SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 28, 2019 – Gervonta “Tank” Davis had to work far harder to win the WBA World Lightweight title in his fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa than anyone expected. Davis of Baltimore (23-0, 22 KOs) scored a 12th round TKO win over a gutsy, game Gamboa (30-3, 18 KOs), but the performance produced questions for everyone to ponder after watching the action from Atlanta’s State Farm Arena Saturday.
Davis had never gone past nine rounds in a fight prior to Saturday. The popular undefeated prospect was a 12 to 1 favorite and expected to take out the 38-year-old veteran Gamboa, who had visibly slowed down in recent years.
But Gamboa hadn’t read the script. While he was far behind on all three judges’ scorecards and had been knocked down twice before finally falling victim to the straight left to the chin in the final round, he fought with impressive grit and determination. Gamboa landed plenty of power shots to Davis, but he lacks the sheer force to take out the sturdy Davis. He isn’t nicknamed “Tank” for nothing.
After getting up from the first knockdown in the second round, Gamboa had trouble putting weight on his right leg. He informed his corner something was wrong, but it wasn’t clear whether it was an injury or a problem with his shoe. Gamboa continued the fight after being questioned by referee Jack Reiss. After the loss, Gamboa said he believes he tore his Achilles tendon. Few athletes can continue any kind of competition with this kind of injury, but Gamboa stayed in the fight for ten more rounds and came within two minutes of the final bell. It was in its own way the most impressive performance of the night.
“Before I fell in the second round, that’s when I hurt it,” recalled Gamboa. “I’m a warrior, I kept going. But I knew as soon as I felt it, it was ruptured. But I kept going. I wanted to keep going. I did tell my corner this is the problem, but I wanted to keep going.”
Davis acknowledged he didn’t fight at his best. “Coming to this fight, I knew Gamboa was a tough opponent. Everyone was writing him off, but I knew he was a veteran. As you could see in the ring, I was catching him but he was still alert … I believe my performance was a C-plus,” said Davis.
“I was hurting him with shots, he was wobbling, but he wouldn’t go down,” said Davis. “That told me I wasn’t in the ring with no regular guy. I was in there with someone with top experience … As a fighter, if you can’t really knock a guy out, you start picking your shots. I wasn’t tired, I was just regrouping. I wanted to show people I had skills.”
Apart from Gamboa’s grit, why didn’t Davis deliver as expected? He said it wasn’t the move to the lightweight division for his first fight at 135 pounds. Davis initially missed weight initially by 1.2 pounds before dropping to 134.25 pounds to keep his title opportunity in play. But he said he felt fine and could make either 130 or 135 pounds in the future.
“It wasn’t really a problem, it was just the short time (for training),” said Davis. “I blame myself, I don’t blame nobody around me, I don’t blame nobody but myself. I was mainly focused on me catching him with clean shots. I was catching him, but not hurting him.”
Davis called it a great experience fighting someone as tough as Gamboa and “actually putting a tough opponent like Gamboa on my resume. I’m only 25. 2020 will be a big year.” Asked if he’s ready for the big names like Vasiliy Lomachenko or Leo Santa Cruz, Davis confidentially replied, “I’m the top dog, there’s no safety on this Glock. Bring them on.”
“He’s one of the biggest draws in the sport, definitely in the top three. He’s at the young age of 25, we’re just getting this thing rolling … the best is yet to come,” declared Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe after the bout.
Davis needs to reassess what happened and use the fight as a valuable learning experience. Had he been in the ring with Lomachenko, Santa Cruz, or Tevin Farmer, he would have taken a loss. He let himself get hit cleanly by a slower fighter far too often. He didn’t back off and use a disciplined approach when Gamboa went to war, even after his corner told him to back off. He’ll pay the price if he can’t correct these issues. If they have anything to do with his personal life or his love of the spotlight with his famous friends, Davis needs to figure out how to focus and work hard before he plays hard.
Jean Pascal hangs on for split decision over Badou Jack to remain champion
The co-main event delivered all the action the Atlanta audience could ask for from the veterans. WBA World Light Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal of Laval, Quebec (35-6-1, 20 KOs) started strong, scored a fourth-round knockdown, and survived being buzzed in the final round to win a split decision over Badou Jack of Las Vegas (22-3, 13 KOs). Scores were 114-112 X 2 for Pascal, and 114-112 on th3 third card for Jack.
Jack was not affected by the vicious cut suffered in his last outing against Marcus Browne. But perhaps it has something to do with his slow start in the first half of the fight. By contrast, Jean Pascal fought with the energy of a man 10 years younger. He landed heavy-handed body shots, uppercuts, and hooks. His awkward style made for some wild swings and angles, but it’s often been to Pascal’s advantage.
Jack said he didn’t see the punch from Pascal that knocked him down near the end of the round. “He caught me up here, I didn’t really see the punch. I wasn’t that hurt, but it was a good punch,” said Jack.
Credit Jack for not panicking and not doing anything reckless. He was willing to engage with Pascal to a point, which made for a fun fight to watch. By the seventh round, Jack found ways to score on Pascal and began to roll up rounds on the scorecards. He caught Pascal with several hard shots. Just as it looked like Pascal would be finished, he dug down and relied on experience to stay on his feet. It was the difference in securing the win.
“I won this fight, it was a close fight, Badou is a great fighter,” said Pascal. “But nobody can say it was a robbery; it was a close fight. I definitely won that fight, because I’m the champ.”
Pascal said he felt he was in control of the whole fight. “I kept it in the middle of the ring most of the time. I was a better fighter. Badou Jack is a solid fighter, a great fighter, but I won the fight.
“I can finish every round very strong, I’m a strong fighter. I’m a pressure fighter. Badou is a tough guy. He’s a gentleman in and outside the ring,” said Pascal.
Asked if he thought he did enough to win, Jack shrugged, and it told the story. “I don’t know. Of course, I feel I won the fight, but it is what it is … I’m not sure, maybe he was the better man tonight. I don’t know. I thought I was winning. Maybe I’m wrong.”
Jack complimented Pascal for a “hell of a chin. He’s a tough warrior, I want to thank him for the opportunity.” Asked if they’d like a rematch, Jack and Pascal both said they’d do it again.
Undercard results: Thompson beats Uzcategui; Elbiali scores KO
Lionell Thompson of Buffalo via Las Vegas (22-5, 12 KOs) made a smart decision moving down to super middleweight for his fight with former division champion Jose Uzcategui of Bolivia (29-5, 24 KOs). Thompson saw the scorecards go his way for once in a unanimous decision for the upset win. Scores were 96-92 X 2 and 95-94.
Thompson made his determination clear with a knockdown of Uzcategui in the first round. He stayed busier and fought a smart game plan, never letting Uzcategui get settled. Uzcategui never seemed to get warmed up, and never seemed to have much of a game plan to follow. Thompson dictated the pace and the distance, and it won him the fight. Later, Uzcategui admitted after the bout he was rusty.
Thompson said he was a little concerned about performing in a new weight division at age 34, but said he felt great. “I still had the power at this weight, and I hurt him a few times. This is my weight class now, and I think I have a real chance at becoming super middleweight champion and putting my city on the map as the first world champion from Buffalo.” Thompson is a potential opponent for IBF World Champion Caleb Plant.
Light heavyweight Ahmed Elbiali of Miami (20-1, 17 KOs) scored his fourth straight knockout win in six rounds over veteran Brian Vera (26-16, 16 KOs). Elbiali would like to earn his way into the top tier of the division, among the most competitive in boxing. Vera needs to call it a career.
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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