Photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime
Gervonta “Tank” Davis moved up two weight divisions to capture the WBA ‘world’ super lightweight title in front of a sold out crowd at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta last night, dropping Mario Barrios to the canvas three times on his way to an 11th round Tko.
After a cagey battle through the first six rounds, the PPV star began landing his signature power punches, finding a home for his lethal blows, scoring two knockdowns in the eighth round and another three rounds later prompting referee Thomas Taylor to call a halt to the contest in the final minute of round 11.
Speaking to Showtime’s Jim Gray the American star said: “I made it tough…I could have made it easier, but you know, it is what it is, I went up two weight classes and I got the job done... I’m the type of fighter that, I want to catch you with clean shots, I just don’t want to throw any type of shot, so the shots that I was throwing most of them were missing but eventually I caught up with him.”
In the first half of the fight, “El Azteca” Barrios, 26, used his size and reach advantage to keep the Baltimore knockout artist at bay, extending his long jab to the face of his smaller opponent and landing effecting combinations from long range.
Neither fighter wanted to rush their work, with Barrios content to box at range and cutting off the ring whilst Davis peered through his peek a boo defence, waiting for opportunities to present themselves, firing out right hooks and straight lefts powered by his blistering hand speed.
Davis, 25-0 (24KOs), appeared to struggle with range in the first half of the fight, leaning low in a coiled stance, often falling short with his punches as the larger Barrios, 26-1 (17KOs), steadily built confidence, evading monstrous shots coming from the two weight titlist.
At the end of the fourth round it seemed the 5-1 favourite was unsure how to execute his attack, opting to hold, when Barrios wanted to bully on the inside.
In round five, it became evident the feeling out process was over, as Davis began to close the gap landing a crunching straight left to Barrios’ jaw and was now able to penetrate shots through his rival’s defence.
In rounds six and seven, both men were trading hooks and uppercuts, targeting the body and taking turns to stalk each other around the ring with both men having their moments.
Famed boxing trainer, Virgil Hill, the main voice in Barrios’ corner, informed his charge at the end of the seventh, “you got this fight” as it seemed Davis was not landing enough scoring punches going into the second half of the fight.
Just as it seemed that the slick southpaw from Maryland was unable to alter his flawed tactics, he landed a thunderous right hook to the temple of Barrios at 2:09 of the eighth round, sending the San Antonio champion crashing to the canvas for the first time in his career. After beating the referee’s count, Davis swarmed Barrios, running across the ring to follow up with two right hooks and a huge overhand left which delivered a second knockdown within 20 seconds of the first one.
A dazed and bloodied Barrios, who was now sporting a cut below his left eye, miraculously began moving around the ring well, firing out accurate jabs but Davis continued to find a home for his deadly shots.
Davis chose not to capitalise on his recent success in the next round, slowing the fight down, taking a composed approach allowing Barrios to land a powerful left hook which backed Davis to the ropes.
At the end of the ninth, Tank’s manager and mentor, Floyd Mayweather, who had been a highly animated ringside edition to the fight shouted, “on the unofficial, you down” causing visible distress to Davis who seemed to be shocked to learn he was behind after scoring a 10-7 rounds three minutes earlier.
In the tenth, Barrios seemed to have recovered from the damage inflicted, landing sharp left hooks and fast jabs, and a notable eye catching shot to the mid section of Davis. Despite demonstrating heart and grit, Davis’s power shots stole the round as both men traded blows to close the round.
The 11th began with Barrios refusing to play victim, utilizing his 4” reach advantage to catch Davis coming in, landing effective blows to head and body. Approaching the two minute mark of the round, both men exchanged uppercuts, with Davis throwing a shorter, more powerful shot to the solar plexus, which beat Barrios’ effort to the head and sent him crashing to the canvas for a third time.
Barrios made to his feet by the count of seven, but was unable to evade the ensuing attack of Davis who followed up with a left hook upstairs that caused Barrios to cower over in pain and turn away from Davis. Noticing defeat in the eyes of the warrior from San Antonio, the fight was waved off by the referee at 2:13 of the penultimate round.
After the fight Davis remarked: “I knew that if I catch him , I knew for sure I’d crack him. When I caught him, it showed…Floyd came to me…he told me…he was honest, he said I was down, I knew I was down, so he said ‘show me that you’re great’ and you know how we do in the gym - Doghouse baby!”
Barrios was gracious in defeat and accepted his loss maturely, saying: “I’ve never been a hater, congrats to Tank, he came in here, you know he did his thing….it was nothing short of an exciting fight and that’s exactly what both of us predicted.”
“Tank is explosive, he caught me slipping and you know, that’s boxing. At the end of the day one punch can change the fight and that’s exactly what I thought happened. But man, you know, congrats to him.”
Davis, 26, maintains his impressive 95% Ko percentage and becomes only the ninth man to hold titles at 130, 135 and 140lbs, joining a prestigious list of former champions including Pacquiao, De La Hoya, Chavez and Mayweather.
It is unclear which division Davis will fight at next, however the knockout artist suggested a return to lightweight or super featherweight is the most likely. With the lightweight division currently filled to the brim with talent, lets hope Tank opts to fight at 135lbs to share the ring with the likes of Lomachenko, Lopez, Garcia, Linares or Haney.