ATLANTA – Size definitely didn’t matter to Gervonta Davis on Saturday night.
A shorter Davis moved up two weight classes and knocked out previously unbeaten 140-pound champion Mario Barrios in the 11th round of an entertaining title fight that drew a capacity crowd of 16,570 to State Farm Arena. Barrios stands at least five inches taller than Davis and out-weighed him in the ring, but Davis’ devastating power and speed nullified Barrios’ size advantage in their Showtime Pay-Per-View main event.
The 26-year-old Davis methodically broke down the strong, brave Barrios before finishing him. Davis dropped him twice in the eighth round and once in the 11th round.
A bloodied, battered Barrios got up each time, but referee Thomas Taylor understandably stepped between them to stop the fight at 2:13 of the 11th round. Barrios was still standing when their scheduled 12-round battle ended.
Judges Barry Lindenman (96-92), David Sutherland (97-91) and Zachary Young (96-92) all had Davis ahead entering the 11th round. The fight was much closer through the first six rounds (58-56 for Davis, 57-57 and 57-57), but Davis separated himself from Barrios thereafter.
CompuBox credited Davis for landing just three more punches overall (96-of-296 to 93-of-394). Davis landed more power punches (82-of-182 to 65-of-223), but Barrios connected with more jabs (28-of-171 to 14-of-114).
“I made it tough,” Davis told Showtime’s Jim Gray following his win. “I made it tough, I’d say. I definitely coulda made it easier. But, you know, it is what is. I went up in weight, two weight classes. … I was trying to catch him with some funny shots. I’m the type of fighter that I wanna catch you with clean shots. I just don’t wanna throw any type of shots. So, the shots I was throwing, most of them were missing, but eventually I caught him well.”
Baltimore’s Davis (25-0, 24 KOs), who went off as a 5-1 favorite, has knocked out 96 percent of his opponents since making his pro debut in February 2013. He has won 16 straight bouts by knockout since going the distance for the only time against German Meraz in a six-rounder in October 2014.
San Antonio’s Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) lost the WBA world super lightweight title he won when he beat Batyr Akhmedov by what was considered a controversial 12-round unanimous decision in September 2019 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Barrios wanted to continue Saturday night, but he understood Taylor’s decision.
“Congrats to Tank,” a smiling Barrios said. “He came in here, you know, and he did his thing. It was nothing short of an exciting fight. That’s exactly what both of us predicted. He walked away tonight as the better man, but I’ll definitely be back.”
The undefeated Davis officially became a three-division champion by winning a WBA secondary belt from Barrios. The WBA recognizes Josh Taylor, boxing’s undisputed junior welterweight champion, as its true “super” champion in the 140-pound division, though.
Davis previously won the WBA world lightweight title, the WBA’s “super” 130-pound championship and the IBF junior lightweight title. He said before beating Barrios that he intends to move back to the 135-pound division, or even 130 pounds, for his next fight.
The strong southpaw seemed intent to finish this fight inside the distance Saturday night.
Taylor called for a break in the action with 2:06 to go in the 11th round for Barrios’ corner men to fix the tape on one of his gloves. Davis belted Barrios with a right hook just after the halfway point of the 11th round.
Davis’ punishing left to Barrios’ body sent him to the canvas for the third time in their fight, with just over a minute remaining in the 11th round. The ever-brave Barrios got up yet again, but Davis pounced on him and hurt him again with several power punches that made Taylor step in to spare Barrios from taking more punishment.
“I was coming up two weight classes,” Davis said, “but I knew that, you know, if I catch him, I know for sure I’m crackin’.”
Davis pressed for a knockout during the 10th round, but Barrios kept him honest by landing power punches of his own. Davis’ left buckled Barrios’ knees with just over 30 seconds to go in the 10th round and landed several more power punches that Barrios somehow withstood to make it to the bell.
After Davis dropped him twice during the eighth round, Barrios connected with a right hand that seemed to affect Davis early in the ninth round. Another sweeping right hook by Davis, a shot similar to the punch that first floored Barrios in the previous round, landed with just under a minute to go in the ninth round.
Davis backed against the ropes at the start of the eighth round, which enabled Barrios to land a right hand. With just under 2:10 remaining in that seventh round, however, Davis drilled Barrios with a sweeping right hook that sent the former champion crashing to the canvas.
Barrios, bleeding from a cut under left eye, beat Taylor’s count. A straight left hand by Davis dropped Barrios again soon thereafter.
The courageous Barrios reached his feet again. Davis was reckless at times while attempting to finish him and Barrios fought back just enough to make it to the end of the eighth round.
“Tank’s explosive,” Barrios said. “You know, he caught me slippin’, and I mean, you know, it’s boxing. But at the end of the day, Tank can fight. That’s exactly what I thought happened. But, man, you know, congrats to him. Like I said, I’ve never been a hater. Atlanta, thank you very much.”
Barrios’ short right landed from the inside about 45 seconds into the seventh round. With just over 1:20 to go in the seventh round, Barrios landed a straight right hand to Davis’ head that made Davis fire back at a retreating Barrios.
A straight left by Davis made Barrios back up with just over 20 seconds on the clock in the seventh round.
Barrios landed a right hand just before the halfway point of the sixth round. It didn’t deter Davis from coming forward.
Davis landed a straight left with just over a minute remaining in that sixth round. Barrios took that shot well.
Taylor warned Barrios for a low blow with just under 30 seconds to go in that sixth round. Davis appeared to apologize to Taylor and Barrios for throwing an errant punch after the bell sounded to end the sixth round.
Barely a minute into the fifth round, Davis landed a straight left hand. Barrios came back several seconds later and grazed Davis with a right uppercut.
Barrios missed wildly with a right hand at exactly the midway mark of the fifth round. Davis blasted Barrios with a right hand to his body and then a clean left up top with just about a minute to go in the fifth round.
Davis aggressively went after Barrios following that sequence, but he couldn’t hurt the defending champion. Davis caught Barrios with another straight left late in the fifth round, but Barrios smiled and implored Davis to hit him again.
Barrios backed Davis into a neutral corner and fired a right hand Davis partially blocked during the final minute of the fourth round. Davis moved out of that vulnerable spot, but Barrios landed a flush right hand toward the end of that fourth round.
Davis landed a straight left hand as Barrios moved backward with just over a minute on the clock in the third round. Davis connected with left hands on two other occasions and quickly moved out of Barrios’ punching range in the final minute of the third round.
Barrios remained disciplined during the second round by trying to keep Davis at the end of his jab. Davis got the crowd’s attention when he blasted Barrios with a straight left hand that connected with just over a minute to go in the second round.
Both boxers were careful during the first round. Davis had trouble getting inside on Barrios, who remained at a comfortable distance.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.