The mission of the team around Gervonta Davis has been clear.
Put butts in seats.
Create a pay-per-view star.
The former they’ve been doing with regularity in multiple stops across the United States. Last October, they made their first play for the latter and with pay-per-view the in-ring risk is escalating.
In a crowd-pleasing main event, Davis cut through the experience and will of veteran Leo Santa Cruz with one of the best single shot knockouts of 2020. For an encore, Davis is jumping from Jr. lightweight to Jr. welterweight to face a Mario Barrios rated by just about every outlet in the top ten at 140 lbs.
Cynics can argue Davis could have taken more risk but as a toe in the water at a higher division, it’s a nice start. For Barrios, it’s a chance to break out from the pack.
The Texan has been developed well enough to this point but his resume reflects development more than depth so far. There is a difference between being on the fringes of top tens and being someone fans see as a bona fide threat to some of the more established names at Jr. welterweight like Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez, and undisputed champion Josh Taylor. Barrios is getting paid for sure but he’s also gambling he can hold off a smaller man and make his way to stardom.
Whose gamble will pay off on Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 PM EST)?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Titles: WBA Super Featherweight (2020-Present, 0 Defenses)*
Previous Titles: IBF Super Featherweight (2017, 1 Defense); WBA Super Featherweight (2018-19, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 139 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Baltimore, Maryland
Record: 24-0, 23 KO
Press Rankings: At 130 - #1 (Ring, Boxing News), #2 (TBRB, ESPN); At 135 - #1 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 6 KO (7-0, 7 KO including WBA sub-titles)
Last Five Opponents: 155-11-1 (.931)
Notable Outcomes, Ring/TBRB Rated Foes: Jose Pedraza TKO7; Leo Santa Cruz KO6
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Hugo Ruiz KO1; Yuriorkis Gamboa TKO12
*Also holds WBA sub-title at lightweight, 2019-Present, 1 Defense
Title/Previous Titles: None*
Weight: 134 ½ lbs.
Hails from: San Antonio, Texas
Record: 26-0, 17 KO
Press Rankings: #7 (Ring, Boxing News), #9 (TBRB), #10 (ESPN, BoxRec),
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO in WBA sub-title fights
Last Five Opponents: 88-7-1 (.923)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: None
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
*Holds WBA sub-title at super lightweight, 2019-Present, 1 Defense
The Pick: This is a fascinating fight. Is Barrios genuinely a serious contender at Jr. welterweight? Even if he is, will Davis prove to be the sort of talent to render it moot? Watching both, Davis’s shorter stature could be to his benefit. Barrios tends to bend his knees and come down to opponents, trading at mid and short range often. That will put him right in Davis’s range. This won’t be the first space to bring up Barrios’s narrow victory over the shorter Batyr Akhmedov in 2019. Barrios gutted it out and sealed the deal with a late knockdown but he was busted up in the face along the way. Davis’s right hand is quick and it says here he carries power up the scale. With fewer fights, Davis is also more experienced against a better quality of opposition. He’s the best fighter, regardless of weight, Barrios has seen as a pro. Barrios might not be the same for Davis. There’s still proving to be done.
Davis is hittable; most punchers are. For Barrios to win, he’ll need to catch Davis coming in, make him wary, and post his most defensively responsible fight to date. It’s not the most likely scenario. Davis might fall behind early but his more explosive offense eventually takes over the fight for a late stoppage or solid decision win.
Rold Picks 2021: 27-5
Additional Pay-Per-View Pick
Jeison Rosario TKO Erickson Lubin
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com