Who's next for Davis? A look at the options

It has been an eventful year for Gervonta ‘Tank” Davis. After headlining two pay-per-views against opponents named Garcia (stopping Hector Garcia in nine rounds in January, and halting Ryan Garcia in the seventh round of a largely one-sided drubbing in April), he was sentenced to house arrest in May for a hit-and-run accident and then sent to jail for violating the terms of that sentence.

The undefeated lightweight from Baltimore is now a free man and able to train again with a view to possibly entering the ring one more time before the end of 2023.

The tremendous success of the PPV clash with Ryan Garcia, which generated approximately 1.2 million buys in the United States, means that Davis’ name is on the lips of plenty of prospective opponents. But who should Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) pick? And who will he select? ProBox TV takes a look at some of the options.

Devin Haney (30-0, 15 KOs) IBF/WBC/WBO and lineal lightweight champion

Pros: This would be the battle to determine the clear lightweight kingpin. Haney has developed something of a following of his own and can be relied upon to carry his weight in the prefight promotion. The controversial nature of his recent points win over Vasiliy Lomachenko may lead Davis to think Haney is vulnerable 

Cons: Haney’s style can be a challenge for opponents and also, frankly, for fans. While there can be no doubt about his skill, the two bouts with George Kambosos were snooze-fests. Also, it appears Haney is headed toward a meeting with Regis Prograis at 140 pounds and may in fact have left the lightweight division behind for good.

Makeability*: 7/10

Haney is his own promoter, so theoretically there is little to nothing to get in the way if both parties want it. But do both parties want it?

Verdict: At some point, it feels inevitable that these two will square off, unless Haney continues to grow through the weight divisions. But right now, Haney is on his way to 140 to meet Prograis. Davis-Haney isn’t happening just yet.

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*Probably not an actual word.

Teofimo Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) WBO super lightweight champion

Pros: Lopez is a captivating and immensely skilled fighter, as he proved in wins over Lomachenko and Josh Taylor. His loss to George Kambosos can safely be consigned to the category of “one of those days,” particularly given that Lopez entered the ring that night with a condition known as pneumomediastinum, which might well have killed him.

Cons: Lopez, like Haney, looks to have abandoned the lightweight division. But getting a handle on what the mercurial boxer and his even more mercurial father have in mind can be difficult. Plus, Davis may feel this is too much to take on in the aftermath of being denied gym access for 90 days.

Makeability: 5/10 

After the Taylor fight, Lopez announced he was retired. Then he said he would come back if he had a multi-fight, multi-network arrangement. And now his former (future? present?) promoter Bob Arum has said he is working on a “very big fight” for him.

Verdict: Lopez appears to need something of a break from the physical and emotional demands of boxing. When he does return, it will almost certainly be at 140 pounds. As with Haney, there is a sense of inevitability about this one, but not yet.

Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs)

Pros: Honestly, for Davis, not very many. Lomachenko is absurdly skilled, and many observers felt he beat Haney earlier this year. Against that, given that Lopez and Haney did both eke out wins against him may lead Davis to feel this is winnable. Beating Lomachenko emphatically, which the other two could not, would be a major statement. Plus, 135 pounds may be too much for Lomachenko, who perhaps should have remained five pounds lighter. 

Cons: The losses to Lopez and Haney, however close they may have been, remove the bragging rights element of this matchup. Davis might be expected to win, potentially making this close to a lose-lose proposition.

Makeability: 4/10

Lomachenko has spent his pro career with Top Rank and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Arum has shown he is not afraid to match him tough, but almost certainly not with a PBC/Floyd Mayweather-promoted opponent. If this matchup becomes a real prospect, it’s because Arum is cashing out on his Ukrainian star.

Verdict: Nope. 

Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs)

Pros: Stevenson is a rapidly-rising star and none other than Terence Crawford has tipped him to be the next pound-for-pound number one. How much would Davis love to halt his climb and make his own claim on that exalted position? Plus, Stevenson is a very good boxer with little power, which Davis may find attractive.

Cons: Not many, honestly, except for Davis, who may feel this is a high risk/low reward scenario right now. It may prove more enticing to the Marylander after Stevenson has crossed over more to the mainstream and can bring more money to the table. 

Makeability: 2/10 

Stevenson is Top Rank’s latest shiny bauble. Arum will save him for in-house battles (e.g. Lomachenko) or highly winnable crossovers for now. The time isn’t right.

Verdict: This will happen one day. If any matchup is the next Crawford-Spence, it’s this one. But there is huge risk for both men right now, and arguably not enough reward. 2024 or even 2025? Sure. This year? Nope.

Frank Martin (18-0, 12 KOs)

Pros: Martin is a skilled contender, but Davis will surely feel it is better to face him now rather than down the line when Martin is better and more experienced. The boxing cognoscenti would consider it a decent if uninspiring matchup.

Cons: Nobody outside the boxing hardcore knows who Martin is. Which isn’t necessarily a problem – few knew Hector Garcia either. But Davis may feel he could take a surer thing for the same money.

Makeability: 9/10 

Both men are PBC fighters and Martin would surely leap at the chance. His advisers, on the other hand, may want to pump the brakes a little. If Davis and his team pushed for this, it could come together relatively easily.

Verdict: Martin is a real dark-horse candidate. He has potential but has not tasted life on the big stage and if Davis wants a credible opponent whom he can nonetheless feel optimistic of defeating, this could be the way to go. Don’t be surprised is this happens in 2024 if not this year. 

Sean O’Malley (1-0, 1 KO)

Pros: The new UFC bantamweight champ called out Davis immediately after winning his title. O’Malley is not a boxer, and Davis would win easily in an event that, like most crossover fights, would likely attract a disproportionate amount of attention and sell well. Plus, O’Malley is good on the mic and would sell the promotion. And it would expose Davis to a new fanbase.

Cons: For Davis? Pretty much none. For the rest of us? So many.

Makeability: Who knows?

Davis has not shown any immediate inclination to take up O’Malley on his offer. There is also the issue of O’Malley’s UFC contract, and how Dana White would feel about it all.

Verdict: This is dumb enough to actually happen. But don’t bet your mortgage on it.

Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) WBC/WBO super bantamweight champion

Pros: “The Monster” is at worst the second-best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the world. If Manny Pacquiao can climb two weight divisions to defeat Oscar De La Hoya, and Jermell Charlo can jump from 154 pounds to 168 to face Canelo, why can’t Inoue make a similar leap? The intrigue alone would make it a big event.

Cons: Inoue is not just one, or two, but three weight divisions below Davis, and he started out at 108 pounds. It’s a huge gap for even him to overcome. And it’s another lose-lose for Davis: if he squashes him, it will be because he’s the bigger man; if he loses – well, perish the thought.

Makeability: 1/10

Inoue is with Top Rank, and Arum has already poured cold water on the idea, for entirely understandable reasons. Plus, Inoue has other fish to fry and wants to become undisputed 122 pound champion.

Verdict: The only reason this is here is because Davis’ mentor/sometime promoter Floyd Mayweather suggested it. But while superficially intriguing, it’s really a nonsensical notion. Not going to happen. Ever.

Isaac Cruz (25-2-1, 17 KOs)

Pros: “Pitbull” is a popular fighter with a fan-pleasing style, who gave Davis fits at times when they squared off in 2021. He is one of only two opponents to take Davis the distance, and the first since a four-rounder in 2014. Against that, Davis won every round until hurting his hand, and he’ll feel confident that, if completely healthy, he can score a more emphatic win this time. 

Cons: We’ve seen it before; do we need to see it again? Plus, Cruz blew his audition, when he struggled to chase down Giovanni Cabrera on the Crawford-Spence undercard.

Makeability: 10/10 

Both teams are with PBC and are Showtime regulars. Davis and coach Calvin Ford have namechecked Cruz as a possible opponent. If both sides want it, it gets done.

Verdict: It’s entirely possible Davis decides to wait a while, let things percolate, and sit out the rest of 2023 while he sees if anyone else emerges as a viable and lucrative possibility. But if he does decide to go again soon, Cruz is probably the favorite.