Gervonta smokes Gamboa in final round

By Robert Ecksel on December 29, 2019

“He’s a shell of himself. It’s almost a shame to watch.” (Amanda Wescott/Showtime)

Saturday night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, number one ranked Gervonta "Tank" Davis (23-0, 22 KOs), the explosive southpaw from Baltimore, Maryland, in his first fight at 135 pounds, dropped former unified featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-3, 18 KOs), the veteran from Miami by way of Guantanamo, Cuba, three times en route to a stoppage at 1:17 of the 12th and final round, to win the vacant WBA World lightweight title.

 

Fighting out of the blue corner in gold trunks with white fringe, Tank’s reputation precedes him. Earmarked as a champion at an early age, at 25 and having just won his second world title, he is still technically a young gun. “I'm only 25 years old,” said Gervonta. “I'm learning each and every day.” No one expected a cliffhanger. His future is too bright for that scenario at this time. With the maestro, Floyd Mayweather, as his promoter and mentor, we know what to expect. Tank will face as many soft touches as is humanly possible on his Yellow Brick Road to pay-per-view, like last night’s fight against a man 13 years his senior who, despite having won four in a row coming in, has now been knocked out in three of his last 10 fights.

 

Gamboa, fighting out of the red corner in red trunks with gold and white trim, was a legend in his time, a time which has sadly passed. The journey from top dog to underdog is a perilous one for fighters. Little was expected from Gamboa, but a little grace goes a long way, and occasional flashes of the old brilliance kept things interesting for while. He knows the game inside out and upside down and how it’s played and how to profit from diminished skills and expectations. He’s not decrepit by any means. He’s in great shape. He has finely-honed instincts that are part of his DNA. But he has slowed down. His reflexes aren’t what they once were. And his beard, never the best, is now officially questionable.

 

As Paulie Malignaggi said wistfully during the Showtime broadcast, “He’s a shell of himself. It’s almost a shame to watch.”

 

Davis took control at the opening bell and more or less remained in control throughout. He dropped Gamboa for the first time halfway through round two with a double jab followed by a left. When the Cuban rose, it was on unsteady legs. Wobbly and clinging to Gervonta, it appeared he injured his knee, or foot, or ankle, or Achilles tendon, or had a problem with a defective boxing shoe.

 

There was, as usual, plenty of speculation, but facts were in short supply.

 

In Gamboa’s corner between rounds two and three, it was chaos. No one, not his cornermen, not the ringside physician, not the WBA official or state commissioner, seemed to know what happened, how it happened, and what in God’s name to do about it; a common boxing conundrum for which there’s no apparent solution. Gamboa struggled to stand amidst the confusion. Then he collapsed back on his stool. “I can’t walk,” he said. “No, I can’t walk. It’s something with the right knee. It’s broken. I’m sure it’s broken. I can’t go. I can’t go. There’s something wrong with my leg.”

 

A half minute passed, on top of the one minute allotted for the rest period, and the fight resumed. Gamboa was game but hobbled. Tank picked up where he left off.

 

He landed some hellacious shots, and more were to come, but over-the-hill Gamboa, still a champion at heart, fought back, despite the odds, despite being outgunned, despite being injured, and even won a round or two.

 

Tank dropped Gamboa in the final seconds of round eight with straight left hand that did damage. He dropped Gamboa a third time, in the 12th and final round, after being bombarded with straight left hands and uppercuts. Referee Jack Reiss had no choice but to stop it.

 

It was a ballsy performance by Gamboa.

 

Some expected more of Gervonta Davis.

 

“I believe my performance tonight was a C-plus,” said Davis after the bout. “Coming into this fight I knew Gamboa was a tough opponent. I knew he was a vet. I wasn't pressing for the knockout. Once I seen I was hurting him and he wasn't getting out of there, I just had to touch him up and win the rounds. I knew he was better than anyone I had fought before.”

 

Poker-faced as usual, Gamboa embodied stoicism.

 

“I'm a warrior and I kept going,” he said. “But as soon as I felt it I knew it was ruptured. I couldn't put pressure on it. I wanted to keep going. I told my corner it was a problem, but I wanted to keep going because I'm a warrior.”

 

A doctor confirmed that Gamboa ruptured his Achilles tendon.