BALTIMORE -- Long before the greatest boxer in the world anointed him a future star, really before anyone outside West Baltimore knew his name, Gervonta Davis thought big.
When Davis, the IBF super featherweight champion, spoke of what he would become, he did not brag about how many title belts he'd win or the violent, fight-of-the-year spectacles he'd author. Sure, he expected to achieve those feats along the way. But his real goal was to become the next fighter capable of selling enormous pay-per-view events to an eager public.
The 22-year-old Baltimore native isn't there yet. But if all goes according to plan, he'll take a major step on Saturday night when he tops the undercard for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor mega-fight in Las Vegas.
"It is very important to have this kind of opportunity on a big stage like this," Davis said this week. "I plan to put on a great show."
His opponent, little known Costa Rican Francisco Fonseca, is undefeated but seems almost incidental to the narrative. Davis believes that, to get where he wants to go, he must deliver a spectacular knockout before the biggest audience of his young career. If he looks good enough, maybe some of those casual fans will pay attention the next time he fights.
"You can't be a PPV star if you don't put on an exciting performance," Davis said. "Fans want knockouts, and I'm going to work for that on Saturday night."
There's potential danger in that line of thinking. Plenty of promising fighters have been upset because they abandoned their basic craft in search of one spectacular shot. But Davis, a natural combination puncher, doesn't fear that trap. He's drilled for too many years at the Upton Boxing Center under the eye of his mentor and trainer, Calvin Ford.
"My coach ... tells me not to focus on a knockout, and to follow the team game plan," he said. "If an opportunity comes to knock out my opponent, I'm going to take it."
Davis (18-0 with 17 knockouts) has already had quite a year. He won his title in January with a furious seven-round assault on Jose Pedraza at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. In May, he traveled to London for his first title defense and destroyed previously undefeated Brit Liam Walsh with a barrage of left hands in the third round. Now, he's co-headlining a card that some believe could break the all-time pay-per-view record (4.6 million buys) Mayweather set with his fight against Manny Pacquiao two years ago.
Mayweather has said he will retire again after the McGregor fight, but in addition to making at least $100 million, he hopes to use this last great spectacle to boost the career of Davis, whom he promotes.