Between the ninth and tenth rounds of Gervonta "Tank" Davis' fight with Mario Barrios, Floyd Mayweather, Tank's promoter and mentor, came over to the corner and told Davis that Showtime's unofficial scorer had him behind in the fight. Davis at first was incredulous, believing that he was ahead. But Floyd was insistent. Mixing in tough love with genuine affection, Floyd cajoled his fighter and told him how he needed to assert himself throughout the rest of the fight.
Tank left the corner determined and engaged in a vicious back-and-forth with Barrios in the tenth. In a fantastic exchange, Barrios landed a left hook to the body and a left uppercut. Tank then followed with a blistering straight left hand. Both were landing thudding power shots. And even though Tank had dropped Barrios twice in the eighth round, Barrios was still giving everything he had offensively. The tenth was one of the better rounds of boxing I've seen this year; it was gripping stuff to watch.
After the tenth, Mayweather again came to Davis' corner. Floyd told him that he had a good round, but he had to press Barrios. And boy did Davis respond. Although Davis has always been economical with his punches in his career, in the eleventh he went after Barrios like a house on fire. He cracked him with a beautiful left uppercut to the body for his third knockdown in the fight. Barrios beat the count, but then Davis connected with a menacing straight left hand that forced Barrios to stumble awkwardly into the ropes, causing referee Thomas Taylor to wave the fight off. Overall, it was one of Davis' more dramatic victories in his career.
|Davis (left) after scoring his third knockdown|
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott
In the post-fight interview Davis stated his belief that he had made the fight harder for himself than it needed to be. When pressed for an explanation, he admitted that he was concerned about Barrios' power at 140 lbs. and if he could take Barrios' best shots. All of that was refreshingly candid.
However, it wasn't just Barrios’ power that caused Davis to be reluctant to throw in the early rounds. Overall, Barrios fought intelligently, specifically by limiting Davis' countering opportunities. Barrios had been well prepared by his trainer Virgil Hunter. Almost to a fault, Barrios kept his distance whenever possible, utilizing his reach advantage to cut down the number of exchanges. He didn't get greedy. He only threw one or two punches at a time. When Davis did hang along the ropes, Barrios was keen not to fall for any traps. He kept his distance and composure and refused to be overexuberant or rush in with punches that could be easily countered.
Davis can be a fantastic counterpuncher, but Barrios' game plan forced Tank to create his own openings. Tank hit pay dirt in the eighth when he connected with a beautiful lead right hook that dropped Barrios. It isn't just that he landed the shot on the button, but he sold a feint before throwing. Barrios believed that Davis' left hand was coming, but instead Davis whipped his right hand around the guard and caught Barrios perfectly flush.
Later in the round Davis landed an overhand left that knocked down Barrios for a second time. The shot had a little loop to it and it illustrated another one of Davis' considerable talents: he's a fantastic improvisor. He saw the opening and landed a shot that he hadn't thrown to that point in the fight.
The Barrios fight answered several questions about Davis in the ring. Davis has had problems with his gas tank and conditioning at points in his career, but watching the tenth and eleventh rounds, those were among him most impressive showings in the fight. He had more than enough to give in the championship rounds.
In addition, he showed he could take a real punch at 140 pounds. Barrios certainly didn't unload on Davis throughout the fight, but he landed his fair share of power shots to the head and body; Davis was unmoved. And while Barrios connected with a number of impressive punches, his success was sporadic, in part because Davis' defense was much sharper than advertised.
|Davis and Mayweather after the victory|
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott
I was also impressed with Davis' hand speed. It's not just that Davis has impressive power, but he gets his shots home fast. It's his combination of power, speed and accuracy that really troubles opponents. Yes, his power is among the best in the sport, but he can routinely beat opponents to the punch.
Finally, one has to credit Davis for being coachable. His trainer, Calvin Ford, kept telling him to go to Barrios' jab side (his left) and Davis' first knockout came directly from that piece of instruction. And when Mayweather came to Davis late in the fight, Tank listened to what his mentor had to say and took his words to heart. Perhaps even more importantly, he responded affirmatively.
The Mayweather-Davis dynamic has been an interesting one. Filled with love and momentary periods of frustration over the years, the Barrios fight showed the level of respect and trust between them. It hasn't always been smooth sailing for the pair, but on Saturday in their own way each of them performed to the best of his abilities.
Perhaps Saturday's fight wasn't Tank's cleanest performance. It wasn't one-way traffic. But honestly, we've seen enough of those fights. In Barrios he was facing a solid fighter in a higher weight class. Tank was presented with a series of challenges that he had never faced before: a much bigger man, and an opponent who had a winning game plan. Tank solved these problems and solved them with aplomb. From my perspective it was his most well-rounded performance of his career. He was in a real fight and his opponent wasn't making it easy for him. Tank had to make his own luck: and he did just that.