Gervonta Davis set to capitalize on Mayweather-McGregor stage

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Boxing

"A lot of eyes are going to see Gervonta Davis," Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, told earlier this month. "There are going to be a lot of eyes on Gervonta Davis and he will be the next superstar in boxing."

Davis has already won over one of the most important figures in the boxing business, Showtime Sports executive vice president Stephen Espinoza, who called the Baltimore fighter one of his "personal favorites" on a recent conference call.

As the best fighter of his generation, Mayweather is a model for Davis in the ring. But he's perhaps even more of an aspirational figure outside of it, where he's made himself the most bankable name in combat sports.

The art of becoming a boxing superstar only begins with winning fights. You also have to attract an audience without help from an established league. The only way to hit it really big is to crack the tiny circle of fighters who regularly headline pay-per-view cards. Even for Mayweather, that ascent took many years. Like Davis, he started out fighting in supporting spots on cards headlined by more established stars.

He ultimately made the leap by crafting his persona as sharply as he had his boxing skills. Sometimes, Mayweather sells his fights by explicitly playing the villain. But he never fails to sell them.

Asked what he has observed about his promoter's methods, Davis said: "Floyd puts a lot of time and thought to make sure everything is done at a high level. ... He stays in the media."

Davis tried to do the same in the run-up to Saturday's event. On Twitter, he began talking up the fact he would be on the undercard more than a month before he had an opponent. He has also become a more visible figure in Baltimore in recent months, with Under Armour putting up large billboards of him at several locations around town.

Beyond his own fights, Davis is a boxing fan who often tweets his thoughts about televised bouts as they're going on. He's intrigued by the Mayweather-McGregor carnival, just like everyone else.

"I'm interested in seeing how it all plays out," he said.

After his big showcase, he hopes to defend his title once more in 2017, preferably in Baltimore, where he's been dreaming of headlining a show for years. He split his training for the Fonseca fight between his familiar environs in Upton and Mayweather's gym in Las Vegas. But he knows that even if he achieves the superstardom he covets, his hometown will remain his strongest base.

"Coming back to fight in Baltimore is a goal of mine and I'm trying to see that happen," he said.

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