Gervonta Davis Is A Star That Reflects This Decade – How Tank Embodies The New Generation

On Saturday night, June 26th, live on Showtime Pay-Per-View, Gervonta Davis became a three-division world champion, stopping Mario Barrios in the elventh round of a scheduled twelve round bout, from the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

Yet, the fight itself is the most uninteresting aspect to Davis himself, as Davis is capturing the imagination of pro athletes far and wide as Kevin Durant, Dez Bryant, LeBron James, and Odell Beckham Jr., all used social media platforms to give takes on this bout, something as curmudgeonly bitter boxing fans, we’re not used to. Davis is doing what we have been asking for since Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Davis is drawing in young fight fans which in fact is bringing new eyes to the sport.

So why is that, let me try to give my take, that you can either agree or disagree with.

Intersection With Music

From Lil Uzi Vert to Lil Baby, Davis is bringing in the biggest names in rap, in a hip-hop vibrant market of Atlanta, Georgia, which reinvented rap in the early 2000s, adding on to the west coast sound further deferring from the similar-sounding beat with lyrics only approach in hip hops early days, which was tied to New York. I don’t understand modern rap well, nor do I listen to it often, but in this case, I had to think a lot about it, as too many middle-aged men, like myself, are looking past why the Lil Baby’s of the world mean so much to so many people, and just arrogantly labeling it “young people stuff”, and moving on from it.

It seems this era of music, “the mumble rap” era some have not so compassionately named it, which is more about tonalities, melodies, and song structure rather than a really thought provoking rap verse, seems to be going against every notion people had used to define the genre. I, for one, sort of love, the breaking of social norms, but also see it as, with great poets like 2Pac Shakur, Nas, and many others, what other words could be used to express life. Those artists spoke plenty, and maybe the natural progression is simply emotions, as these new artists feel like a Grateful Dead/Phish phase of the genre in which the music speaks to some people’s soul, but the concept of why, is inherently spiritual.

Davis is genuine, a product of a poor neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. His coach, Calvin Ford, faced incarceration in his life, got out, changed his life, and served as the inspiration for Dennis “Cutty” Wise, in the popular HBO TV show, “The Wire”, a boxing coach who saved young kids lives through boxing. This is an era in which we’re now closer to celebs more than ever, what makes people famous is no longer talent, it is how you can get people engaged in your content, or your journey, and Davis’ journey is one of his lows, and that seems to be relatable to many young people, many of whom are not stand-alone boxing fans.

Davis’ journey is sincere and somewhat innocent in the sense that he found what he was supposed to do, via a supportive coach in Calvin Ford, and emerging with Showtime, who is telling this unique stories like “The Chi”, and “City On The Hill”, it might not be hard to fathom, the Davis story is in the same genre as these original programs on the same channel he fights on.

Davis to me is intersecting with hip hop, not unlike Roy Jones Jr., and Allen Iverson, did in the early 2000s but the difference was the era. Hip Hop felt young, games like NBA Street brought a new perspective to old paradoxes, And One mixtapes made flashy moves just as popular as winning itself. The era has changed, things are more subdued, and the culture of hip hop from my standpoint has gone more introspective, possibly with the edition of social media, allowing us to always be connected. Davis is ushering in the new wave of hip hop with boxing, in a manner that is uniquely his own.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine, who went on to become a mogul in the skateboard industry via social media, told me about Antwuan Dixon, an amazing skateboarder, who put together a video part of his skateboarding that was generational from the tricks to style. Dixon faced adversity over the years, essentially tattooed every part of his face, and as this occurred he stood out more and more, and his star rose. Davis feels like the generation, that saw the Antwuan Dixon story, and now Davis is standing out not just in the ring, but outside of the ring. In short, boxing is seemingly not just about talent, but who would you like to watch, who would you like to hangout with, and interact with, and Davis seems to be the fighter who consistently keeps people intrigued.

That being said, Davis is the best of both worlds, talented and interesting.

The Job Of Calvin Ford

Now the poetics of rap aside, Davis also has a heartwarming story of a father-son-like relationship with his coach Calvin Ford, as it seems as though the two together gave each other new purpose in life. Ford, who has been with Davis since his early days, shows unconditional love to Davis, but also knows how to be hard on him, and not let him get away with stuff – from the outside looking in.

In a world full of trainers with interesting backstories such as Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia, Derrick James, Teofimo Lopez Sr, and so forth and so on, Ford is an unlikely hero, who has helped steer this ship, to get Davis to where he is now. Most remarkable though, Ford’s commitment to the community along with coach Kenny Ellis.

Davis, who fights with the aggression of a young Mike Tyson, the relentlessness of Aaron Pryor, and the fast-hands of Shane Mosley, is something else, and as long as he stays with performances like this will be tough to beat.

Mayweather Promotions Getting Him Here

Often times pundits like to point out the failures of Mayweather Promotions, when looking at prospects losing prematurely, or never having a star that was a top-10 consensus pound-for-pound fighter, after Floyd Mayweather, himself, but Mayweather Promotions has done an amazing job, of putting Davis in the right fights, to get the right results, so he can acquire generational wealth, and more than likely be remembered as one of the best of the decade.

A promoters job is to get a fighter to a world title, once the world title has been obtained, often promoters will put the burden on the fighter to merit interest for a big fight. Mayweather Promotions has been hands on, and Floyd Mayweather’s personal involvement with Davis, has not just benefited inside the ring, but also probably brought in new fans who followed the journey of Mayweather.

Black Wealth In Atlanta

This Bloomberg article is interesting. I try not to touch on race in my pieces, not because it doesn’t exist in how we shape our views, but rather, the opinions people have on race vary so much, upon perceptions of race, can often overshadow the actual point I am trying to convey, as sadly lived experience from all perspectives can be so different, and not equal. Race in America has always been tricky, because we have attempted to have the conversation, but as a country, we’re not very good at listening to what we don’t want to hear.

In terms of black wealth in America, Atlanta, dating back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s days, was one of the hubs in America. Now juxtapose the fact that with a revival in narratives around black stories, major motion pictures telling stories from black perspectives in many different ways from “12 Years of Slave”, “Get Out”, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, all being inherently black stories, but told from different experiences, not revolving around the same tropes as decades earlier i.e. “Blaxploitation”, as Davis is drawing into an untapped American market.

I am seeing Davis as not just tapping into the young hip-hop generation who merge with the “Love and Hip-Hop” crowd, but also getting older black men and women, who studied the works of James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, and Langston Hughes, and see Davis as someone they once knew, looking him at him fondly. Davis is the story of transformation, and as well as hope, the person that seemingly anyone knew that they hoped made it, and did, we all can relate, but I feel it hits a little different if you’re black and you witness this.

What is so unique about the stardom of Davis is isn’t just one thing, it is the whole that makes it.

Now as we wrap up this Davis will be fighting in marquee fights from here on out. Forget who is the #1 contender for a belt, just look at big names, and that will be who Davis will be targeting for PPV. Fighters like Gary Russell Jr., Tevin Farmer, Rolando Romero, Ryan Garcia, Regis Prograis, these are the names that come to mind, that could sell and merit interest.

As Davis is 26-years-old, he currently is undefeated in the sport boxing throughout 26 professional fights, with all but one being by way of knockout, giving him a 96% KO ratio, ironically 96 is also the amount of rounds he has spent in the ring as a pro. Davis is now the fifth biggest star in the sport of boxing behind only Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Manny Pacquiao.

Beyond everything else, the depth and complexity, Davis looks like the guy you want to see fight. Tattoos from head-to-toe, relentless in his aggression inside the ring, yet subdued outside of the ring, it is almost as if being a fighter is all that he knows.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle