SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 27, 2019 – The WBA World Lightweight title fight between Gervonta “Tank” Davis of Baltimore (22-0, 21 KOs) and Yuriorkis Gamboa of Miami via Cuba (30-2, 18 KOs) hit one last stumbling block called the scale on Friday. Moving up to fight at lightweight for the first time, Davis missed weight by 1.2 pounds, but on his second try sneaked under the 135-pound limit within the allotted two hours. Gamboa weighed in at 134.25 pounds.
The fight will go on for the vacant title as well as the WBC Silver belt on Saturday from Atlanta’s State Farm Arena as planned on Showtime Boxing, with the main card starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Whether out of frustration, embarrassment, or anger, Davis gave Gamboa a good hard shove at the face-off after the weigh-in. It kicked off a brawl among the large group of supporters on the stage.
“I’m pretty sure Gamboa watched my last fight,” said Davis at this week’s final news conference. “He’s just saying he didn’t to be cocky. I know he at least watched it heading into this fight. We’ll see Saturday night. He’s been a little cocky, so I have to make him pay.
“I can’t say whether I’ll get the knockout, but I’ve trained very hard, and I’ve been focused on the main goal, which is to get the win. I know that Gamboa is a tough opponent, and he’ll lay it all on the line. If it goes 12 rounds, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m looking to make this a great fight for me and also for the fans,” added Davis.
“My job isn’t to pay attention to any trash talk,” responded the veteran Gamboa. “My only focus is to go in there at 150 percent and give it my all. I don’t care about any of the chatter outside of the ring.
“Gervonta knocking his opponents out and not going past the ninth round is great for him, but I don’t think it has anything to do with my resume,” added Gamboa, who admitted he must take advantage of this opportunity at a late stage of his career. “I’ve faced stronger fighters than Gervonta, and I’ve been able to beat them. He’s not going to bring anything I haven’t seen.”
Both men are coming off knockout wins on the same night in July in Baltimore, a home town fight for Davis. Davis is such a prohibitive favorite (as much as 12 to 1), any intrigue lies in whether the 38-year-old Gamboa will slow down the Tank in a loss. Davis claims he’s coming out “focused, fast, and strong,” guaranteeing a knockout. Anything less than a spectacular win won’t satisfy either Tank’s critics or those who admire his skills.
But it won’t matter too much to Davis’s fans who buy the tickets and follow his every move on social media, along with his famous friends like Drake, along with (sort of) ex-girlfriend Ariana Foster, who has 2.5 million Instagram followers. Adding some fuel to the fire is Davis’s polarizing promoter, Floyd Mayweather, who gets plenty of attention for his stable’s stars.
As with several other rising stars, Davis takes heat for avoiding top contenders. He managed to avoid rivals like Tevin Farmer and Vasiliy Lomachenko. He won’t be able to hide from all the talent at lightweight for long, especially when Teofimo Lopez is daring himself to be great. He’ll need to get the matchups to keep up in the eyes of his fans, which will only stay patient so long.
Stars of the show: Badou Jack returns against Jean Pascal
The most interesting fight remaining in 2019 is Saturday’s co-main event, the WBA World Light Heavyweight title fight between Badou Jack of Las Vegas (22-2, 13 KOs) and Jean Pascal of Laval, Quebec (34-6-1, 20 KOs).
Jack returns after suffering a wicked forehead cut in a close unanimous decision loss to Marcus Browne in January. Pascal then fought Browne in August, handing him his first defeat in a wild upset win. The former champion took Browne’s title back home north of the border after an unexpected performance, highlighted by three knockdowns to hear those magic words “And the new.” After the rough fight was stopped due to an unintentional headbutt to Browne by Pascal in the eighth round, the Canadian had done enough to win by scores of 75-74 on all three cards.
Jack says the unanticipated rest has rejuvenated him, and he feels like 26 instead of 36 years old. “I guess you have to wait until Saturday night for me to prove that I still have it. I was flat against Marcus Browne, regardless of the cut, but I feel much better this time than I did heading into that fight.
“I take care of myself,” explained Jack. “I don’t do anything outside the ring to jeopardize my career. You can talk to my strength and conditioning coach as far as how I’m looking, but I feel amazing. I’m going to take everything one fight at a time. I think Pascal can bring the best out of me on Saturday night. Styles make fights and I think our styles will mesh.”
Pascal’s career was nearly left for dead in 2017 when he scored an upset win over prospect Ahmed Elbiali. Pascal lo,st to Dmitry Bivol in 2018, and most figured his fight against Browne could be his farewell to boxing. Not just yet.
“I’m at the top of my game and my whole team has helped me get to here,” said Pascal. “Badou J,ack is a solid fighter with great defense and good attack. I,’ve had a great camp in Puerto Rico. I’ve been away from my family for three months and I’m war-ready.
“I know that Badou has had a long layoff and he’s fresh and will be even hungrier. I’m always hungry and that will make it a great fight on Saturday night,” promised Pascal.
Both men come in with talent and question marks in equal proportions. What does Pascal still have left? Has Jack fully recovered? What happens if the cut opens, or it’s another rough fight?
On paper, Jack is the more skilled fighter, but 2019 has been the Year of the Upset in boxing. Pascal has the one-punch power that can make him dangerous, especially if he can catch a rusty, cautious Badou Jack in the early rounds. Jack should win by unanimous decision. If Pascal can pull out another victory, he’d be among the Comeback of the Year candidates.
“I’ve been fighting at the highest level for the last 11 years. That means something. I’m a special fighter. I have things that nobody can teach, which is a chin and a heart,” said Pascal.
“Pascal and I both come to fight. Marcus Browne is a southpaw and he’s more evasive. So it’s hard to compare. Pascal is a tough guy and I expect nothing less than a tough fight,” said Jack.
Undercard cheat sheet: Uzcategui vs Thompson
Opening the televised card, former super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui of Bolivia (29-3, 24 KOs) and Lionell Thompson of Las Vegas (21-5, 12 KOs) both hope a win in their 10-round fight will position one of them for a late-career title run in the division.
“I’m coming back out and showing everyone I’m a knockout artist like I’ve been and I’m getting the knockout,” vowed Uzcategui. “[Caleb] Plant is my only mission and to get the rematch.
“It was super hard (making weight),” admitted Thompson. “Anything in life worth having is super hard. I knew it would be work, but we did it. As far as him saying he’s a knockout artist, I don’t know if you’ve heard the saying, ‘The devil is a liar.’”
Also on the undercard, light heavyweight Ahmed Elbiali of Miami (19-1, 16 KOs) continues his return from the unexpected defeat by Pascal in a fight against veteran Brian Vera (26-15, 16 KOs). Elbiali has three straight knockout wins since the single loss. Vera has four straight losses in the past two years and only three wins since his pair of fights against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2014.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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