Gervonta Davis vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa Interview Transcript
Leonard Ellerbe – Thank you. I’d like to thank everyone for joining the call for two-time super featherweight champion, Gervonta Davis and former unified champion Yuriorkis Gamboa as they prepare to battle for the WBA Lightweight World Championship.
In our co-feature, we’ll have WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal taking on two division champion Badou Jack. Plus, a very, very exciting opening bout we’ll have former 168-pound champion Jose Uzcategui taking on Mayweather Promotions’ own Lionell Thompson in a ten-round bout.
We’re very excited to bring you this exciting card on December 28, live from the award-winning State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Our event will be broadcasted live on SHOWTIME at 9:00 pm ET/6:00 pm PT
We’re very excited to bring boxing’s biggest rising star, Gervonta Davis, to Atlanta on December 28, which will no doubt close out 2019 in a major way. Mayweather Promotions will be hosting our first ever event down in ATL as part of a great holiday special on SHOWTIME.
Again, Mayweather promotion’s own Gervonta Davis takes on Yuriorkis Gamboa in a very exciting bout. This will be a night that will be filled with exciting music as well as we’re bringing both cultures together in an epic event in Atlanta at State Farm Arena.
This will add another notch in sport’s history book as it will be the first world championship boxing event in Atlanta since Evander Holyfield took on Vaughn Bean in September of 1998. We have no other than to thank Stephen Espinoza for allowing us to bring this great event to this great city of Atlanta.
So, without further ado, I would like to welcome SHOWTIME Network’s President of Sports and Event Programming, Stephen Espinoza.
Thanks, Leonard. We’re thrilled to be back in business on another exciting event with Mayweather Promotions, this time in Atlanta. For SHOWTIME, this kicks off another great run to start the new year a little bit early.
We’ve got eight shows in 10 weeks, featuring some of boxing’s biggest names: Gervonta Davis, of course, Danny Garcia, Jarrett Hurt, Claressa Shields, plus some of the top prospects and rising stars, Jaron Ennis and Stephen Fulton Jr. That’s across SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION; ShoBox, and of course our streaming program SHOWTIME BOXING COUNTDOWN.
Now, Atlanta has a long history in boxing. Some of the biggest names in the sport have fought there. Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr., Pernell Whitaker, Lennox Lewis, Jack Dempsey all have fought in Atlanta. None of the other champions who have fought there have done so recently.
This will be the first world championship boxing event in Atlanta in more than 20 years. The last time there was a world title fight in Atlanta was in fact a SHOWTIME event, September of 1998, Evander Holyfield versus Vaughn Bean.
This is a long-awaited return of championship boxing to a long-underserved boxing market, and I can’t think of a better fight to do that than this one. We all know Yuriorkis Gamboa. He is a gold medalist, a former titleholder at 126 and 130 pounds, and in fact was a Unified featherweight champion from 2009 to 2011.
He’s won four fights in a row. He is a full-fledged lightweight. He is now weighing over 130 for the 10th time consecutively. His last 10 most recent fights he’s been over 130, and over one-third of his career has been at 130 or higher.
Gervonta Davis is going up to meet this challenge. That’ll leave the first time in the last six fights that Gervonta has been over 130, and only nine of his 22 career fights have been above 130, so it will be interesting to see him settle into the new weight.
Gervonta, as Leonard accurately described, is one of the rising stars in the sport. He’s fighting for the third time this year, which is considered very active for a world champion. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Gervonta is one of the top young stars in the sport.
He is numerically one of the top three draws in all of boxing for 2013. We expect a sellout or something very close on December 28, which will mean that over three different cities on three different dates and three fights this year, Gervonta will have sold well over 30,000 tickets, including over 8,000 in Carson, California, against a last-minute opponent.
At Royal Farms in Baltimore, a sellout crowd of nearly 15,000, and State Farm Arena in Atlanta, ticket sales are going very, very well. So with well over 30,000 seats sold among three fights in 2019, that puts Gervonta at the top of the list, along with Errol Spence and Anthony Joshua in terms of the boxers who have sold the most tickets across events in 2019.
So when we described Gervonta as one of the young stars in boxing, this is not just hyperbole. It’s not salesmanship, it is actually a fact, and it is very important, what he’s doing here. There’s no young fighter doing what Gervonta is doing right now.
There’s no other fighter in boxing doing what he’s doing. With Atlanta, we expected Gervonta will have launched his second long-underserved market, having gone to Carson earlier in the year.
He relaunched the Baltimore market. We’re using him to relaunch the Atlanta market, and it says a lot about his drawing power that we are launching two new markets in 2019, on the back of Gervonta Davis.
It’s great for ‘Tank,’ it’s great for this event. It’s great for Atlanta, but most importantly it’s great for the sport of boxing. I expect a great fight, I expect the best out of Yuriorkis Gamboa, and an exciting night on December 28.
Thank you, Stephen. And as Stephen mentioned, Gervonta Davis, he’ll be in the main event. He’ll be taking on Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa is a former Unified featherweight champion and a former lightweight champion, and he still brings a lot of experience, a Cuban old school fighter, coming from the great Cuban tradition.
So without further ado, he’s a powerful fighter with lots of experience. He hails from Cuba. He’s a former Olympian. He’s invested in all the right tools to bring out the best in Gervonta Davis on December the 28th, so I’d like to welcome Yuriorkis Gamboa on the call.
I’m very happy to be on this conference call. I’m also very appreciative of the opportunity given to me. A little odd that I’m saying that, given that I’m the veteran coming into this fight, but I think everything’s lined up for me to have a big night on the 28th.
This question is actually for Leonard and Stephen. You guys have been around a long time. Gervonta Davis, he refers to himself as the one, and he’s incredibly popular both in the ring and out of the ring, on social media.
What do you attribute his magnetic appeal with younger fans, especially from knowing him both in and out the ring? What do you attribute that magnetic appeal that’s growing with every fight?
Well, I’ll actually refer back to the early stages of Gamboa’s career as well, because I think you can draw a lot of parallels in their styles. What people love about Gamboa when he burst on the scene is the same thing as people love about “Tank” Davis, and that is their ferocious style inside the ring; the knockout power, the flashiness, the showmanship.
That’s what brings the boxing fans in, that’s what generated the enthusiasm and the name for Gamboa, and that’s what’s generating the enthusiasm for Gervonta Davis. In terms of outside the ring, Gervonta has just struck a chord with both boxing fans and non-boxing fans.
I think his story has resonated, his personality, and the struggle that he’s come from. And again, I will draw the parallel with Gamboa as well. What these two young men have overcome in their careers is the stuff of movies, and I speak not so much in their careers but in their lives, the obstacles that they’ve overcome, their journeys that they’ve been on.
You know, very different journeys. You know, one from Cuba, one from inner city Baltimore. But long and tough and difficult journeys to get to where they are now, in which they fought for it at every stage of the way, both in and out of the ring.
So I think the combination of that in and out of the ring is really what has built “Tank” to what he is, and I think, by drawing the parallel, it’s very similar to what established Gamboa as a star as well.
Pretty much just to touch on what Stephen just said is that, when it comes to “Tank”, especially in the urban markets, which is carried over into other markets now, is that he represents what the fans like, this generation of fans want to see.
They want to see knockouts, and that’s what “Tank” believes in, and when he comes to the ring, his sole mentality is, “I’m not going to play with you. If you don’t belong in there with me.” With him, he’s going to run you out of that ring.
And the fans have gravitated to that style, and it’s a very entertaining style that they know, and it’s very reminiscent of the Mike Tyson era. And I’m not comparing the two fighters, but I’m just talking about what they both brought to the table.
That, when you came into the arena and you were coming to see a Mike Tyson or Gervonta Davis, you couldn’t get up out of your seat to go to the restroom or go get some popcorn and a drink, because the fight might be over.
And that’s what he brings to the table and he’s been able to cross over in markets now, where there’s other entertainers all over the world, just not African-Americans, all kinds of entertainers, actresses and actors. All have gravitated, and he’s the next guy up.
He has the it factor. It’s different, from a boxing standpoint, because we don’t see many stars in our sport that bring that to the table, and that’s what makes him very, very exciting and makes him the most exciting young star in the entire sport.
Thanks very much. Stephen, just as another quick follow-up to what you were saying earlier, can you just talk about the star power of “Tank” Davis to have this fight and so close, in the midst of the holiday, with people traveling and there’s still so much interest generated with this fight, to hold this fight. What does it say about his star power?
Yes, going into a market that has been dormant for a long time is a challenge for a promoter, it’s a challenge for a fighter, and that’s why, quite honestly, you see this sport going back to the same cities because the safe and reliable thing is to go to where you know.
It is risky to launch or re-launch a market that has been quiet. You know, “Tank” very strongly believed that he could support an event and people would come out in Baltimore, and he was 150 percent correct. They came out far beyond what anyone expected, and a sell out in a great performance.
And on the shoulders of that, as a team, we and Mayweather Promotions had been looking for the right event to launch Atlanta again and bring that back to prominence, and you know, to say that, this young fighter is the one who’s going to reignite the market, that’s putting a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.
But I think, between his personality, his performance, and you know, the charisma and electricity that goes along with his events, this is proven already, when you look at the live gate, to be a wise decision to turn to Davis and Gamboa to re-launch and reignite that Atlanta market.
Is this one of the best training camps of your career, and also what the death of his former trainer Jorge Hernandez means to him?
Everyone knows what Mr. Hernandez meant to me. He was not only my trainer in Cuba, but he was like a second father figure to me, and his memory will always live with me. At the same time, I’m going to dedicate this fight to his memory and to his legacy.
My training has been excellent with the same trainer I’ve had who trained me for my last few bouts. We’ve done a great deal with increasing my workload, to increase the capacity of my workload on fight night.
Also learning a lot of new techniques and a lot of game planning has gone into this camp. I’ve learned to be a lot more cerebral because at the end of the day, the cerebral part of the fight is what’s going to take me to victory on the night of December 28.
Do you feel like there is more motivation in this training camp compared to maybe some of your past fights, because it’s been so long since you fought for a title and just the overall magnitude of this fight?
Definitely, both play a huge factor into what went into this training camp. We all know the significance of fighting for a world title, and at the same time, the magnitude of this fight in and of itself has contributed to the intensity of this training camp and the workload that we’ve had.
The work that went into this training camp was for me to regain and exceed the level that I was at when I was a reigning world champion.
Did that win in July against Roman Martinez feel even sweeter than maybe some of your past wins because you still managed to show that you’ve got plenty of power even at this stage of your career?
I think the work that was done and put into the camp against Roman Martinez and the results or the outcome of that bout clearly reflected the amount of work that I put into training camp.
Now I expanded and went above and beyond my last training camp in order to get to the level I need to, in order to come out victorious on December 28.
What advantages do you believe you have over Gervonta Davis, heading into this fight?
Obviously the nod has to go for me for experience, just because of the mere fact of my record and who I’ve faced. I definitely think I’ve faced the better opponents and the better quality of opponents than Gervonta has, with all due respect to him.
At the same time, the last fight that I had against Martinez, not only that but also against Beltran, goes to indicate that there’s a lot left for me to give in this sport. So, there are a lot of things that are being overlooked, and that I believe give me a definite advantage over Gervonta, come December 28.
You made it very clear, after your co-main event in Baltimore that Gervonta Davis was the fight that you wanted. Why did you feel so strongly about that? Why were you so clear that he was the fighter you wanted?
It’s a fight that was promised to me when I came into an agreement with PBC and it’s something that’s within the contract that if I was able to beat Martinez, Gervonta was on the horizon and I knew that if I did my part by beating Martinez in July that the next step would logically be Gervonta. So, that’s why I was so sure of it.
How important is this fight for your legacy and for all of Cuban boxing?
This fight definitely has some great significance to me, to be representing Cuban boxing and with what’s happened as of late, not only with Luis Ortiz but also in prior fights where, some of my compatriots did not come through, with exception of Yunier Dorticos. This fight represents not only a victory for me, but it also represents a victory for Cuba, and a victory for all my people if I do come out with a victory.
What do you expect from the fight? How do you expect it to develop? Do you expect a firefight? Do you think it’s going to be more of a tactical, skillful fight?
I think it’s going to be a blend of both. I think there’s going to be good exchanges here and there throughout the rounds. But at the same time, I think we both carry a significant amount of intelligence into the ring, and I don’t expect anything less from Tank, and obviously not from myself.
So, I suspect it’s going to be a good mix. There’s going to be a lot of tactical moves, a lot of game-playing from both sides. But by the same token, there’s going to be absolutely no shying away from exchanging blows in the middle of the ring.
We expect a great fight come Saturday December 28, from Gamboa and his team. They’ll be very well-prepared. So, as we move on to Gervonta Davis, when you have a superstar fighter, it’s all about team.
And this next person, the next person I’d like to welcome onto the call, he’s been a tremendous part of Gervonta Davis’s team. He’s been a father figure, he’s been a mentor, and he’s been an outstanding trainer to not only Gervonta, but several other young men and young women in the Upton Gym. So without further ado, Calvin Ford, to say a few words.
How you doing, Leonard? Thank you for this opportunity to be able to talk to you all. Just looking forward to December 28. “Tank” and I are working hard, looking forward to that name guy Gamboa.
I’ve been watching his work for a while. Just waiting for the fight to get here, so we can show our talent and what we do here at Upton Boxing in Baltimore.
Thank you, Calvin. So, without further ado, the main event, the main attraction, two-time world champion, none other than Gervonta “Tank” Davis.
Camp’s been going great. I’ve been training hard with just a few pounds to lose now. We’ve been sharpening our tools. I’m back training with the younger guys in the gym and things like that. Camp’s been going great. I feel strong, I feel healthy. I can’t wait till fight night.
It’s going to be an explosive night, not just for me. The whole card going to be explosive, I believe. I have my young brothers fighting on the undercard again, so it’s a night that I’m looking forward to. I can’t wait.
What is it about you, would you say, that people care so much about in and out of the ring?
I believe, just in the ring, I’m explosive. I’m a great fighter all around the board. Outside the ring, I’m not a mean guy. I’m a likeable guy. I’m reachable, to my people. So I believe I’m just overall a great person. I believe that, and people see that.
Some might, see me on Instagram or Twitter and think otherwise, but when you really get to know me, I’m a likeable guy. So that’s why I think that, people are drawn to me.
When it comes to boxing 25 and under, you seem to be the guy that’s generating the most popularity. How would you describe that with the younger fans in particular?
I believe because I’m around that age group, I have a big impact on the youth. I’m just 25. I just turned 25, and I’m doing well for myself. And again, I’m reachable. It’s not only like they can see me on Instagram or TV or anything.
But I’m actually in Baltimore City where I’m from, and I’m around other fights in other cities, and you can come up to me and take pictures and things like that. When Floyd was coming up, when he was younger, and he was doing well for himself and he was in the area like me. So, it’s better than, being reachable, than just seeing somebody that’s going to work for themself like a star, just on TV. When you see them on TV, you see them. But when you actually get near them and feel them and be face to face with them, it’s more enjoyable. So that’s what I think.
Why is now the time to play at 135, and going forward, would you envision jumping back and forth between 130 and 135, depending on the fight?
For me, the jump back down to 130, I believe I can do it. If the right opportunity comes, I’d definitely come back to 130. It was just a game plan for me and my team. We came to 135 to snatch a belt, and I felt like I definitely wanted to do that.
I’d be a two division, three-time world champion. So I thought it was a great idea to do, so we did it.
To this point, has the year gone how you wanted it to go, for you and Calvin?
For me on my end, it definitely went as planned. My team discussed that we would fight three times this year. I definitely am going to fight three times this year, so I’m happy. Hopefully 2020 will be a better year, but I’m happy with my career right now.
Everything is right on time. We would have had Abner Mares first, so we were still looking for that name guy. Gamboa stepped up, to the plate to take this fight, so we’re looking to, start fighting these name guys the public wants to see.
So right now, we’re just concerned about this fight right here and going in for a great performance. I can’t wait to see Tank, because he got to his peak quicker than what I thought he would this camp.
So I’m going to see what type of performance Gamboa is going to put on. He’s top secret with everything, so I’m looking forward to what he’s going to bring to the table. I’m seeing ahead, but I like to focus on the person that he’s going to put on his performance on.
Gervonta, I was just wondering if, at least on paper, you feel that Yuriorkis Gamboa is the best opponent that you will have fought?
On paper, I believe – it’s got to be hand in hand with Jose Pedraza. Yes, I think so. It’s got to be hand in hand, because when I fought Pedraza, he was a world champion. He was a young world champion and he was undefeated.
Gamboa, he was, an Olympian. a former world champion, so it’s got to be hand in hand. I can’t take no credit away from, Pedraza, so I believe them two are probably the best.
Okay, but you feel he’s clearly the best opponent that you’ve fought since you beat Pedraza?
Yes, he is probably one of the best opponents since I beat Pedraza. I know he comes to fight. I’m looking forward to it, actually. In the gym, we work on things that he might do in the fight, and we’re just waiting for December 28, to see what he brings to the table.
Also Calvin, could you answer that as well, in terms of where he might rank as far as guys “Tank”has fought so far?
Well, again, if you remember any of my last interviews, I’m still looking for that guy that’s going to bring the best out of Tank, because I know Tank’s capabilities. But I know Gamboa is going to be Gamboa.
He’s doing all the stuff that he needs to be doing to prepare for this title. It’s a world title. He’s got the motivation in front of him. And I know Tank’s capabilities. It’s not about the power.
So I’m looking for Gamboa to be that guy. So his team and them, they’re doing their job. They understand what they’re against.
They’re working on stuff. We understand what we’re against. We’re just waiting for December 28 so we can put on a great performance for Atlanta, because they’ve been waiting for it for the longest. I hope Baltimore will be in Atlanta, and just make it one big party.
Do you remember Gamboa’s fight against Crawford? Was there anything that you could take away from that fight and what maybe you remember from that?
When I watched the Crawford vs Gamboa fight, that’s the fight I actually keep watching. Gamboa was touching him up in the beginning of rounds, because Crawford was too wide. So, I took that and tried to not be wide, like throwing a lot of round punches.
But the explosiveness was there and he was actually right-handed when Gamboa was touching him up. So once he turned southpaw, then that was a different story. I was learning from his mistakes, just not be wide.
But I’m always going to be me in the ring and do, what Gervonta Davis does. That’s, be explosive, be fast, and if we go 12 rounds, I’m definitely here for it. But I don’t see this fight going 12 rounds.
Would it mean something to you at all to get him out of there before Crawford did?
Not really, but if I do, it would tell that, I’m top five, pound for pound, for sure.
Have you felt the difference in preparing for a fight at 135 pounds versus when you held the 130-pound title? Do you feel like it’s a little easier for you, not having to worry about cutting those extra five pounds?
I don’t want to say easier, but I definitely got in shape way quicker than I normally do. I start running on the highest speed level. It was just way quicker than it normally is.
So, I’m just looking forward to December the 28th. I know it’s been great for me inside the gym, but it’s always about, December the 28th, fight night, how you perform there and how you put on a show?
So, camp’s been going great for me. It’s actually been, fast. I got in shape fast. And sparring ten and 12 rounds. I want to say I probably have like close to, like, 80 to 90 rounds in. So, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’ve been working, so I don’t have to worry about the weight. I’m good on the weight, so it’s been great for me.
Do you feel like maybe 135, you could see down the road, this being your better weight for you than 130?
It’s possible. It’s possible I’m at a better weight class. Because I haven’t fought at that weight yet, so I don’t know yet. It’s all good in training camp, and it matters, but what we’re really worried about is December the 28th and how it looks when I get inside the ring.
So, right now, it feels great. I don’t have to worry about the weight. I’m actually a couple pounds over my weight class. But we still have, a couple more days and things like that. I’m feeling great right now, so we’ll just see how we feel December the 28th.
Okay. I’d like to thank everyone who came onto the call, and we really look forward to a great SHOWTIME event. This fight will be the event of the year, at the end of the year. Have a great day.