By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
In a highly anticipated clash between two of boxing’s burgeoning superstars in Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Mario “El Azteca” Barrios, many didn’t expect the fight to go the distance, and sure enough, the boxing world’s prediction held true.
In front of a crowd of more than 16,000 in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, Davis showed why he is arguably the most exciting boxer in the world right now.
The hard-hitting southpaw moved up two weight classes and earned an invigorating technical knockout in the 11th round to become a three-division champion in a Showtime pay-per-view main event on Saturday night.
Competing as a super featherweight and lightweight for most of his career, boxing pundits wondered if Davis could carry his power and explosiveness to the super lightweight division. Some also questioned how he would handle Barrios’ height and reach, as he’s never squared off against an opponent standing nearly 6-foot with a 71-inch wingspan.
After landing two dazzling knockdowns in the eighth round with a lead right hook and a vicious straight left, Davis struck again three rounds later.
Following a staggering left uppercut to the body that sent Barrios to the canvas early in the 11th, Davis landed a monstrous left hand on the jaw of Barrios, prompting referee Thomas Taylor to end the fight with 2:13 elapsed in the round.
With the win, the West Baltimore native improves to 25-0 with 24 knockouts, boasting one of the most impressive resumes in boxing. It took a while for him to make the proper adjustments and take control of the fight, he said in an interview with Jim Gray after the victory.
“I went up in weight, two weight classes and got the job done. I knew that if I catch him (Barrios), I knew for sure I’m cracking so when I caught him, it showed,” said the pay-per-view star.
“I’m thankful to be in this position, I’m thankful to be here. Just soaking it all in.”
As Davis emphasized in the post-fight interviews, it took some time for him to find his rhythm and gain momentum to the point where he knew he was in control.
For roughly the first half of the fight, Barrios remarkably maintained the distance and respected Davis’ power. He made decent use of the jab as expected being that he had a considerable height advantage and landed a few combinations that put him ahead on the unofficial scorecards early on.
Coach Calvin Ford told Davis toward the championship rounds to “tune everybody out and get in your zone” while advising him to attack Barrios’ body before going for a knockout blow up top.
It wasn’t until around the two-minute mark of the eighth round that Davis was in control, which was also when blood began pouring from the left eye of Barrios. He visibly showed more comfort walking Barrios down in the ninth and 10th rounds before delivering the exhilarating knockout that got him the WBA super lightweight title. Barrios, a native of San Antonio, was quickly climbing the ranks in his weight division and earned recognition as one of the most well-rounded and formidable competitors in the 140-pound weight class, along with the likes of Josh Taylor.
Prior to the loss, he was 26-0 with 17 stoppages and was regarded as Davis’ biggest challenge thus far. The wiry, 5-foot-11 Barrios acknowledged Davis after a tough loss.
“It was nothing short of an exciting fight, and that’s exactly what both of us predicted,” Barrios said.
“Like I said, Tank is explosive. He caught me slipping, and you know it’s boxing. At the end of the day, one punch can change the fight and that’s exactly what I saw happen. But man, congrats to him.”
Davis, a product of West Baltimore’s Upton Boxing Gym, now joins Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and a list of other legends as a three-division world champ.
“When I met Tank when he was 14 or 15 years old, I told him ‘I’ll make you a world champion, and you’ll be one of the best someday. So I’m proud of him,” Mayweather said of Davis.
He also climbs the ranks in the pound-for-pound conversation, along with Saul Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. and others. Davis not only proved that he could dominate much taller opponents, but that his devastating power could translate to whatever weight class he competes at.