Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis made a mockery of significant height and reach disadvantages to drop WBA Regular super-lightweight title holder Mario Barrios three times en route to an impressive 11th round win at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Saturday night.
The exciting Davis effectively jumped two weight divisions but made that leap look fairly effortless as he gradually broke down the previously unbeaten Barrios with his usual blend of power and intensity.
The fight was delicately poised at the halfway mark before Davis’ power show took over, dropping Texan Barrios twice in the eighth and once in the penultimate round before referee Thomas Taylor stepped in.
“I made it tough. I definitely could have made it easier but I went up two weight classes and I got the job done,” the 26-year-old Davis told Showtime’s Jim Gray afterwards. “I hit him with some clean shots, but I’m the type of fighter that wants to catch you with clean shots. I don’t just want to throw any type of shot. The shots I was throwing were missing, but eventually I caught up with him.
“I knew for sure if I catch him, I’m crackin’. So I caught him, and it showed. My coach was telling me to go to a jab style but I’m a southpaw so they know I’m going to that jab side. So I would try and bait him in. I faked like I was going left, and I threw my right. And my hook over top, and that’s where I caught him.”
The bout was in the balance in the first six rounds with Davis (25-0, 24 KOs) starting slow against the rangy, established 140-pounder. At the midway point, two scorecards were even at 57-57 with Baltimore’s Davis leading 58-56 on other. Barrios was nicking some rounds with his jab, but when Davis finally cranked into gear the Texan had no answer.
A right hook to the temple dropped Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) in the eighth to illustrate that Davis’ vaunted power had taken the trip with him to 140lbs. Bleeding from a cut under the left eye, Barrios rose, but was decked again by a straight southpaw left soon after before gritting out the round.
Barrios composed himself and came out strongly in the ninth, cooling the emotions of the pro-Davis crowd. After the round had finished, Davis’ promoter Floyd Mayweather rang the alarm bells. “You’re down on the unofficial scorecards. I gotta be honest with you, that’s my job,” warned the legendary Mayweather.
Davis heeded the warning to belabour the game Barrios in the following round. A left hand buckled Barrios’ knees in the closing stages of the 10th but the champion hung in there.
A round later, Davis’ monstrous power finished the argument. A left uppercut to body downed Barrios for the third time on the night. As ever, he hoisted himself upright, but after another Davis onslaught referee Taylor stepped in to halt the carnage.
Afterwards, promoter Mayweather lauded Davis for another exciting show of power and persistence. “He has the potential to be one of the greatest ever,” said Mayweather. “When I first met ‘Tank’ when he was 14 or 15 years old, I told him I’d make him a world champion. And that you’ll be one of the best someday. I’m proud of him.”
A sporting Barrios was also full of praise. “I’ve never been a hater. Congrats to ‘Tank’,” said Barrios. “He came here and did his thing. It was nothing short of an exciting fight and that’s exactly what both of us predicted. He was the better man tonight, but I’ll definitely be back. ‘Tank’ is explosive. He caught me slipping and it’s boxing. At the end of the day, one punch can change the fight. That’s exactly what I felt happened. Congrats to him.”
In the chief support, Orlando southpaw Erickson Lubin scored a stirring sixth-round triumph over former unified 154lbs champion Jeison Rosario in an absorbing WBC 154lbs title eliminator.
In a back and forth encounter, Lubin’s pinpoint body-punching proved key as he dropped Dominican Rosario twice in the sixth before referee Jerry Cantu stepped in .
“I started to hurt him in the body as soon as the first round started,” said former amateur standout Lubin. “I started with the body and I saw him grunt. So I was able to hurt him to the body. I just wanted to distract him with the jab, then go downstairs. And I was able to get him out. I knew even if he got up after the [first] knockdown that the fight was over. I know I’m a great finisher and I knew I was going to get him out of there as soon as I saw him drop.”
The gifted Lubin started well, stealing an early march before staggering Rosario with a blur of punches at the close of a feverish third round. But Rosario turned the tables in the fourth, stunning Lubin with a hefty left hook.
Dominican puncher Rosario appeared in the driving seat in the fifth before Lubin refocused to hammer him downstairs in a final momentum change in the sixth. A left-right to the body sent Rosario down for the first time. He scrambled up before a right hand to the body dropped him again.
Lubin threw a cuffing right hand while Rosario was down but referee Cantu had seen enough, handing former WBC title challenger Lubin the biggest win of his career.
“I want a shot at the world title next,” said Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs), who has rebuilt well after suffering a surprise first-round loss to Jermell Charlo in October 2017. “I want everyone at 154 pounds. I’m No. 1 in the WBC but I chose to fight Rosario. I don’t duck anybody. I want to say that I fought everyone in my division when I win the world title.”
A disconsolate Rosario (20-3-1, 14 KOs) added: “Right now, I feel so bad. There is no lesson to be learned yet, everything is so raw still. I lost again and it’s so frustrating. I was convinced I was going to win. The fight started to turn in the second round. I was just trying to keep up and listen to my corner. Lubin is a great fighter. He deserved to win. I hope he enjoys his victory.”
Earlier, Uzbek southpaw Batyr Akhmedov (9-1, 8 KOs) halted former IBF super-featherweight champion Argenis Mendez (25-7-3, 12 KOs & 1 NC) on an eighth-round retirement in a WBA 140lbs title eliminator. The Dominican suffered an injured right hand, prompting his withdrawal while behind on the cards.
Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.