Target Locked: Tank Davis the Next American PPV King


Once upon a time in what seemed like a different world, boxing had torch passing moments. Muhammad Ali shaking Mike Tyson’s hand in the ring before blitzing Tervor Berbick. Oscar De La Hoya’s domination of Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez and later, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao’s victories over De La Hoya. Moments of history that signified the end of an era and the beginning of a new time.

Floyd Mayweather rose to stardom as “Pretty Boy”, destroying everything that moved in the lightweight division before toppling the cash cow in De La Hoya. As a welterweight and junior middleweight Mayweather was equally dominant adjusting his style to overcome the strength and size advantages of his always larger foes.

And then, as promised after a six-fight deal with Showtime came to an end, Mayweather retired. Unbeaten. No torch passed. No new promised future of boxing. Mayweather accomplished the impossible in boxing- he retired with no equal.

Floyd Mayweather kneels in the center of the ring after beating Andre Berto. Photo: Lina Baker/ Under the Hand Wraps

Saul Canelo Alvarez rose to become the biggest draw in boxing before the heavyweight division could catch fire. Canelo has maintained his position with two fights against Gennady Golovkin then moving up in weight classes with a goal to become an undisputed champion. The Mexican star has begun to grow his casual American fanbase by speaking English, a move that grew the drawing power for the likes of Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Manny Pacquiao is still a major draw in the US and a mega-star internationally, but he is hardly the pay per view king in the US.

As the heavyweight division heated with the likes of Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua it soon fizzled with the American Wilder being stopped by Tyson Fury.

Errol Spence and Terrance Crawford, the likely front runners to carry the torch come with the baggage of not facing each other and show no signs publicly of doing so.

Still, no major American pay per view king has been crowned.

Enter Gervonta Tank Davis.

A little guy with big power, blazing speed, and a highlight reel that sells the sport to the casual market required to become a pay per view attraction.

Davis is a solid American ‘projects to penthouse’ story that sells well to every demographic, with just enough controversy to attract the contrarian dollars in hopes of seeing him fall.

There are no more Sugar Rays or Oscar De La Hoyas who come out of the Olympics with bigger stardom than the best world champions. The old model of building a fighter is different in a world of evolving priorities in sport.

Boxing does not change but media does.

Networks and mainstream general sports news outlets devote little to no attention to the sport. A fractured promotional environment akin to the US Congress and a constantly evolving delivery method for sports; makes keeping one fighter in front of the eyeballs of the many require a full media assault across multiple platforms.

Since HBO’s exit from boxing rival network Showtime has taken the mantle of best visual production of the sport, and they are not afraid to flex their cinematic muscle. Dedicating the All Access series to Davis for what will probably be the rest of Davis’s tenure on the network, Showtime is telling the story and selling the Tank Davis brand in a positive way.

The social media era brings fighters to a growing market who do not watch cable television anymore. Showtime, the stars on its platform, and their YouTube channel all boast of the coming of Davis. Even Davis has his own YouTube channel with short documentaries titled “Strap Season” that give the fan an even deeper behind the scenes look into his life.

This year round 24/7 connection to fans on Instagram and Twitter is the new Olympic gold medal.

Social media is King

Ryan Garcia, a potential Davis opponent and equally famous fighter became a star on social media, it is the new way. One-line jabs at rivals from any major lightweight fighter sparks trending hashtags and fanatic loyalty only seen in the big three NFL, NBA, and MLB.

Currently, the lightweight division boasts four, star quality fighters; Tank Davis, Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney, and the recognized undisputed champion Teofimo Lopez. All popular, all with major social media audiences on every platform, with only two primed for pay per view.

Teofimo Lopez dethroned the recognized best lightweight in the world Vasyl Lomachenko to unify the division. The brash outspoken Latino of Honduran descent connects with fans in a way that should propel him to the top of ESPN’s licensing budget for combat sports. Instead, social media app Triller recognized the potential earning power for Teofimo and outbid promoter Top Rank for his next fight. A fight that has seen delays since its signing allowing Lopez to fall from the spotlight and making room for Davis to expand his brand.

Top Rank and ESPN have since renegotiated Lopez’s contract.

Fighting under the Mayweather promotions banner, Davis enjoys the association to the Mayweather brand. A brand known for never losing. Even when deflecting questions about potential fights in which Davis would be considered an underdog, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe enjoys a fevered loyalty from social media that does two things- Validates his comment to the loyal base and generates buzz.

It keeps them talking about Davis.

Tomorrow Davis is moving up in weight to fight contender Mario Barrios- on pay per view. Davis is the odds favorite to knockout Barrios with the storyline being Davis’s ability to overcome the huge size difference. His rivals will undoubtedly post one-line comments to downplay Davis’ victory leading to the fevered fanaticism we’ve grown to expect.

Debate will arise over the next opponent for Davis, critics will play armchair quarterback so well you’ll believe they were in the ring rather than Davis. Weeks and months will pass and Davis’s next opponent will be announced to cheers and jeers starting the cycle of social media brand building all over again.

I’ll be there watching it on pay per view.

About Albert Baker

Writer/Producer/Director of the Under the Hand Wraps documentary series and owner of underthehandwraps.com. Albert Baker is currently based in Fresno, California and has been covering boxing since 2014.

Recommended for you

Join in the Fight and Drop Your Comments!!!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.