Gervonta Davis and Rolando Romero meet on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. An exciting grudge match in prospect or a total mis-match? Luke G. Williams previews the action…
It’s hard to think of an active professional boxer whose career trajectory has followed a more frustrating path than Gervonta Davis.
Skill-wise, the 27-year-old from Baltimore has it all. He can punch, he can box and his technique and schooling are superb. There is also an edge of ruthlessness about ‘Tank’; he’s exciting and compelling, and I would confidently pick him to beat most fighters in or around 135lbs. The kid has everything needed to rule the boxing universe.
The problem is – from a sporting and arguably even a business perspective – that his career has been grossly mismanaged. ‘Tank’ may have won world ‘titles’ at three weights, but he has never ‘owned’ or dominated a weight class and he hasn’t fought the best and most dangerous names in any of the divisions he has floated around.
True, he has established himself as a good ticket-seller and a regular ‘pay-per-view’ fighter (albeit with buy rates that are reportedly pretty low), but can you imagine how much bigger a star Davis would be if he had actually fought some top tier opposition, rather than entrusted his career to the tiresome ‘low-risk playbook’ so regularly and frustratingly employed by Mayweather Promotions?
This weekend’s fight is a further illustration of how Davis has been left behind – in terms of legitimacy and legacy – by fighters in and around lightweight who have been more willing to roll the dice. While Devin Haney – four years Davis’ junior – has travelled to Australia to face George Kambosos Jr for the unified lightweight crown, Davis is fighting in yet another marking time contest for a meaningless WBA bauble against a man in Romero who is barely a prospect, let alone an established performer.
Even taking into account the myriad absurdities of the modern boxing landscape, the fact that a fight between Davis and a challenger as limited and ill-equipped as Romero is being sold as a pay-per-view ‘mega event’ is both cynical and farcical.
If Davis has prepared properly – and at Friday’s weigh-in the fact he didn’t have to battle the scales, as he has done in the past, was a good sign – and fights a disciplined fight then he should win this contest with utter, almost embarrassing ease. Romero is heavy handed but crude, and there is nothing in his career to suggest he is anything other than – at best – a top 20 lightweight.
The 26-year-old from Las Vegas may be 14-0 (12 KOs) but the only win of any note whatsoever on his record is a fifth-round TKO of Sweden’s Anthony Yigit, who despite his heart and willing is not a world level performer. Romero shouldn’t even be able to claim an undefeated record – back in August 2020 most sane observers felt he was soundly outworked and outboxed by Jackson Marinez, although three myopic judges somehow gifted the fight to ‘Rolly’. (Marinez was subsequently iced with ease by RIchard Commey).
Sure, you can’t fault Romero’s ability to have talked his way into this fight, and to sell it once he got it. In fact, he’s a great talker. I mean, how about this for some tasty pre-fight rhetoric? “He [Davis] has a big head for me to hit. I’m not going to say what punch I’m getting him with, but you’re all going to see on Saturday night. This is ending in one round. I’m getting ready to get violent in the ring.”
Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) also talks well, of course. The difference is, he can also fight, and his own take on this fight is impossible to disagree with. “There are different levels when it comes to boxing. There are people that play boxing and there are people that have been doing this since they were kids, It’s time I showed that I’m one of the guys who’s not to be played with.”
Given Romero’s power I suppose there is a chance – albeit an infinitesimally slim chance – that he might lure Davis into some sort of hot-headed error and ice him early. After all, Davis is often a slow starter, and he may be approaching this fight with over confidence.
It’s an outcome – however – about as likely as this article winning a Pulitzer Prize. In short, it ain’t gonna happen.
My pick is for Davis to win this one as he pleases. If Romero goes to war, this fight could end painfully early. If he merely shows up in survival mode or ‘Tank’ decides to prolong the agony then maybe Romero will be able to delay the inevitable and last to somewhere around the middle rounds. If Davis is really off his game, there’s even a chance that Romero may go the distance, although I would be shocked if that happens.
What’s of more interest to me is what happens when this fight is over and Romero is out of the way. Here’s hoping that Davis – whose current deal with Mayweather Promotions ends with this fight – sees sense, ditches the low-risk playbook and targets some proper challenges, before his rich potential and best years are wasted