Gervonta Davis wants to become a pay-per-view star, much like his promoter and mentor Floyd Mayweather Jr. was in his prime.
He also wants to fight in front of a lot of screaming fans, though he’ll have to settle for a pandemic-limited audience of ticket holders Saturday in San Antonio for his title matchup with veteran Leo Santa Cruz.
“I’m definitely excited after all of this going on to be able to fight in front of fans,” said Davis, who goes by the nickname “Tank.” "I’m ready to put on a show.’’
That show likely won’t draw a big audience outside the Alamodome, either. The boxing pay-per-view model may not be dead, but it’s not the only place fans watch the big fights anymore.
That was evident this month when Teofimo Lopez won a decision over Vasiliy Lomachenko in a lightweight unification bout that drew good numbers on ESPN. Terence Crawford also returns to the ring Nov. 14 against Kell Brook in another fight that will be on the cable network at no extra cost to subscribers.
But Mayweather sees a pay-per-view future for Davis, a rising star who has both charisma and power. So that means boxing fans will have to shell out $74.99 to watch the card, a tough sell anytime but even tougher now during a pandemic.
“He’s one of the biggest stars in the sport," Mayweather said. “I’ve laid down the blueprint and I’m going to keep helping him grow.”
Davis spent 12 weeks training at Mayweather’s Las Vegas gym to get ready for the fight and make sure he can get down to the contracted 130-pound weight. Davis last fought at 135 pounds in December when he dropped Yuriorkis Gamboa three times before the fight was stopped in the 12th round.
The undefeated Davis is heading a pay-per-view card for the first time, and said he sees even bigger things ahead.
“I definitely think it’s going in that pattern, I’m on the right track for greatness,” Davis said. “I’ve just got to continue to do what I do in the ring and put on a clinic.”
Davis (23-0, 22 knockouts) faces possibly his toughest challenge as a pro against Santa Cruz, who has won titles in four weight classes and currently holds a 130-pound belt. Both that title and Davis’ 135-pound crown will be at stake in the scheduled 12-round fight.
But Davis figures to be the bigger fighter and he has bigger power. He’s also seven years younger than the 32-year-old Santa Cruz, a popular fighter who has been in some big fights of his own but is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
That means Davis is a big favorite — 7-1 in Las Vegas — though Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 knockouts) has lost only once and is known for always being competitive.
“You want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best,” Santa Cruz said. “I think Tank is the best out there in the division.”
Santa Cruz said the fact the fight is on pay-per-view is not only a plus but validates his 14-year pro career career.
“I wanted to be a pay-per-view fighter and now I’m living the dream,” Santa Cruz said.
The fight is the first big card to allow fans since the pandemic began, though they will be limited and divided into pods for social distancing.