Good, bad, worse: Gervonta Davis must now face next-level opponents

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Are there any doubters still out there?

Gervonta Davis’ critics will point to his resume and say he still hasn’t taken down an elite fighter, at least not one his size. The fact is he has strong record, with victories over Jose Pedraza, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Leo Santa Cruz, Mario Barrios, Isaac Cruz and now Rolando Romero after his one-punch knockout Saturday night in Brookly, New York.

He stopped all but one of those fighters, Cruz.

They’ll say, “Hey, Tank was barely able to outpoint Cruz in his previous fight.” C’mon, the guy fought a young, relentless beast with one arm and still pulled out a victory. That’s what champions do.

And they’ll point out that Romero was a relatively inexperienced opponent with no experience fighting on a large stage or against anyone near Davis’ ability.

That’s true, Romero did take an enormous step up in opposition. Still, he gave a strong performance until one of the biggest punchers among active fighters landed the enormous left hand that stopped him and sent the pro-Davis crowd into a tizzy. That’s what Davis does; he knocks out good opponents.

Now he must do the same against next-level foes.

Yes, it’s time for Davis to take on the cream of the 135-pound crop no matter what that takes. The winner of the June 5 fight between unified champion George Kambosos and Devin Haney is Tank’s ideal test. And Ryan Garcia and Vasiliy Lomachenko would be viable options.

If Davis fights anyone inferior to those four potential opponents in his next fight, it will only provide fodder for critics who believe he has been protected Mayweather Promotions. In other words, it wouldn’t be a step forward for him. And that’s not beneficial to a hot young fighter who wants to continue to build on his momentum.

Davis is a special all-around fighter. He has to fight other special fighters to prove how great he truly is. And the time is now.

 

BAD

Rolando Romero looks as if he didn’t know what hit him on Saturday night.  Al Bello / Getty Images

No, it wasn’t a good night for Romero.

He was competitive against a heavy favorite for five-plus rounds, which is noteworthy. However, the unfortunate bottom line is that he was the victim of a brutal sixth-round knockout, which is bad any way you look at it.

He’s no longer unbeaten, which is never easy on a fighter. And, more important, he’ll have to put in some arduous work if he hopes to become an elite boxer and fight for a major 135-pound championship one day.

There is reason for optimism. He boxed well against his pound-for-pound opponent until his ignominious demise, as both he and his trainer pointed out after the fight.

Romero is known for his punching power but he demonstrated that he has an all-around skill set, which is how he was able to frustrate Davis for most of the short fight.

That’s remarkable given his relative lack of experience. He reportedly had a total of 49 amateur and professional fights under his belt when he stepped into the ring to face Davis. That’s a low number for a fighter taking part in a pay-per-view main event.

The fact he progressed so quickly speaks to both his God-given ability – he’s a natural – and his work ethic.

Sometimes it’s difficult to bounce back from such a devastating setback. However, if he can put the disappointment behind him and retain his confidence, Romero could still have a bright future.

 

WORSE

The new, more flat-footed version of Erislandy Lara (29-3-3, 17 KOs) has defeated Ramon Alvarez, Greg Vendetti, Thomas LaManna and Gary O’Sullivan (31-5, 21 KOs) in his last four fights, the last victory coming by an eighth-round TKO on the Davis-Romero card.

Obviously, the Cuban master can still fight at 39 years old.

However, fighting second-tier opponents is the equivalent of spinning your wheels. At his age, Lara can’t afford to waste any more time.

And the thought of Lara failing to get another shot at a world title – this time at 160 pounds – is heartbreaking. If any fighter in the twilight of his career has earned that right, it’s the former 154-pound champion.

Remember, he has ended up frustrated by five disputed decisions. All three of his losses and two of his draws have come by split or majority decisions, including a controversial split-decision setback against Canelo Alvarez that could’ve (should’ve?) lifted him to true star status.

The point here is that we don’t want to see Lara finish his career without one more shot at glory, which wouldn’t be surprising given his bad luck.

He sits below only champion Gennadiy Golovkin in the WBA rankings, which means he’s first in line to challenge Triple-G. The problem is that Golovkin is expected to fight Alvarez a third time in September, which leaves an aging Lara out of the picture for now.

Lara could challenge WBC titleholder Jermall Charlo, with whom he shares a manager. And Demetrius Andrade, the WBO beltholder, is always looking for a big-name challenger.

Let’s just hope Lara gets his shot before it’s too late.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Davis said at the post-fight news conference that he didn’t suffer another injury to his left hand, as it appeared he might’ve in Round 5. … Junior middleweight contender Jesus Ramos (19-0, 15 KOs) complained after his unanimous-decision victory over Luke Santamaria (13-3-1, 7 KOs) on the Davis-Romero card that he couldn’t give his best performance because Santamaria didn’t want to fight. Ramos’ job is to make him fight, which he largely failed to do. Santamaria is a slick boxer who is naturally smaller than Ramos, who is a big puncher. Of course, Santamaria’s strategy was to stick and move. And he had some success in the first half of the fight. Ramos did well to control the second half and pull away to a unanimous-decision victory. However, he was wrong to criticize Santamaria for not cooperating as much as he would’ve liked him to. Santamaria is a good boxer. He could have success when he moves back down to 147 pounds. … So long to Gary Russell Sr., the trainer and patriarch of one of the sport’s first families who died at 63 on May 23. Russell guided four sons to Golden Gloves titles and three have had successful professional careers. Gary Russell Jr. is one of the best in the game while Gary Antuanne Russell and Gary Antonio Russell are rising contenders. The eldest Russell deserves a lot of credit for his sons’ success. RIP.

Related

Rolando Romero: 'I won every moment of that fight, I exposed him'

Gervonta Davis says no need to fight Rolando Romero a second time

Watch it: Ring-level view of Gervonta Davis' one-punch knockout

Gervonta Davis stops Rolando Romero with huge left in sixth round

Erislandy Lara beats up, stops Gary O'Sullivan in eighth round

Jesus Ramos defeats Luke Santamaria by unanimous decision