When Floyd Mayweather barged into Gervonta Davis’ corner after round nine of his bout against Mario Barrios and began talking over Davis’ trainer Calvin Ford, it would have been understandable to assume it was simply Mayweather’s well-documented and well-earned main character syndrome flaring up at the worst possible time.
After four tepid opening rounds that looked to be in Barrios’ favor, Davis picked up the pace but found himself in what appeared to be competitive rounds until round eight. After more than half a fight of Barrios extending his jab hand and touching Davis’ right hand to take his jab away as Barrios’ trainer Virgil Hunter had instructed him to, Davis sensed that Barrios had fallen into a lull. With Barrios’ arm still extended expecting to simply paw Davis’ jab away, Davis swooped around with a right hook that sent Barrios flying to the canvas. Barrios made it to his feet, but was chased down by Davis who dropped him again before the end of the round.
But in the ninth round, Barrios appeared to correct his mistakes, and brought the pacing of the bout back to something more reminiscent of the opening four rounds, but with a little more pop on his punches.
Not long before that, the Showtime telecast had shown unofficial ringside scorer Steve Farhood’s scorecard, which had Barrios ahead.
For the entirety of the bout, Mayweather parlayed his status as promoter of the event and transcendent star to wander around ringside in a manner that likely wouldn’t have been permitted for anyone else. Primarily, he leaned against the ring apron next to ringside photographers and shouted through the ropes like a pro wrestling manager. That particular position wasn’t far from the commentary table or production monitors, and one can assume that either he overheard announcers discussing Farhood’s scorecard, saw the graphic on the screen, or, since information like this can be transmitted via Twitter instantaneously, heard it from someone in the front row.
Mayweather was alarmed enough to relay what he had heard directly to his protégé.
"On the unofficial, you're down," said Mayweather. "I gotta be honest with you. That's what you want from me. You don't want nobody lying to you. I'm a hundred with you. That's my job."
Your instincts wouldn’t have been guiding you in the wrong direction if you saw that exchange, rolled your eyes and thought Mayweather was taking valuable time away from Ford, who could have been giving Davis tactical instructions as to how to wrestle momentum of the bout back from Barrios after round nine.
But the alert from Mayweather was the tactical instruction Davis needed. Not just to win the fight, because as it turned out, the unofficial scorecard was a false alarm--the appointed judges had the fight scored comfortably for Davis even at that point, contrary to both Farhood’s and a large contingent of online fans’ reading of the bout. Rather, it was what Gervonta Davis needed to hear in order to turn into Tank.
“I definitely was nervous the whole night, because I didn't know if I catch him, will I hurt him, or if he catches me will he hurt me? He had on eight ounces and I was going up two weight classes,” said Davis at the post-fight press conference. “My coach, and even Floyd was telling me to press him, but I was like I don't know, I don't wanna get caught. I laid back the whole fight. And then in the eighth or ninth, Floyd came to me and was like, you're down, you're down on the scorecards.”
Davis is one of the gifted handful of fighters on the planet that not only doesn’t need to negotiate between speed, power and accuracy, but also can operate in a mode of high tempo aggression so overwhelming that he doesn’t endanger himself. When Davis truly turns it on, as he did in the tenth and eleventh rounds, even a height and weight differential isn’t enough to keep him off of you. An undersold hallmark of Davis’ prowess is his foot speed, which he pairs with an inventive array of power shots, namely a devastating uppercut. Despite the length and crispness of Barrios’ jab, when Davis decided to move in at full speed, Barrios wasn’t able to react and move his feet or his head fast enough to avoid the onslaught.
Intuitively, Davis knows this about himself, even if at moments in the ring he has doubts or hesitance. In SHOWTIME’s All Access series, Davis predicted how the fight would go. Barrios’ size and power would be a threat, until Tank decided it was no longer a boxing match and had instead become a fight.
“I know for sure that I can fight. I seen him in person, I seen how big he is. He's bigger, he can catch me, he can drop me, whatever. But it's like, think about yourself, who you are. I can fight, man. It's gonna be what it's gonna be,” said Davis.
Mayweather’s scorecard tip merely lit the fuse and ignited Davis. In the eleventh round, Davis landed his trademark uppercut to the body, where CompuBox tabulated nearly 40% of his punches were landed coming into the bout. It crumpled Barrios, bringing him down to Davis’ size. When Tank emerges, they’re all the same size. As Ford once said of Davis, “he’s a different breed--it’s like he's trying to beat nature."
After one more knockdown, he beat Barrios, before climbing to the top rope and landing a backflip in the center of the ring.
Although it was Mayweather’s reporting that may have prompted the thrilling ending, he didn’t revel in his glory. The same genuine affection for Davis that compelled him to insert himself, combined with a degree of maturity developed after 44 years kept him in the background even during the celebration. Only after he was prompted by interviewer Jim Gray did his offer a brief thanks to the crowd before stepping away.
At the post-fight press conference, Mayweather stood on the wall sipping a hot beverage, never stepping to the podium and offering comment.
It was all about Tank Davis on this night.