Nine days before he steps inside the ring against Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Gervonta Davis hit the pavement hard. He’d already had a training session and started doing a litany of media rounds to promote his initial outing on pay-per-view and then was going back to the gym to spar.
By that point, most fighters shut down the media as they make final preparations for fight night. Not Davis, as he understands that this is all part of the process on the road to becoming a megastar.
“It’s great for me,” Davis told Sporting News. “I asked for this life. I got to be able to deal with what comes with it. I’m definitely appreciative to be in this position. I’m happy.”
Pay-per-view is typically reserved for the premiere names in the sport. Before Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquaio and Canelo Alvarez became worldwide superstars, they fought on premium television, which helped them build their audience. When their stars began to shine, they were put on pay-per-view.
Mayweather, the promoter for Davis, feels the 25-year-old is the guy to supplant him as the next pay-per-view megastar. The 43-year-old has been entrenched in Davis’ (23-0, 22 KOs) fight camp in every facet and has been guiding him on this new journey of his career.
But having your PPV debut during the COVID-19 pandemic is a considerable gamble. It’s going to be a test of Davis’ marketability, as the Charlo Brothers had their event at the end of last month, and UFC 254 featuring one of the world’s most prominent athletes, Khabib Nurmagomedov, occurred on Saturday. Are people going to be willing to plop down more money to see a guy whose fan base is snowballing because of the hip-hop audience that helped him sell nearly 30,000 tickets for his past two fights and for someone who some boxing pundits feel is the smaller version of Mike Tyson because 22 of his 23 wins have come by knockout?
“You got to be able to put on a performance so people will want to watch it again,” Davis said. “That will make a star (and) that will make people want to tune in. That’s what I’m basically worried about. I want to put on a great performance. I want to do great things and great numbers where I can continue to fight on pay-per-view. I don’t want to just fight on pay-per-view one time, and that’s it. I want to become that big star.”
“I know ‘Tank’ is ready for pay-per-view because his fan base is really growing,” Mayweather said on a recent conference call to promote the fight. “The demographic that follows him is getting bigger. With Leo being popular on the West Coast and in Texas, he’ll bring a huge following, as well. This fight can only be on pay-per-view, in my opinion.”
Standing in the way of Davis’ path to superstardom is Santa Cruz. The 32-year-old is a four-division world champion who brings an all-action style that ordinarily throws around 1,000 punches per fight. It’s Santa Cruz’s style that makes Davis feel that “El Terremoto” is the perfect foe to show a new audience what he’s all about.
“I think that’s why he is a great opponent,” Davis said. “He’s definitely gonna bring that great style he has. He’s going to bring his fans. I think I could build off of his fans and his style and make it a great night for boxing.
“I think he brings everything I can possibly bring to the table as far as excitement, throwing punches. He’s a four-time world champion. We know he’s always going to come prepared. He only had one loss, and that was debatable. But other than that, he’s great. He’s a great fighter all around the board. I can’t wait to share the ring with him.”
If the 25-year-old can pass his toughest test to date, there are plenty of fights that would garner significant interest, from WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney to Ryan Garcia and unified lightweight titleholder Teofimo Lopez — making the sky the limit for Davis if he can stay out of trouble and focus, as those things have plagued his career.
Can Davis put those issues behind him and be the megastar that Mayweather feels he will be? Davis thinks he can, and that’s the lasting impression he wants to make on Halloween night.
“He’s a damn star,” Davis wants people to say. “Put him back on pay-per-view. Let him do great things. Let him stay out of trouble, continue to put on great performances in front of a crowd, and just be that person everyone wants to see. I want to leave an impression on that person that every time I fight, everybody is rushing home to their TV or there at the fight.”