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Gervonta Davis Faces His Most Significant Test Against Mario Barrios Despite Title Controversy

Posted on 06/26/2021

By: Hector Franco

One of boxings emerging superstars will find himself back inside the squared circle this Saturday night when Gervonta “Tank” Davis (24-0, 23 KOs) makes a move to the super lightweight division to take on Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) for the WBA ‘Regular’ super lightweight title. 

Davis, 26, will be moving up two weight classes from super featherweight to meet Barrios at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA on Showtime PPV. 

The Baltimore, Maryland native is a two-time super featherweight champion and currently holds the ‘Super’ version of the WBA super featherweight title. 

In 2019, Davis made a pit stop in the lightweight division, stopping  Yuriorkis Gamboa for a version of the WBA lightweight title. In his previous bout, Davis knocked out three-division champion Leo Santa Cruz with both the WBA lightweight and super featherweight titles on the line. 

The decision to move up to super-lightweight is an opportunity for Davis to plant his flag in a third weight class, but also to alleviate the struggle to make 130 and 135 pounds. 

In 2017, just eight months after winning the IBF super featherweight title with a seventh-round stoppage over Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza, Davis lost his title on the scale, as he was unable to make the 130-pound weight limit in a title defense against Francisco Fonseca. 

While the fight to make weight has been at times a struggle for Davis, inside the ring, he has proven to be largely dominant. Davis hasn’t had the judges declare a winner in one of his fights since 2014, scoring 15 knockouts in a row. How his power will translate at super lightweight against a fighter with a solid chin like Barrios will be revealed this weekend.

“I’m going to surprise him when I connect,” Davis said at the final press conference. “It’s not only that I hit hard, but it’s where I place my punches, and he will see that Saturday night.”

No one will deny that Barrios-Davis is a fantastic match up putting Davis against one of the ten best fighters at super lightweight and arguably his best opponent since Pedraza. 

However, some controversy has been maligned at the fight being for a version of the WBA super lightweight championship. Barrios won the vacant title in 2019 with a unanimous decision over Batyr Akhmedov on the undercard of Errol Spence’s welterweight unification match with Shawn Porter. 

One month later, Scotland’s Josh Taylor defeated Regis Prograis in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series to win the tournament and unify the WBA ‘Super’ and IBF super lightweight titles. 

Just last month, Taylor defeated Jose Ramirez to be crowned the undisputed champion in the division holding all four major titles, including the Ring Magazine and lineal crowns. 

Taylor has let it be known through his social media that he doesn’t consider Barrios-Davis a legitimate world title bout. 

“Mickey Mouse title,” Taylor stated on his Twitter account. “There’s only one champion at Light welterweight!”

The fault of this fight being for a world title despite there being an undisputed champion in the division doesn’t fall on Davis or Barrios.  But squarely on the World Boxing Association who has been insistent on devaluing their titles. 

Despite the criticism being heaped on the fight and Davis in general, the young southpaw won’t be deterred from accomplishing the goals he has set for himself. 

“Barrios is a young champion,” Davis said at a recent media day workout. “I’m going up two weight classes to face him. If they don’t give me the respect after this, I don’t know what I have to do. It’s pretty cool. This is actually the first time I’m fighting at this weight class. 

“Whatever opportunities they give me at 135, or 140, I’ll take them.” 

A majority of fans are hoping for Davis in the near future to face off with fellow younger champions like Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez, and Ryan Garcia, amongst others. 

However, Barrios, who is currently trained by acclaimed trainer Virgil Hunter doesn’t plan on being a rest stop in between those fights. 

“Like Leonard Ellerbe said, they have big plans for him,” Barrios stated at the final press conference. “I fully intend on fucking up those plans come Saturday.”

With a significant height and reach advantage and the ability to fight from the outside with a piston-jab, Barrios, has the skills to pull off the upset on Davis. 

Regardless of your thoughts on the world title aspect of the fight, Davis rarely disappoints when he steps inside the ring. As long as the in-ring product proves to be exceptional, any criticism toward what title is on the line will be just background noise.

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