By Gus Martin
Baltimore native Gervonta Davis headlines the city’s biggest boxing event in years against Panama’s Ricardo Nunez July 27 at Royal Farms Arena, where he’ll look to improve upon his 21-0 record (20 KOs) during his hometown bout.
The 24-year-old Davis currently holds the WBA super featherweight belt and hopes this event will not only further cement his status as one of the best boxers in the world but show how far he’s come after growing up in a West Baltimore neighborhood facing particularly difficult circumstances.
“One of the interesting things about doing this is seeing champions get a chance to come to their hometown, defend the title and kind of let it seep in that they’ve done it, they have achieved something special and now people that they care about are sharing in it,” Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein said on Glenn Clark Radio July 19. “A lot of this is about seeing him get a chance to revel in the passion of his home fans. … He came at this from a place of disadvantage, so it means a lot that he’s able to achieve this.”
Bernstein said one of the reasons he loves the sport is that it can give young people, who — like Davis — face difficult circumstances, a means of striving for a better life. For Davis, he began training at the Upton Boxing Center as a child under the guidance of boxing coach Calvin Ford.
Davis developed into a successful amateur fighter, accumulating a 206-15 record before making his professional debut in 2013.
“The role of amateur boxing is to give young men and women an opportunity to channel their energy and gives them something that they can rally around,” Bernstein said. “It is truly amazing how [boxing] focuses young people. That’s what amateur boxing is about … it’s about changing somebody’s life.”
Bernstein believes Davis has the tools to become not only one of the best fighters of his generation but also turn himself into a household name and potentially help fill the void of box-office stars in the sport since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Davis certainly has a long way to go to match that level of fame and ability, but Bernstein believes Baltimore is a good place to start that process.
“One of the things that makes that difficult is that a lot of fighters now fight only twice a year and if both those fights are not major fights, they don’t have a chance to break through,” Bernstein said. “I think the world would love to see him fight someone like [Ukraine’s] Vasyl Lomachenko. That would be an epic battle.”
Bernstein sees Davis’ homecoming as not only a chance to build himself up but others in Baltimore, which is filled with young athletes with the potential to find success in whatever sport they choose to focus on.
If this weekend’s event goes well and Davis continues to sit near the top of the boxing world, Bernstein says it wouldn’t be surprising to see more young athletes participating in boxing, perhaps inspiring the next great Baltimore boxer to eventually take Davis’ place.
“It takes somebody achieving something great. That happened in St. Louis because of [Michael] Spinks. … It just created a better environment and created young people that were coming after them,” Bernstein said. “In Baltimore, this is kind of a moment where things are taking shape and these fighters are starting to believe in themselves and they’re starting to just be more talented fighters on the scene.”
For a sport that has seen its glory days come and go, boxing needs as many young stars as it can find. Bernstein hopes Davis’ exciting style and passion can help awaken the next generation of boxers and boxing fans, beginning first in Baltimore.
“When [Davis is] at his best he’s really something. He’s got speed. He’s got hand speed. He’s got power,” Bernstein said. “He’s tenacious in the ring. He’s just a really special fighter.”
To hear more from Bernstein, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lorin Chvotkin