This Saturday night Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis jumps two weight classes to challenge the unbeaten Mario ‘El Azteca’ Barrios in a 140-pound clash on Showtime PPV. Also, in the co-feature former unified champ Jeison Rosario faces off against once-beaten Erickson Lubin for a title eliminator at junior middleweight. With Vasiliy Lomachenko returning to the ring on ESPN+ and the PBC on FOX on a special Sunday edition, the weekend looks to be packed with potential.
Some folks in the media and among the fans on boxing twitter have gone out of their way to downplay the Davis/Barrios fight. Obviously, we all know the undisputed crown is held by Josh Taylor and the WBA secondary title is nothing but a trinket. However, there are plenty of “title” fights or vacant straps that don’t get the same criticism. The WBA has way too many belts no doubt, but the interim WBC’s, vacant WBO, or a legit boxer with a ‘real’ belt routinely fights no-hopers. Let’s be frank, the rankings can mean close to nothing regardless. So for the sake of keeping it fair let’s just focus on a good fight, not to mention many of the 130 & 135-pound champions were tied up with other bouts or aligned on a different platform with their own plans to match up in-house fighters.
Gervonta moving up from 130 to 140 is not an easy task per se and Mario Barrios is a legit top-10 guy with good punching power. Speaking of which Tank’s power didn’t quite carry up from 130 to 135 in previous outings so a good chunk of the intrigue to this matchup is how Gervonta adapts to the weight. If Davis doesn’t have his same power it may force him to rely on other skills to get the job done. It should be noted that some of the lack of real punching power at lightweight could’ve been due to Davis’s preparation. Either way, his body, and head punching just haven’t had that same pop and explosiveness as it does 5-pounds south of 135.
That’s not to say Tank is just a one-trick pony but he’s only showed a small number of strategic elements through 24 fights. In his flashes against Jose Pedraza, Liam Walsh, and Jesus Cuellar, it’s easy to see Davis has more to offer the question is how much, something that may not be answered on Saturday night. It does appear that Davis, as he did in his Halloween tilt last fall versus Leo Santa Cruz scoring highlight-reel stoppage, is taking his training camp very seriously instead of blowing up during the time between camps. With Tank though, you have to wait to see him on the scale and then in the ring to be 100% he’s in tip-top shape.
Coming from a Mario Barrios point of view he really doesn’t have a whole bunch to lose besides his undefeated record because pretty much everyone believes it’s just a matter of how Davis will beat him. With the pressure off or at least nowhere near what Tank has on his plate, maybe that will free Barrios’ mind enough to produce what will have to be his best outing in the paid ranks. A fun little fact as an example of Barrio’s power, Mario has knocked down every opponent he’s faced. Two fights ago that same power helped Barrios eke out a close decision over hard-charging Batyr Akhmedov. Barrios followed that entertaining back and forth affair with a 6th round knockout of always fun to watch Ryan Karl on the same night of Davis vs. Santa Cruz.
According to Regis Prograis, Barrios was ready to drop his belt and move up to become a full-blown welterweight. Prograis’s goal is to get another belt at junior welterweight and possibly make a run at the rematch from a very close contest with Josh Taylor in the final round of the World Boxing Super Series. As the rumor goes coming out of Regis’s mouth, once this major opportunity came Mario’s way he decided to take it by the horns not passing up this big fight for his career win or lose. As long as Barrios shows up and puts in an honest effort meaning he leaves it all online, this fight should really give him a boost in popularity.
Does Barrios have the skill set to keep Tank off of him? This boxing podcasters answer to that question is yes and no. Barrios has a decent jab and likes to throw lead right hands and left hooks, the left hook he can counter with making it a key weapon. Barrios can pivot fairly well and has shown the ability to take steps to the side just out of range of incoming heat. Mario’s activity will have to increase and he will have to do a better job with upper body movement rather than relying solely on his footwork.
Two things that standout out as red flags for Barrios, one is his defense generally including on offense in an exchange. The second item of note is Barrio’s lack of inside game which combined will ultimately be his downfall. I do think Mario will have success with the jab and win some rounds in the first say 4 to 6 frames but it won’t take all that long before Tank begins to break him down to the body and head, timing him with flashy shots that find a home. That’s if Gervonta is on his best behavior and not swinging for the fences from the jump, which this boxing addict doesn’t see happening at least not for long stretches anyway.
My Official Prediction is Gervonta Davis by 11th Round Technical Knockout.
In the co-feature, Jeison Rosario squares off against Erickson Lubin in a make-or-break type of fight for both men. Huge respect goes out to Rosario who fought Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, Jermell Charlo, and now Lubin. Erickson has been in rebuild mode every since his promising career came to a screeching halt from a perfectly timed and placed punch by Jermell Charlo back in 2017. Lubin turned professional at an early age and had looked every bit the part on the way up as a soon-to-be star in the sport. He’s got the looks, the skill, and the punching power. 1st round stoppages can be very misleading and Saturday will be a great measuring stick to see how far the KO is mentally in his rearview mirror.
Rosario fought Jermell Charlo last September and defiantly had more than a few moments of success. The scorecards were fairly close considering Rosario had tasted the canvas in the 1st, 6th, and then finally in the 8th round down for good from a wicked jab to the body that had Jeison gasping for air on his back. If Lubin isn’t on his ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s’ a fighter like Rosario will give him a first-class ticket to the mat, always dangerous even when hurt Lubin will need to fight smart for however long this one goes.
Side Note: Keep an eye out for Vasiliy Lomachenko getting back in the ring for the first since tasting his second defeat to Teofimo Lopez. Lomachenko challenges Masayoshi Nakatani a boxer that gave a good account of himself in a fight with Teofimo. Also, on Sunday David Morrell Jr. vs. Mario Cazares headline in a prospect-driven card on FOX. Stay tuned to my post-fight article as I will be live at the Armory in Minneapolis.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Com Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio