Over the past few decades, boxing has produced countless champions and household names, however, in terms of the sports relationship with hip-hop, there is a holy grail of pugilists that have been able to capture the imagination of the culture. From Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard to Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather and other all-time greats, masters of the sweet science have entertained, inspired and influenced hip-hop over the years. They have exhibited the aggressive attitude of its music and lifestyle, to the desire to climb the ranks and become the undisputed best at your craft. Gervonta “Tank” Davis is the latest title-holder to be embraced as the people’s champ by rap artists and fans alike, as he lives up to his name by rolling over his opponents like a tank truck, usually by knockout, resulting in him earning a reputation as the most exciting fighter in boxing.
Davis, who totes a professional record of 24-0 (with 23 of those victories via knockout), comes from Baltimore, Maryland, where he endured the tumultuous childhood chronicled in many rap songs firsthand, from parents struggling with drug addiction to surviving a crime infested where one misplaced step can land you behind bars or the grave. However, he found a refuge through boxing and managed to escape that harsh reality to become a multi-division champion, as he currently holds a title belt in the 130lb division, as well as 135lbs. This Saturday, on June 26, Davis will face off against Mario Barrios, an undefeated champion in the 140lb division. Barrios’ height, frame, and punching power have given some analysts and fans cause to pause when assessing whether Davis can continue his streak and become one of only a handful of fighters to simultaneously hold title belts in three different divisions. If Davis, who is favored in the fight, can achieve that feat with a victory over Barrios, he will have etched his name in history and silenced all critics while inching up the list of best pound-for-pound fighters in the game.
VIBE spoke with Gervonta “Tank” Davis about building bonds with the biggest stars in rap, his upcoming fight, and what it feels like to be “walking towards greatness.”
VIBE: You’re one of the more beloved fighters in the hip-hop community, who are some artists you’ve been able to build personal relationships with over the years that stand out to you?
Gervonta “Tank” Davis: Drake, Lil Baby, [Lil] Durk. Meek Mill, all of the top artists.
What about them connected y’all where you could find common ground?
We’re the best at what we do. Definitely the best at what we do.
Your last fight with Leo Santa Cruz ended in a vicious knockout, which many deemed the best of the year. Where does that fight rank on your resume?
I’ve had a lot of good knockouts, but I would say it’s ranked number one because of the Pay-Per-View [numbers] and the way I knocked him out. So I’d say he’s number one.
What would you say are other moments of adversity you’ve had to overcome throughout your life and how did those experiences mold you as a man?
I’ve been focused, man, I’ve been focused. It’s been a long time since [I’ve had adversity], I’ve been doing good. [But] definitely my daughter. My daughter motivates me, most importantly.
Who are your favorite three boxers of all-time?
I’d say Floyd, Sugar Ray and Pernell Whitaker.
You’ve been compared to Mike Tyson due to your impressive knockout ratio.
I like Mike Tyson.
What’s your relationship with Mike Tyson like?
We had a Facetime call. We went live with each other and talked about our fights coming up, that’s about it. I asked him to go onto his show and speak with him and talk to him face to face.
A victory over Mario Barrios would earn you a title at 140, adding to your belts at 130 and 135. What would it mean for you to become a champion in three weight classes at the same time?
It would mean a lot, that’s why we’re doing it. We dare to be great, so we’re walking that line towards greatness. We’re working.
The lightweight division includes big names like yours, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Teófimo López, and is known as one of the premier weight classes in boxing…how does it feel for your class of fighters to be compared with the four Kings of, Duran, Hearns, Leonard and Hagler?
I mean, it’s great, it’s great for boxing.
Your next fight is against Barrios, an undefeated opponent that’s a few inches taller and heavier than you. What do you say to people who doubt you’ll be able to pull off the victory against a bigger fighter?
Just wait and see. They doubted me a lot, that’s why I’m here. I always believe that I’m better than the next man, as far as the opponent I have in the ring, so it doesn’t matter about doubters. We ain’t doing something right if we ain’t got doubters, so I’m focused on getting the job done [on] June 26.
Being that you’re signed under Floyd Mayweather, what was your reaction to the Logan Paul fight and how do you feel about pro boxers engaging in exhibitions overall?
I mean, that’s their business. What Floyd did, he did a great job and we seen Floyd not at his best, but he’s still [close to] at his best, you know. It was an overall win, it’s entertainment. That’s what he’s good at, that’s what he’s great at.
What were some of the differences in your training with you moving up in weight?
Nothing I’m really doing different, it’s just a challenge. Working hard don’t never change, it’s just [about] continuing to keep working hard. I don’t see nothing I’m doing different, it’s just me continuing to work hard so I can be able to beat whoever they put in front of me.
What can fans expect when they tune into Showtime and watch you fight on Saturday, June 26?
Definitely an action-packed fight, a sold out arena. Definitely a big event, but most importantly, fireworks as a fighter, definitely. From top to bottom, not just my own fight.