The lightweight debut of Gervonta Davis was nothing short of a learning experience on Saturday in front of a vocal State Farm Arena crowd. Lucky for the unbeaten "Tank," his power is very much the real deal.
In Atlanta's first title bout since Evander Holyfield-Vaughn Bean in 1998, Davis scored a trio of knockdowns before stopping a brave Yuriorkis Gamboa in Round 12. Davis (23-0, 22 KOs), one of boxing's rising stars, went past the ninth round for the first time in his pro career and showed questionable stamina at times in the second half of the fight.
The fact that Gamboa (30-3, 18 KOs), a former unified featherweight champion, showed so much heart allowed the Cuban gold medalist to fight back and linger as he tested Davis' gas tank until a left uppercut in the final round forced referee Jack Reiss to wave off the fight at 1:12 without a count. A former two-time super featherweight champion, Davis captured a vacant WBA secondary lightweight title in his first fight at 135 pounds. Unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko remains the full WBA titleholder. "Coming to this fight, I knew that Gamboa was a tough opponent," Davis said. "Everybody was writing him off but I knew he was a vet. As you could see in the ring, I was catching him but he was still alert. I knew he was different from any opponent I have fought before as he fought Terence Crawford."
Unfortunately for the 25-year-old Davis, prior history making weight followed him into his lightweight debut as he needed two attempts to make 135 pounds. The native of Baltimore refused, however, to blame the weight cut on what was largely an uneven performance.
"I believe my performance tonight was a C+," Davis said. "[The weight] wasn't really a problem it was just short timing and things like that. I blame myself and I don't blame anyone around me. I blame myself and am continuing to learn."
What Davis did do well is land clean power shots throughout as he appeared to regularly hurt the 38-year-old Gamboa despite proving unable to finish him. Davis dropped him with a left hand in Round 2 and woke up from a sleepy start to Round 8 to score a second knockdown on a vicious left cross. "I was focused on catching him with clean shots," Davis said. "I'm hurting him but he's not going anywhere. I knew I was in a fight and was going some rounds tonight. I'm only 25 years old so I'm learning each and everyday."
Gamboa came up limping after being floored in Round 2 and appeared to try and tell both his corner and Reiss he couldn't continue due to a problem with his right foot. But after Reiss called timeout, he quickly dismissed Gamboa's request in a somewhat bizarre turn and restarted the fight.
Although Gamboa's right foot was sticking out of his shoe at times, his corner ultimately taped the gap closed. From there, Gamboa increased his activity and did well to linger just as Davis slowed down by landing combinations and regularly forcing clinches.
"I feel OK but I definitely had problems with my foot," Gamboa said. "I think I ruptured my achilles tendon. Before I fell in the second round, that's when I hurt it. I'm a warrior and I kept going but as soon as I felt it. I knew it was ruptured. I was hobbling and can't put pressure on it.
"I wanted to keep going. I did tell my corner this was a problem but I wanted to keep going. I'm a warrior."
Davis out-landed Gamboa 120 to 78, according to CompuBox, and connected on 48% of his power shots. He also held a firm 46-to-19 advantage in body punches.
"2020 is going to be a big year," Davis said. "I'm the top dog. As you know, there's no safety on this glock so bring them on." Davis vs. Gamboa card, results
Gervonta Davis (c) def. Yuriorkis Gamboa via 12th-round TKO (corner stoppage) Jean Pascal (c) def. Badou Jack via split decision (112-114, 114-112, 114-112) Lionell Thompson def. Jose Uzcategui via unanimous