mayweather Promotions, he told me I was that guy to take over the sport of boxing,” Davis said. “I'm going to win this title in my 17th pro fight, and that's one fight earlier than Floyd did it. Winning the world title live on Showtime should make a big statement to the world.”
After overcoming a rough childhood, the 22-year-old who is nicknamed “Tank” can become the second-youngest world champion from Baltimore and the first titleholder from his hometown since Hasim Rahman upset Lennox Lewis to become a heavyweight champion in April 2001.
Davis and Mayweather met at a training camp for former four-division champion Adrien Broner in 2015, and Mayweather signed the young southpaw to a promotional contract soon afterward.
“[Adrien] flew me out to Las Vegas for his fight [against Shawn Porter],” Davis said. “I worked out at the Mayweather gym, and Floyd liked the way I fought, [liked] my heart.
“Floyd has had a major impact on me and my career. I grew up around him. All of us wanted to be like him. Like Tyson and Ali were to the generations of boxers before me, Floyd was our superstar."
“ When Floyd recruited me to join Mayweather Promotions, he told me I was that guy to take over the sport of boxing. I'm going to win this title in my 17th pro fight, and that's one fight earlier than Floyd did it. ” Gervonta Davis
Davis was introduced to boxing when an uncle brought him to a Baltimore gym, and it was there that he met his longtime trainer and father figure, Calvin Ford, who will be in Davis’ corner once again Saturday night.
“I’m just keeping him grounded and focused,” Ford said. “But Tank understands he's destined for this, and he’s aware of his meaning to kids in Baltimore given what he's been through in his life.”
Under Ford’s tutelage, Davis had an outstanding amateur career that was capped by a national Golden Gloves championship at 123 pounds in 2012.
Davis made his pro debut in February 2013 with a first-round knockout of Desi Williams in Washington, D.C., and has continued to demonstrate his power as he's climbed the ranks.
The slugging southpaw has knocked out his last seven opponents, and 15 of 16 overall in his career, including 13 in four rounds or less. In his last fight in June, Davis needed just 41 seconds to take care of Mexican veteran Mario Antonio Macias.
Now, less than four years after his first pro fight, Davis faces the toughest opponent of his young career in the 27-year-old Pedraza. But having sparred with champions such as Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson, Davis said he’s confident he will continue to live up to the expectations put upon him by Mayweather.
“This will be a wake-up call for boxing, a chance to show that I’m the one to be a superstar and bring joy and entertainment to the sport," Davis said. "Winning would put icing on the cake and show [Baltimore’s] kids you can come from nothing, stay focused and turn your dreams into a reality.”
For a complete look at Pedraza vs Davis, visit our fight page.