An interesting looking world title fight takes place in the UK on Saturday as IBF super-featherweight champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (17-0-0, 16KOs) squares off against England's Liam “Destiny” Walsh (21-0-0, 14KOs) at London's Copper Box Arena.
Davis hails from Baltimore and is just 22 years old. The youngest current world title holder will be boxing outside of the United States for the first time as a professional. The American fighter and his backers, Mayweather Promotions, are seemingly undaunted by the prospect of making the inaugural defence of the crown away from home against an undefeated opponent.
The reason for this is simple. Big things are expected from Gervonta Davis. Boxing observers and members of his inner circle believe he can become a multiple weight world champion. In January Davis provided some evidence to back this lofty prediction. He dominated Jose Pedraza in New York on the way to handing him his first defeat via 7th round stoppage. Pedraza had no answer for Davis' power and aggression and from early in the contest it was clear that it would be “Tank” leaving Barclays Center in possession of the IBF strap.
My NY FIGHTS colleague John Gatling was in attendance that night in Brooklyn. He wrote from press row: “Tank bulldozed a completely over-matched and outgunned Pedraza from the opening bell. Tank made Pedraza look like a rank amateur before finishing him like a seasoned pro.” It really was an impressive outing.
As well as being a boxing talent Davis seems to have admirable personality traits. During his fast rise to the top Gervonta has remained loyal to Baltimore and his boyhood coach Calvin Ford. Despite being advised by his promoter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., to relocate and base himself at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, the young boxer elected to remain in his home city. Instead of Mayweather's high profile gym Davis does his day to day work at the Upton Boxing Center. Located in a tough part of Baltimore where Ford, having fallen onto the wrong side of the tracks himself in his younger days, coaches youngsters in the hope that learning the sweet science will keep them away from the trouble filled streets. Davis was one of the kids who began boxing at Upton under Ford and he remains there today as a world champion.
Davis and Ford's partnership is an undoubted success story, but is there a bump in the road ahead? Is Walsh good enough to introduce a plot twist by handing Davis his first defeat on Saturday?
Liam Walsh has paid his dues and is deserving of this world title opportunity. The 30 year old has previously been the British and Commonwealth champion at 130lbs. But for injuries Walsh would have contested a world title fight before now. Back in 2012 Walsh was set to challenge Ricky Burns for the WBO lightweight title but had to withdraw after being injured in a car accident. Like Davis, Walsh is a southpaw although the Englishman, who will enjoy height and reach advantages in this bout, can comfortably switch to orthodox if required.
Come fight night Walsh will enjoy just about all of the support in an arena he has performed in twice before. He is a popular fighter and his fans travel in large numbers to support their man. Could this become an important factor if the fight goes the distance? Have Mayweather Promotions underestimated Walsh and made a mistake by taking this bout on the road?
The theme of Walsh being overlooked has been prevalent during the build-up. Walsh's promoter Frank Warren told iFL TV: “I want Davis to dismiss Walsh because soon as the bell goes, if he thinks he's coming over here for a walkover, he'll look at his corner and think ‘you told me it's not going to be like this.' Of course they're overlooking Walsh.”
Walsh himself is not apparently worrying about what Davis and team think of him. He is focusing on the contest and trying to win the psychological pre-fight battle. Speaking to BoxNation: “He has to come and perform really well. He's being touted as the next pay-per-view star of boxing. Him coming over here and scraping past me isn't good enough is it? I can hold my own at 130lbs with any man on this planet. As long as I turn up at my best I'm more than confident I win the fight.”
So what of the fight?
I think we are going to see a good clash of styles – Davis will attempt to get into range to land power shots while Walsh will be trying to keep him at range, boxing smartly behind his jab then countering when he can. Walsh has good feet which should keep him out of any real trouble but the key will be how hard he hits. If Walsh's power can discourage Davis from coming forward relentlessly then he has a chance to outbox the champion and win on the scorecards. If not Davis will endlessly pursue the home fighter and we could be looking at a repeat of the Pedraza fight.
Also worth considering is the fact that Davis has never done twelve rounds. His longest fight was nine rounds against Luis Sanchez in 2015. Walsh has completed the championship distance four times so perhaps if the fight goes long Walsh may be in a position to boss the late rounds and come out on top.
Ultimately though I can't see anything other than a points win for the champion. While I think Walsh will be able to gain Davis' respect with his jab, and avoid taking too much of a beating that he ends up getting stopped, I believe that the American's style and power shots will catch the judges eyes and expect to see scores in the 116-112, 117-111 range in his favour.
Davis vs. Walsh has gone under the radar a bit due to the multitude of huge fights featuring big names recently, but this should take nothing away from Saturday's contest. Potential pound-for-pounder Davis may further demonstrate just why so many knowledgeable fans and pundits think he will sooner rather than later be appearing on those lists. Underdog Walsh is quietly confident though and believes he has the ability and the game plan to hand Davis his first defeat.
The bout will air on BoxNation/BT Sport (UK) and on Showtime (USA) and I advise fans on both sides of the pond to tune in. Two excellent boxers with distinctive styles giving their all in order to progress their careers. What's not to like? It could be a trans-Atlantic battle to remember.