Four-time world champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis challenges undefeated WBA Super Lightweight Champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios tonight on SHOWTIME. By fight night, Davis will have moved up two weight classes to capture a title in a third division. On paper Barrios, (26-0, 17 Kos) has the advantages. He’s 5-foot-11, Davis is 5-foot-5. Barrios’ reach is 711′ while Davis is 67.5.’ Barrios has been fighting at the 140-pound weight division for his entire career. But anyone who follows boxing knows disadvantages can become advantages.
According to a tattoo expert, Davis (24-0, 23 kos) has over 26 tattoos; one of them on his right forearm is called ‘playing cards’ which symbolizes good luck, good times, new beginnings, and good fortune. Another tattoo on the right side of his chest is a gorilla which symbolizes strength, power, aggression, and ferocity all of which Davis has had an intimate connection with. Davis and his brothers were removed from their mother’s care at age five and placed in foster care. He had to navigate gun violence and drugs growing up in the Sandtown-Winchester community in West Baltimore a location that has been described as the most crime-ridden area of the city.
“My mother did drugs; it took my grandma about three years to get us back as we went into different homes — to a foster family, to a group home. It was like we were locked up, too. The only times we could see our family was for about 30 minutes in this little room,” Davis said. “The disruptions of these years hardened me. I would fight with the neighborhood kids. I’d even fight my [15-year-old] brother’s battles.”
Davis discovered boxing at age five, but it wasn’t until years later that he realized the impact of the sport on his life. “I felt like I was getting the love I didn’t get at home,” he said during an interview. “After school let out around 2:30, I’d go straight to the gym to be the first person there, even though it didn’t open until about 4:30. I was the littlest one, and I was good, so they took me seriously. If it wasn’t for the gym, I would’ve been out in the neighborhood running wild.”
As an amateur, Davis earned the 2012 National Golden Gloves Championship, two National Junior Olympics gold medals, three straight National Silver Gloves Championships from 2006 to 2008. By the time he turned professional on February 22, 2013, he had ended a glorious amateur career with an outstanding record of 206–15. Davis moved up the boxing ranks and In January 2017, Davis won his first significant belt, the IBF super featherweight title defeating José Pedraza.
With all of Davis’ success, logic says he would have exiled himself from the mindset of the dangerous crime-ridden environment that he was exposed to. Yet, Davis’ recent decisions outside of the ring show the influence of secondary trauma on a child. Davis has a tattoo of Michael Jackson’s face wearing his thriller jacket and a photo of the fictional character Tony Montana in the movie Scarface. Montana was a drug lord who killed for senseless reasons. Tattoos can represent evil, danger, rebellion, criminality, cruelty, and a defiant attitude toward society. And Davis’ recent troubles outside of the ring mirrors just that.
In 2018, Davis was arrested in Washington DC after getting into a fistfight with another person. And while the charges were later dismissed, it demonstrated a pattern of problematic behaviors with the fighter.
In 2020, he was arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend after grabbing her shirt and dragging her to a separate room. On March 22, 2021, he was indicted with 14 criminal charges stemming from a November 2020 hit-and-run that injured four people. At the time of the incident, he was driving on a suspended/revoked license and failed to stop at a red light.
The rest of Davis’ tattoos have various meanings ranging from the crucifixion of Jesus, a person’s ability and desire to reach the top, great responsibilities, and the power to overcome life obstacles. A tattoo on his right shoulder is a lion which represents glory, victory, strength, power, authority, and courage. When he faces Barrios, Davis sees his challenger as just another obstacle.
“We all have challenges we go through in life, and that’s what makes us strong,” Davis said during the press conference for the fight. “This is another challenge that I have on my road to success. I’m ready to walk through it and keep pushing.” He added, “I think [Barrios] is making a mistake. It’s not just the height. He thinks he’s stronger than me, so we are just going to have to wait and see. If he believes that I’ve never seen anyone like him, then so be it. But they always learn on fight night. That’s when the real me comes out.”