Young guns such as Davis, Spence packing old-school toughness in rise to top

There is a youth movement in boxing, spearheaded by a group of champions and contenders who are showing old-school grit and a willingness to go anywhere and fight anyone to get to the top.

Gervonta Davis and Liam Walsh

Baltimore native Gervonta Davis, 22, stormed his way to a third-round TKO of British challenger Liam Walsh in London on May 20 in the first defense of his 130-pound world title. (Mark Robinson/Showtime)

At the head of the list are Gervonta Davis and Errol Spence Jr., both of whom recently packed their bags and traveled to England to exhibit what the new generation of big-time boxing looks like.

Davis stopped Liam Walsh in the third round of his first 130-pound title defense, thrashing the Brit in front of his own fans in London on May 20. A week later, Spence dethroned Kell Brook by 11th-round knockout in the champion’s hometown of Sheffield, England, to claim a 147-pound title.

Each southpaw displayed two-fisted power, dazzling speed, accuracy and athleticism. The 22-year-old Davis continued his reign as America’s youngest champion, and the 27-year-old Spence established himself as perhaps the most dangerous fighter in his division.

“Errol has an aggressive offensive- and defensive-minded style with a great skill set and ability to deliver a knockout,” said Spence’s trainer, Derrick James. “His greatest asset is that he works very hard in the gym, which means great conditioning down the stretch.

“You look at Davis and his belief in himself, that’s the key to it all. Knowing it is one thing, talking about it is another, but to go over and to make it happen like Davis and Errol did, that’s amazing to see. There is nothing they won’t do to be successful.”

The duo is joined by other young talent that includes world titleholders Robert Easter Jr. (135) and Jarrett Hurd (154), and unbeaten contenders Erickson Lubin (154) and David Benavidez (168). These fighters have action-packed styles that produce knockouts, drawing comparisons to the bygone era when Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler dominated the sport.

Davis (18-0, 17 KOs) declared himself “on another level” before trouncing Walsh, who hit the deck from several unanswered blows in Round 3. In January, “Tank” became America’s youngest reigning champion when he dethroned previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza of Puerto Rico by seventh-round TKO.

“Some people didn't pick me to beat Pedraza, but I enjoy proving people wrong,” Davis said. “There is no one in the weight class who can do anything with me.”

Knowing [you're good] is one thing .. but to go over and to make it happen like [Gervonta] Davis and Errol [Spence] did, that’s amazing to see. There is nothing they won’t do to be successful. Derrick James, trainer of 147-pound world champion Errol Spence Jr.

With his victory over Brook, Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) became the first American to dethrone an English world champion on British soil since 2008, when Tim Bradley Jr. defeated Junior Witter in Nottingham to earn a 140-pound title.

“On paper, Keith Thurman’s the best, coming off wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia,” Spence said. “But I’m confident I would beat any welterweight. I’m all about pleasing the fans. I want the knockouts. If I can hurt or stop my opponent, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Spence’s star potential is seen in his knockout power. In 2015, “The Truth” knocked out all four of his opponents, who had a combined record of 97-5-1.

“It’s a factor when guys go the distance with other fighters and I knock them out after they couldn’t,” said Spence, of Desoto, Texas. “I always want to outperform my foes. Fans realize I’m doing better than a lot of fighters in the division after we’ve fought the same opponents.”

Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs), a 26-year-old from of Accokeek, Maryland, earned a vacant title over Tony Harrison by ninth-round TKO in February. It was the sixth straight knockout and eighth in nine fights for Hurd.

Easter Jr. (19-0, 14 KOs), a 5-foot-11 boxer-puncher, defends his 135-pound world title in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, against southpaw Denis Shafikov on June 30.

Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) and Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs) are on the verge of title shots at ages 21 and 20, respectfully.

“I knock people out, whether it’s Anthony Dirrell or Cullum Smith, and I want everyone at 168 to know I'm to be taken seriously,” Benavidez said. “If they make a mistake, I'm gonna take them out.

“I've always cared about being a crowd-pleaser. I want to be that fighter who has fans glued to the TV watching every round.”

Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr.

Texas’ Errol Spence Jr. (right), 27, went to Kell Brook's hometown of Sheffield, England, on May 27 and gained an 11th-round knockout of the British champion to claim a 147-pound world title. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

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