In this July 27, 2019, file photo, Gervonta Davis, right, throws a punch at Ricardo Nunez during the first round of their super featherweight boxing championship bout in Baltimore. Eager to take his career to a higher level, Davis will move up to fight Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa for the WBA’s secondary lightweight title. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

In one of the most highly touted boxing matchups this year, Gervonta “Tank” Davis delivered on the biggest stage of his career this far after notching an electrifying sixth-round knockout of Leo Santa Cruz on Oct. 31 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

It was Davis’ first pay-per-view headliner, and he proved to the world that he could exceed expectations against a fighter whom many esteemed as Davis’ most formidable opponent in Santa Cruz (37-2-1), a four-division title-holder known for his combination punching.

The bout, held with a little more than 9,000 socially distanced fans in attendance, was fairly even in the beginning. Santa Cruz made good use of his jab and straight right hands as Davis responded with well-timed body shots and right hooks upstairs.

As Davis began to walk his opponent down in the fifth round and strike meaningful power punches, it was clear that his confidence and momentum was building. And then, in the latter part of the sixth round, Davis landed the punch that, rightfully so, fostered recognition as knockout of the year.

Both fighters were toe to toe in the corner of the ring, and Davis got struck by a Santa Cruz straight right, blocked the second right-hand punch that followed and countered by slipping the third shot and delivering a perfectly executed left uppercut that sent Santa Cruz plunging to the canvas, prompting the official to stop the fight. 

The staggering knockout punch drew deafening roars from the crowd and was Santa Cruz’s first loss by stoppage in 40 bouts and 12 years as a professional. For quite some time, Floyd Mayweather Jr., a former five-weight world champion who is Davis’ promoter, has regarded the West Baltimore native as one the sport’s biggest stars.

Making the proper adjustments and breaking Santa Cruz down was the key to securing the big win, Davis said in the post-fight press conference.

“I felt amazing. This is just the start,” said Davis, a product of West Baltimore’s Upton Boxing Gym, in the post-fight interview with Showtime.

With the brutal knockout victory, Davis’ record improves to 24-0 (23 KO) and carries additional implications. Now, he holds the WBA (World Boxing Association) World Lightweight title and the WBA World Super Featherweight title. 

Boxing aficionados likely agree that Davis has achieved superstardom in the sport, but with the impressive win against someone of Santa Cruz’s stature, perhaps it’s time to rank Tank among the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing with the likes of Terence Crawford, Canelo Alvarez, Errol Spence and others.

“Tank is the top dog. Tank is on pay-per-view for a reason. Tank is where he’s at for a reason… he should be able to enjoy this victory,” said Mayweather, the president of Mayweather Promotions, as he addressed possible unification bouts with fighters like Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia.

“I put him in a position so he could do the same thing I did –  fight when he wants to fight and fighting who he wants to fight. He’s the top dog, and he’s going to keep going out there proving to the world that he is the best. And I’m so proud of him.”

The burgeoning pay-per-view star is one of several emerging professional boxing talents from Baltimore, including Dominique “Dimes” Crowder, Lorenzo “Truck” Simpson, Dorian “Educated Boxer” Bostic, Malik “Iceman” Hawkins and others.