Gervonta Davis dominates, stops Pedraza to win title
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. yelling encouragement in a checkered red shirt from ringside, Gervonta Davis put on a very early Mayweather-like performance, pummeling Jose Pedraza into submission with a seventh-round stoppage to wrest away the IBF junior lightweight title Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Showtime.
“Is this the future of boxing?” Mayweather said in the ring afterward. “Absolutely,” he remarked, while inserting an expletive to make his point.
Mayweather promotes the 22-year-old Davis and was on his feet for the entire bout, waving his hands and screaming instructions. When Davis dropped Pedraza with a pile-driver-like right hand in the seventh, Mayweather rejoiced as if he was the one who had just won a title for the first time. Pedraza beat the count but looked unsteady and referee Ricky Gonzalez waved the bout off at 2:36 of the seventh before an announced crowd of 10,128 fans.
“I wanted him to focus and do his best,” Mayweather went on of a fighter he had clashed with earlier in their partnership before making amends. “That’s what he did tonight.”
Davis jumped to the top turnbuckle and slammed his chest with his fist, glowering at the crowd after the fight was stopped. It was an impressive and star-making performance. One of the concerns for the southpaw Davis (17-0, 16 knockouts) entering the bout was if he was ready to take on someone like Pedraza, since he was just 22 and had only 16 fights on his resume. The native of Baltimore was. The shorter Davis was the quicker and stronger fighter, continuously ripping left uppercuts as Pedraza seemed shell-shocked by what was in front of him. After the first few rounds, Davis was dropping his hands and raking Pedraza (22-1, 12 KOs) with punches.
“Oh man it feels great to win my first belt,” Davis said afterward. “It was a lot of hard work but it means a lot to me. I feel I had a great performance. I appreciate the best boxer in the world backing me in Floyd Mayweather. I always told you I had a lot of experience. Floyd told me to stay calm and I studied Floyd Mayweather when he was Pretty Boy. My uppercut was my best shot and it was landing all night. It felt really good to fight the way and I showed I could take it and dish it out. I was backing up a little bit and then I went back to the body. Dig, dig, dig.”
It was a disastrous performance from Pedraza, who had welts under both eyes when he was finished. He tried to be aggressive but wasn’t throwing effective shots as he waded in. In the middle rounds he had some success backing Davis up, who appeared to tire briefly. But Davis found his second wind in the sixth and seventh and dominated. Before the start of the seventh round, a ringside physician spent nearly a minute examining Pedraza and making him to do a series of exercises to prove he was fit to continue. He showed he was but flunked the test once the round began.
“Yeah I wanted to keep my distance and try to lose some of his power but it didn’t work out that way,” Pedraza said. “It worked in spurts but not how I really wanted it to happen. After the fifth round I tried to put pressure on him but that didn’t work either. I said no excuses but I was coming down in weight.”
Davis controlled the action from the opening bell, landing a flush left uppercut and several body shots. Pedraza fell to the canvas in the second because Davis was leaning on him; Davis snuck in a body shot as Pedraza was on his knees. Once Pedraza got up, Davis landed a series of flush uppercuts later in the second as Pedraza simply leaned forward with his hands up, a ready target. Davis started dropping his hands in the third, confidently picking off Pedraza’s incoming volleys. Davis landed another left flush uppercut as the crowd responded with whoops and hollers.
Pedraza thundered back into the fight in the fifth when he finally started to let his hands go and pinned Davis against the ropes. He raked him with punches as Davis finally stopped punching and kept his hands up, perhaps taking a breather. Pedraza began to talk to Davis, motioning him to come forward. Davis obliged, winging shots at Pedraza, who dropped his hands and eluded most of the shots.
But Davis appeared to stun Pedraza in the sixth with a left to the body; he followed that up with several winging lefts that also landed. Still, Pedraza seemed to take the punches well. Davis attacked Pedraza from the start of the seventh, winging shots as Pedraza backpedaled into the ropes. Davis finally dropped Pedraza with a a right hand in the corner. Pedraza nearly slid out of the ring. He sat on his backside and rose, steadying him on the ropes, but referee Gonzalez waved the fight off.