A look back at five of the three-division champ's most explosive victories as he prepares to put his world lightweight title on the line against Isaac Cruz Sunday, December 5, on SHOWTIME pay-per-view.
Bad things happen when Gervonta “Tank” Davis’ gloves touch his opponents.
Davis has an abundance of God-given gifts but the one that stands out most is his punching power, which has allowed him to stop 24 of his 25 opponents—and made him a crossover star. The only man to take him the distance, the obscure German Meraz, went down twice and lost every round in a six-round bout.
And KO No. 25 could come on Sunday, December 5 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the aggressive Isaac "Pitbull" Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) is scheduled to tangle with Davis on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Which of the first 24 are the most memorable?
Well, there have been so many epic stoppages even though the 27-year-old has yet to reach his peak. However, here are five that illustrate Davis’ destructive power and came in important fights.
5 LIAM WALSH
Date: May 20, 2017
Location: Copper Box Arena, London
Result: TKO 3
At stake: Davis’ IBF World Super Featherweight Title
Records at the time: Davis 17-0 (16 KOs); Walsh 21-0 (14 KOs)
Significance: Davis agreed to take on a young, undefeated contender in hostile territory in the first defense of the title he won by stopping Jose Pedraza four months earlier. Tough assignment? Well, not for Davis. Walsh, respectful of Davis’ power, boxed carefully and held his own for two-plus rounds as his home-country fans chanted his name, “Walshy! Walshy!” Then, much to their dismay, everything went south quickly. Davis started landing big left hands, which stung Walsh and prompted him to hold in an effort to protect himself from the storm. However, when he stepped back, more damaging punches rained upon his head. The final blow was an overhand left that put Walsh on his back and hurt him badly. He staggered to his feet and was allowed to continue but he survived only a few more seconds, as referee Michael Alexander decided enough was enough. Fans from the U.K. saw up close Davis’ destructive power. And they won’t soon forget it.
4 JESUS CUELLAR
Date: April 21, 2018
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Result: TKO 3
At stake: Vacant WBA World Super Featherweight Title
Records at the time: Davis 19-0 (18 KOs); Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs)
Result: TKO 3
Significance: Davis had extra motivation for this fight after he lost his IBF title on the scale before his previous bout, against Francisco Fonseca. In this fight, against the rugged Cuellar, he had the opportunity to regain a major 130-pound belt immediately. And he seized it. Only this time it wasn’t his vaunted uppercut or another punch to the head that made the difference. It was body work that led to Cuellar’s demise. The first big shot was a straight left to the Argentine’s side about halfway through round two, which forced him to take a knee in pain. He survived the round but the end was near. Several shots to the belly – including a straight left – put Cuellar down a second time with about 40 seconds remaining in the third. He got up but fell once more under a barrage of hard punches, which ended the slaughter. Davis was a champion once again. And he demonstrated that he could hurt you – indeed, stop you – in a multitude of ways.
Davis quote: “There’s always bumps in the road when you want to become successful. It’s all about how you bounce back and tonight I showed that I’m a true champion.”
3 MARIO BARRIOS
Date: June 26, 2021
Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta
Result: TKO 11
At stake: Barrios’ WBA World Super Lightweight Title
Records at the time: Davis 24-0 (23 KOs); Barrios 26-0 (17 KOs)
Significance: Davis made a bold move by moving up to 140 pounds to challenge a formidable champion like Barrios, which made Tank’s ability to score another knockout all the more impressive. Barrios used his jab to control the early rounds, as Davis struggled to get within striking distance of his taller, longer opponent. However, by the middle rounds, he began to close the gap and turn the tide. He had a big round eight in which he put Barrios down twice. The champion continued to fight bravely and with some success … until round 11. With about a minute to go in the stanza, Davis planted a vicious left into Barrios’ gut and he dropped to all fours in great pain. He got up and the fight resumed but he clearly couldn’t defend himself, which prompted referee Thomas Taylor to stop the fight. Another fight, another big knockout. And this one made Davis a three-division titleholder.
Davis quote: “I was coming up two weight classes, but I knew that, you know, if I catch him, I know for sure I’m crackin’.”
2 JOSE PEDRAZA
Date: Jan. 14, 2017
Location: Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn
Result: TKO 7
At stake: Pedraza’s IBF World Super Featherweight Title
Records at the time: Davis 16-0 (15 KOs); Pedraza 22-0 (12 KOs)
Significance: Pedraza stood too close to the fire and got burned. The reigning 130-pound champion from Puerto Rico had planned to use his boxing ability and athleticism to stay on the outside, which presumably would limit the damage Davis could inflict. Sadly for him, it didn’t work out that way. Davis forced his way inside, which produced too many toe-to-toe exchanges for Pedraza’s good. The result was predictable. Davis, his power on full display, gradually broke down his prey to set up a dramatic finish in round seven. Pedraza was taking a series of hard shots against the ropes when a mammoth right hook knocked him onto his back and hurt him badly. He got up but couldn’t go on. Davis had his first world title. And, of course, he made a loud statement in the process: Mess with Tank Davis at your own risk.
Davis quote: "It feels great to win my first belt. It was a lot of hard work, but it means a lot to me that I had a great performance and boxed really well.”
1 LEO SANTA CRUZ
Date: Oct. 31, 2020
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio
Result: KO 6
At stake: WBA World Super Featherweight, WBA World Lightweight Titles
Records at the time: Davis 23-0 (22 KOs); Santa Cruz 37-1-1 (19 KOs)
How it happened: It was the shot heard ’round the boxing world. Davis and Santa Cruz were in the heat of a wild, toe-to-toe firefight in round six with the fighters trading heavy blows at a feverish pace. Then, with Santa Cruz’s back against the ropes, the native of Mexico threw three right hands. Davis stepped to the left of the third one, inched forward and unloaded a left uppercut that spun Santa Cruz’s head halfway around and knocked him out cold in a breathtaking moment. Referee Rafael Ramos didn’t have to count. Santa Cruz was done. Knockout of the Year? That was obvious immediately after it happened. And it wasn’t only because of the instantaneous finality of Davis’ huge blow. This was also the biggest fight of Davis’ young career, one that earned him an additional title and a new level of respect. That combination – violence and significance – made it a knockout for the ages.
Davis quote: “I’m a pay-per-view star,” he said afterward. “… I’m No. 1. It showed tonight.”
For a closer look at Gervonta "Tank" Davis, check out his fighter page.
- Davis vs Cruz
- Gervonta Davis