West Baltimore's Gervonta Davis became the youngest current reigning boxing champion when he scored a seventh-round TKO over defending IBF junior lightweight champion Jose Pedraza in Brooklyn, Jan. 14.
Davis, just 22 and undefeated at 17-0 (with 16 knockouts), stopped Pedraza, from Puerto Rico and previously undefeated, with a devastating right hook to the head with 37 seconds remaining in the seventh round of a bout that was nationally televised on Showtime.
Just before the finishing blow, Davis took a roundhouse sweep with his left that Pedraza ducked. But that escape was short-lived, as it put the defending champ directly in the path of a Davis right cross that sent Pedraza (now 22-1) underneath the ropes. He tried to struggle to his feet, but the referee quickly ended the fight.
The championship triumph obviously represents a new plateau for Davis, who trains at the Upton Boxing Center on Pennsylvania Avenue with trainer Calvin Ford and is under the management of Las Vegas-based multi-titleholder Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Davis established himself in the first three rounds appearing to outpoint his more experienced opponent, who was making his third title defense. After starting slowly, Pedraza picked up the pace and seemed to be turning the tide in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Davis regained the upper hand in the sixth round with a left to Pedraza’s ribs that doubled-up the defending champ.
"I stayed composed … [he threw] some real shots, and I took it, and that showed I'm a real dog," Davis said in a post-fight interview.
Davis admitted when he feels an opponent is slipping that he has a tendency to want to go for the kill, but his corner told him to remain disciplined.
"Stay under control and go back to the body," Davis said he was told.
Mayweather was in the ring after the fight and heaped high praise on the young fighter.
"For this training camp, I didn't want to be around him, I didn't want to talk to him," Mayweather said. "I wanted him to focus so he could go out there and be the best and that's just what he did tonight. Is this the future of boxing? Abso … lutely."
Although both fighters were at 130 pounds, Pedraza, at 5-foot-8, is three inches taller than Davis and had nearly a four-inch reach advantage. But instead of staying away from the hard-punching Davis and working to his own strength, the jab, Pedraza decided to stay inside and mix it up. It was an approach that ringside commentators questioned from the outset.
Pedraza admitted he knew he should box more but he gave in to an impulse to slug it out.
"There was a moment there that I adjusted to the game plan," Pedraza said of the fifth round when he did well. "But then there was something that was telling me to come up and just fight and that didn't work."
Davis has become a
hometown hero in Baltimore
not just because of his march through the pro boxing ranks but also because he has managed to avoid the street problems that haunt so many young men who have difficult childhoods.
His background is all too familiar in some city neighborhoods. Both of Davis' parents were drug users and spent time in jail. As a child and teenager, he was moved from home to home; sometimes it was with relatives and sometimes it was in foster care.
The constant was boxing trainer Ford who took Davis under his wing and started the youngster on the boxing path at age 7. After a spectacular run as an amateur and promising pro start, Davis caught the attention of Mayweather who has guided Davis' career the last couple of years.
Of his title win that put Davis on a boxing summit, the fighter was to the point: "It felt great."