NEW YORK – Gervonta Davis, America’s youngest world champion, and No. 1-ranked challenger Liam Walsh participated in an international media conference call on Wednesday in advance of their clash for Davis’ IBF Junior Lightweight World Championship on Saturday, May 20 on SHOWTIME from Copper Box Arena in London. Davis vs. Walsh is part of a split-site, four-fight SHOWTME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast that begins at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. In the main event, Gary Russell Jr. will make his second featherweight title defense and long-awaited homecoming against mandatory challenger Oscar Escandon live from MGM National Harbor just outside of Washington, D.C.
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe and Hall of Fame boxing promoter Frank Warren also joined the call to talk about their fighters.
Here is what the principals had to say on Wednesday:
Thoughts on going to London to make his first title defense on foreign soil:
“I believe it was the right business move as far as getting me to the UK in my early career and giving the fans what they want to see. I have a lot of UK fans after the [Jose] Pedraza fight so I think it’s a good change. It’s good for me to fight in the UK. I fought overseas when I was an amateur so now I’m going as a pro and I feel like it’s a great opportunity.
“I’m actually excited to fight in the UK. I believe that I will have a crowd over there and I’m excited to put on a show for the UK fans.”
Have you watched Liam Walsh’s tapes? Do you think his style is sort of made to order for a fighter liked you?
“He’s a good fighter; I can’t take that away from him. He’s my mandatory so I’m taking him seriously. I’ve actually looked at a couple of his fights. He’s a decent fighter, but I’m just on another level. My mind, my skills, I’m on another level than what he’s saying and what his fans are saying too.”
What has it been like since you won the title?
“It’s been pretty good. I’m actually staying level headed, staying focused. Getting the world title is a step closer to where I want to be. Having a belt is cool, but I’m trying to do more in the sport. I want to be the next star of boxing. I want to do more in the sport. This is just one more step to me.”
Do you feel like you need to win by knockout?
“Of course. I can’t rely on his mistakes, he’s capable of going down.”
On finishing camp with Floyd Mayweather in Vegas:
“When I got back to Vegas, Floyd Mayweather was hands on more than usual, working with me in the gym late nights. I’m working extra hard. Having him back in the gym gives me that extra push and has my mind on another level.
“Having him in my corner makes me feel like I have that chance. I have one of the best in the business backing me. It means a lot. It makes me work harder.”
How has your experience growing up in inner-city Baltimore influenced you?
“Just growing up in that inner city, it gave me the hunger I have today. My folks struggled. I knew that when it was time for me to turn pro, it was time for me to help feed my family. I’m ready to do big things in the sport of boxing and outside of the sport.
“I believe I have the youth right now. Right now I’m one of the youngest (world champions), and believe I have the youth right now. I believe that as I continue to keep winning and crowning myself, a lot of young kids will look up to me and it will help get them on the right track.”
Going into this fight do you think Liam Walsh is your toughest opponent so far?
“I believe so. I’ve fought a world champion. He’s undefeated. I don’t know, I have to see when I get in there. On paper he might seem like a tough opponent. I won’t know until I get in there and see what he brings to the table.”
Is there pressure to try and make statement against him and knock him out or wait to see if the knockout comes?
“I don’t think I have to make a statement by knocking him out. I would rather beat him in 12 rounds. We’re going to look for the knockout and if it comes, it comes. But I would rather go on 12 rounds.”
Would you like to make a prediction?
“I’m coming out on top and keeping my world title.”
Can you tell us what you think of Gervonta Davis?
“He certainly has potential and star quality – that was clear to see when he beat [Jose] Pedraza. But he has to come through me first. I don’t see any other way than me winning. If he’s going to be a star in the future, it’s going to have to be with a loss after fighting me.”
Are there advantages to fighting at home?
“I thank Frank Warren for that and giving me that advantage. I think it all depends on his mental capacity. He’s coming to a foreign country. Provided that he adapts to the environment and change of scenery, then we’ll find out that night.”
You were Pedraza’s mandatory so were you surprised that Gervonta won that fight and in that dominant a fashion?
“I was to be honest with you. My prediction was Pedraza to win on points. I thought Pedraza had all the attributes and tools to get the job done. But then on the night watching the fight, I was surprised by the way Pedraza went about his work. I thought Gervonta looked brilliant and mature beyond his years. I think he put on a really good show but I thought Pedraza could have gone about it a little bit better.”
What are your advantages in the fight against Gervonta Davis?
“First and foremost, I don’t think he’s completely overrated, but I think there are still a lot of questions to be asked of him. He looked very good and brilliant against Pedraza. The only other reputable fighter on his record is Cristobal Cruz. There are a lot of question marks lingering on.
“I feel like I’ve been in tougher fights than him. I feel like I’ve been in longer fights. I think I have a better boxing IQ than him. He’s very powerful, very physical and very fast, but we haven’t seen him in a long fight or a dog fight or a grueling fight though. I will certainly ask all these questions. I’ll do it any which way that it has to go. I’m more than confident I’ll get the job done.”
Is it key to take the fight into later rounds?
“I think possibly, yeah. I think that could be one angle to look at it. We’re not going to really know until the first bell rings. We all have game plans, but good fighters have to adapt. There’s going to be ebbs and flows in this fight, but I think the better fighter will prevail and I think that’s me.”
Boxing is hot in UK, how much of a benefit do you think will that be for you?
“I think it’s definitely beneficial to be fighting at home. I don’t live far from London so I won’t have to leave my house until a couple of days before the fight and obviously my sons will be there in support for me. It’s definitely beneficial. I want us both to get a fair crack and I’m sure it will be. When you’re the home fighter, you feel more obliged to dig a little bit deeper for your home fans who are cheering for you. So that’s what I’ll do.”
What is your prediction for the fight?
“Like 21 previous times, I’ll always predict I’ll win. So that’s what I’ll predict again. One thing is factually certain, I’ll give my absolute all. My prediction is I’ll come away with victory and the belt, whichever which way I have to. I’ll find a way to come away with that belt.”
Over here in the U.S., the sentiment is that Gervonta is the favorite in the fight. Do you think you’re the favorite because of the experience that you bring to the ring?
“I don’t think I’m the favorite but I’m not a 3-1 underdog. When I was told that, I thought I must be fighting three people. I’ve never been a 3-1 underdog. I’m a big underdog apparently, but certainly not in my eyes. In my eyes it won’t be a massive shock if I win this title. The U.S. fans think it will be a walk-over, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. I can understand him being the favorite with all the hype and Mayweather behind him, but I’m baffled by being that much of an underdog. But we’ll find out.”
Is there extra motivation in being the underdog?
“Yes, it’s extra motivation. My friends are betting on me and when I win, they’ll have a great night. This is the first time I’ve been the underdog in my pro career, and I’m really enjoying being the underdog. I’m really thriving on it.”
LENOARD ELLERBE, Davis’ promoter and Mayweather Promotions CEO:
“This is going to be an unbelievable fight and we are looking forward to promoting our first event on foreign soil. We expect a sold-out crowd and this is going to be a very, very exciting fight.
“We think this is a wonderful opportunity and a tremendous platform for [Gervonta] to be able to showcase his skills across the world. With him being a young champion I think he has an advantage, and working alongside someone like Floyd, someone who can explain to him what it’s like to go into hostile territory and what to expect coming into a big fight. All those intangibles, along with his hard work and preparation he’s done, I think he has a tremendous advantage and has the perfect team in his corner to get the job done.
“We are very comfortable with the judges and we expect a very level playing field. Tank just has to go in there and stay focused and do what he does. I think his skills will speak loud and clear. Liam Walsh is a tremendous fighter and he has a tremendous following and he has been in some good fights.
“This is similar to back in 2005 when Floyd went into Atlantic City and beat Arturo Gatti. But this is a little different in that, as Tank mentioned, he has a lot of fans in the UK. I don’t think it’s going to be one-side. Because one thing I do love about the UK fans is that they are very, very knowledgeable boxing fans. They can appreciate skill level and fighters that are really, really good. Tank has a tremendous social media presence and a tremendous following in the UK. As far as the crowd is concerned, I’m not so sure it’s going to be all Liam Walsh. Tank is going to have a lot of support there. And, again, when you have the kind of preparation he has had, and you are focused, that’s what it’s going to come down to.
“The focus right now is Liam Walsh and Saturday night. As long as Tank stays focused and does what he does, the sky is the limit. He has a tremendous team and he’s working with the best promoter in all of boxing. We are really excited about this young man’s career and in our eyes he’s the most exciting fighter in all of boxing. And soon he’s going to be the biggest star in all of boxing.”
FRANK WARREN, Hall of Fame promoter:
“The Copper Box Arena is where they held the boxing for the London Olympics. It’s a fantastic venue with the crowd right on top of the ring. That atmosphere is going to be fantastic and it’s going to be a sellout. This fight is a great opportunity for the American public watching on SHOWTIME, and for those in England, to see a really good quality fight. In some ways this fight reminds me a lot of when Joe Calzaghe fought against Jeff Lacy, who was a big favorite, and Joe took him to school.
“I think it’s always best to have the home advantage. You got your fans there and your home support. The British boxing fans are passionate fans, and they are going to get behind their man. Sometimes when you’re away from home, you may not get the best out of you. When you are at home, you have to do your best because those fans are there for you. I much prefer the home advantage and it’s worked well for us in the past, like when we did the fight with Ricky Hatton fight and Kostya Tszyu and he went in as a massive underdog in that fight and he ended up winning. And we’ve done that on numerous occasions. But you have to have a good fighter.
“With Liam, he’s been under the radar with some of the problems we’ve mentioned outside the ring. But the fact of the matter is that he’s one of the best British boxers. He’s an excellent fighter. He’s not an old 30, he’s a young 30 years of age. If Gervonta Davis is going to be what the people think he’s going to be, well then he will be that if he beats Liam Walsh. And to beat Liam Walsh, you have to be something special.
“Everyone is looking for the next big thing. Is [Gervonta] overrated? We will find out. I know one thing is for sure, Liam is underrated. And that’s going to be the difference.”