Tank, Benavidez and the Ongoing Search for a Post-Floyd American Boxing Superstar

Oscar De La Hoya made it so easy. On his way out the door, as his physical capability faded, he transferred the gift that is truly the last thing to go for top fighters — not the punching power, as the cliché mistakenly states, but rather the earning power — directly to boxing’s next two superstars.

Oscar lost to both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in a span of 19 months. They each had to take the baton and run with it, of course. They had to be truly great, defeat elite opposition, and prove adept at marketing themselves. But De La Hoya gave them both a turbo boost.

Specifically, De La Hoya helped anoint Mayweather the next American boxing superstar. It was a status never available to the Filipino Pacquiao, but Floyd earned top global billing anyway by eventually beating “Pac-Man” head-to-head and by starring in each of the four biggest selling pay-per-views in history (whereas Pacquiao’s only appearance in the top five came against Mayweather).

“Money May” was, without a doubt, a true American boxing superstar for a full decade, from his 2007 win over De La Hoya through his 2017 professional finale against Conor McGregor.

And seven years on, Mayweather — who retired undefeated and thus did not conveniently transfer his earning power directly to anyone — remains the last true American boxing superstar.

There have been boxing superstars in the last seven years, of course. There have been fighters who could sell out stadiums and/or cross a million PPVs routinely. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, and Tyson Fury have all, to varying degrees, becomes superstars.

As you are probably aware, however, none of them are American.

No American boxer post-Mayweather has achieved superstardom.

Not Terence Crawford, who is the best American fighter of his generation, but who has never sold spectacularly outside of Omaha and whose reported 650,000-700,000 PPV buys against Errol Spence (equal to a slightly subpar showing for Alvarez) equated to roughly four times his previous best sales figures.

Not Deontay Wilder, the best American heavyweight of the last decade or so and a man who advanced to the verge of superstardom when he sold some 800K PPVs in the second fight against Fury, only to lose that one and all subsequent significant bouts and fail to get over the superstar hump.

Not Jake Paul, who has helped bring boxing to a new audience and is a mainstream name largely for non-boxing reasons, but whose PPV trajectory is similar to Wilder’s, with a reported 800,000 ponying up to see him lose to a Fury (Tommy), followed by far lesser sales against Nate Diaz and a move away from pay-per-view for every fight since.

The term “superstar” may not be explicitly defined, but by any reasonable interpretation, none of these American combatants qualify.

And seven years without an American boxing superstar represents a long dry spell. The questions now: When could it end, and who could end it?

The two best shots at answering those questions will both be in action this Saturday night.

Gervonta “Tank” Davis and David Benavidez co-headline a PBC pay-per-view from the MGM Grand, against Frank Martin and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, respectively, and there’s nobody out there with a better chance of becoming the next American boxing superstar than those two.

Actually, Davis is arguably almost there already. He produced superstar PPV numbers in April 2023 with his seventh-round knockout of Ryan Garcia, generating a reported 1.2 million buys. This came after a masterfully executed, patient, five-plus-year profile build spanning from the coveted co-feature spot on the Mayweather-McGregor PPV to a series of fights with strong ticket sales in a wide variety of major cities including Baltimore, Atlanta, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C.

But it’s unclear how much the Davis-Garcia fight’s blockbuster status was owed to Garcia’s popularity. And Davis going to jail shortly thereafter and enduring 14 months of inactivity have prevented him from taking the next step.

The fact that Tank is now co-headlining a pay-per-view, instead of having the top of the marquee all to himself, tells you he’s not a superstar yet.

And it says the same, naturally, about Benavidez.

Benavidez is nowhere near as far along on the path to superstardom as Davis. He’s yet to headline a hit pay-per-view and his ability to sell tickets has been merely regional to this point: Phoenix … Las Vegas … that’s about it.

But there’s a buzz developing around him, a sense that the passionate Mexican and Mexican-American fan bases have declared him “next,” a feeling heightened by the perception that Canelo is straight-up ducking him.

Benavidez is 27, Davis 29, right in that sweet spot where they’ve had time to build up their names and resumes but still have plenty of runway ahead of them and room to grow.

Mayweather, incidentally, was 30 when he beat Oscar.

There is no singular blueprint for becoming an American boxing superstar, and even if there were, it would change and update with each generation. An Olympic gold medal is nice, if not as important as it used to be. Building an audience on network TV was once essential, now it’s impossible. Social media followings are instrumental these days, but were nonexistent until around the time De La Hoya made the handoff.

But some things never go out of style: pound-for-pound-level abilities, a fan-friendly fighting style, and charisma.

Typically, to become a superstar means to score highly in all three categories. Mayweather was an exception in that his outsized talent and persona (which people either loved or loved to hate) made up for the fact that his boxing style could be monotonous and rarely produced knockouts.

Davis and Benavidez have each shown potential in all three realms.

They’re not the only young American fighters who’ve flashed that kind of ceiling, mind you. Others we can’t rule out of future superstardom:

Jaron “Boots” Ennis: Appears to have the physical gifts and has never been boring in the ring, but is fairly soft-spoken and is struggling big-time to secure the kind of opponents he needs to prove himself. Vergil Ortiz, Jr.: The same age as Ennis (26) and until recently fought in the same division. In a head-to-head comparison, has slightly less eye-popping talent but easier access to a ready boxing fan base as a Latino fighter from Texas. Jared “Big Baby” Anderson: Has huge built-in marketability advantages as a heavyweight and is only 24 but has yet to prove anything against any real contenders and insists he’ll be retired in another three or four years. Ryan Garcia: The strikes against him just keep growing in number, but the superstar-level following is already there, so you can’t quite remove him from consideration — as long as you believe there’s a sliver of a chance he’ll get himself together outside the ring.

Reluctantly, I’ll guess I’ll also acknowledge that there is still a possibility Jake Paul becomes the first post-Floyd American boxing superstar, although if he does so without being in the top 1,000 pound-for-pound and his signature win comes against a 58-year-old, would it really count? It would be a little bit like calling Tom Brady the biggest star in golf.

Then there’s one other X-factor candidate: Bud Crawford. He’s 36, and he’s gotten this far without crossing over, so it’s tempting to cross him off. But it’s sounding increasingly possible that he could face Canelo at the end of 2024 or beginning of 2025. If the former 135-pound, former 140-pound, and current 147-pound king were to beat the sport’s top attraction for the lineal super middleweight championship, a run as a true mainstream American sports superstar — however brief — could follow.

It’s clearly Davis and Benavidez, though, who stand out as requiring the fewest caveats, the fewest “if” statements. They both look like pound-for-pound level talents (I personally have Davis seventh and Benavidez eighth in my latest rankings). They both possess elite skill and genuine knockout power. They both have the theoretical opponents in their weight range to take them to the next level.

Tank has a sizable fan base that he’s been swelling steadily since receiving the bump that comes from being Mayweather’s protégé. Benavidez has all the necessary ingredients to get North American boxing’s most reliable ethnic fan base attached to him.

Neither Frank Martin nor Oleksandr Gvozdyk possess the reputation to push Davis or Benavidez to superstardom instantaneously. So this isn’t going to be resolved this weekend.

But these are our two best hopes right now. The upside is there with both of them.

There’s every reason to believe the first American boxing superstar since Mayweather will be in action on Saturday’s pay-per-view. Is that superstar in the final bout of the evening or the one before that? Perhaps we’ll have further insights on that front by Sunday morning.

Eric Raskin is a veteran boxing journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering the sport for such outlets as BoxingScene, ESPN, Grantland, Playboy, Ringside Seat, and The Ring (where he served as managing editor for seven years). He also co-hosted The HBO Boxing Podcast, Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney, and Ring Theory and currently co-hosts The Interim Champion Boxing Podcast with Raskin & Mulvaney. He has won three first-place writing awards from the BWAA, for his work with The Ring, Grantland, and HBO. Outside boxing, he is the senior editor of CasinoReports and the author of 2014’s The Moneymaker Effect. He can be reached on X or LinkedIn, or via email at