Among the things that Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis has proven since advancing to main event status is his ability to draw a crowd no matter where he performs.
The driving force behind his growing box-office status is willing to put that theory to the test in thinking outside the box for his latest adventure.
Baltimore’s Davis (25-0, 24KOs) has established himself as a legitimate star, producing capacity crowds in three different states over his last four fights. The unbeaten southpaw now takes his act back to the West Coast, where he will face streaking lightweight contender Isaac Cruz (21-1-1, 15KOs) atop a Showtime Pay-Per-View event December 5—a Sunday evening—at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Whenever Tank fights, my phone is blowing up with calls, especially from celebrities from all over wanting to attend his events,” Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions told BoxingScene.com. “He’s one of the biggest attractions in the sport today.
“It’s not just local. A lot of people in this sport think Tank just has “urban” fans, and we know what they’re trying to say. But he pulls a crowd wherever we go. We saw it even before he was headlining but then we got to see what he could do when he was the star of the show in (Carson) California nearly three years ago. Now we’re headed back to L.A. and it will be a star-studded event.”
Davis’ first fight as a Showtime main event in the United States took place in February 2019 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The moment was to come in a junior lightweight title defense versus former three-division titlist Abner Mares who was forced to withdraw after suffering a detached retina sparring late in training camp. Davis instead faced Hugo Ruiz, whom he dispatched in the first round in front of a crowd of 8,048 whose attendees including music superstars Drake, Lil Wayne and Jeezy as well as NFL superstar Odell Beckham Jr. who took a moment to pose with faux twin and then-unbeaten junior middleweight champ Jarrett ‘Swift’ Hurd.
From there came the long overdue homecoming, with Davis drawing an announced crowd of 14,686 for a routine mandatory title defense in July 2019. Davis knocked out Ricardo Nuñez in the second round of his WBA junior lightweight title defense at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, with the city hosting its first major title fight in more than 80 years.
The breakout 2019 campaign ended with Davis turning Atlanta into a fight town—at least when he performs. A 12th round knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa took place on the final Saturday of the year at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Davis’ second hometown. An announced crowd of 14,129 bore witness to its first major boxing event since Evander Holyfield defended his unified WBA/IBF heavyweight title at nearby Georgia Dome in September 1998.
Davis’ return to ‘Black Hollywood’ proved an even bigger event, generating a capacity crowd of 16,570 at State Farm Arena for his 11th round knockout of unbeaten Mario Barrios in June for his 16th consecutive stoppage win. The fight took place at junior welterweight, two divisions above Davis’ previous ring appearance when he delivered a spectacular one-punch, sixth-round knockout of Leo Santa Cruz in their junior lightweight title fight last Halloween.
The win over Santa Cruz headlined the first major boxing event in the United States to take place in front of fans since the pandemic. An announced crowd of 9,024 turned out to San Antonio’s Alamodome, well beyond Davis’ typical fan base.
Having proven his worth at the box-office from coast-to-coast in the U.S., Davis has clearly earned the confidence of his team to invest heavily into his future.
The upcoming bout with Cruz—who replaces Rolando ‘Rolly’ Romero, a longtime rival of Davis—will the third straight Pay-Per-View headliner for the unbeaten southpaw. It will be his first on a Sunday evening, though the second time that Mayweather Promotions will run a major show on that night of the week.
The first came this past June—three weeks prior to Davis-Barrios when Hall of Fame former five-division champion and box-office king Floyd Mayweather Jr. faced social media influencer and cruiserweight novice Logan Paul in an eight-round exhibition. The rain-soaked event dulled the on-site crowd at outdoor Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, although the Showtime PPV event reportedly sold 1,000,000 units at a $49.99 purchase point.
Showtime also went on a Sunday evening for a PPV event headlined by Jake Paul, Logan’s younger and more boxing-talented brother. The unbeaten Paul advanced to 4-0 (3KOs) in going the distance for the first time in his young career with an eight-round decision victory over former UFC welterweight titlist Tyron Woodley this past August 29 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Paul’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Final PPV numbers were not released, though Wrestling Observer reported that the event topped out at roughly 500,000 units sold at $59.99 apiece.
Davis is still in the process of building up to the level of mainstream popularity enjoyed by Mayweather and the Paul brothers. His star continues to rise, with each of his two PPV events surpassing 200,000 buys and the latter outperforming his market debut. That progress, coupled with his entertainment value in the ring is enough to convince his financial backers to invest in a new trend.
“We put Floyd on a Sunday night and it was a big sell,” notes Ellerbe. “And think about, what are most people doing on a Sunday night? They’re home, watching TV getting ready for the week. We already know the fans are going to pack the Staples Center—we’ve been to four different states his last five main events and the fans turned out everywhere he went.
“We’re confident that the crowd will turn out and the people at home will be paying for it on Pay-Per-View. They know what to expect. It is one hundred percent going to end in knockout. Everyone knows it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox