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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: TANK'S STAR RISES DESPITE MEDIA BIAS

By Paul Magno | October 26, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: TANK'S STAR RISES DESPITE MEDIA BIAS

The boxing media sucks. 

And it's not just because most don't really know what they're talking about from a hands-on or cultural perspective. They also suck because they live in a snow globe of like-minded tools who buy into the same talking points and share the same agendas.

In their world, the same numbers tell different stories and communal prejudice guides their assessments. 

The perfect example of this was something I wrote in the past about Gennady Golovkin and Andre Ward generating the same TV rating of 1.3 million viewers for fights that took place not too far apart. The same writer, for the same site, described Golovkin's TV number as "strong" while categorizing Ward's SAME television rating as "nothing special...adequate." He even wondered aloud about how he "wouldn’t be surprised if there was some internal disappointment at HBO" with Ward's numbers.

A lot of that kind of stuff happens in the boxing media if you pay close enough attention. 

And that brings us to Gervonta "Tank" Davis, who headlines his first pay-per-view card alongside Leo Santa Cruz this coming Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. 

Davis very rarely gets credit for being the rising star that he is-- even when the numbers and circumstances totally support rising star status.

At 25, the Baltimore native is a rare being in the present tense boxing scene. Only Canelo Alvarez was able to generate more live gate love than Davis at such a young age. 

In Davis' first three fights as a main stage headliner, all in 2019, he sold just under 37,000 tickets, combined. This includes 14,129, paid, and $2.2 million via live gate revenue in December's bout against Yuriorkis Gamboa. 

In case you're unfamiliar with the business side of boxing, those numbers are outstanding. And they're especially outstanding considering Davis' age, his relative short time on the main stage, and the way the media is absolutely not pushing him as the rising star that he is. 

Not to pick on Gennady Golovkin too much, but the deference with which he was treated by media and the promotion he got from them clearly highlights the different ways certain fighters are portrayed. When "Triple G" was delivering on 9,000-fan attendance figures, those numbers were offered up as proof positive that the Kazakh had become a true star among fight fans. The media tinkled their collective panties when Golovkin-Lemieux delivered $2 million in live gate revenue  from a sold-out Madison Square Garden. He was surely a star now! A superstar! 

But it took him a boxing lifetime to even get to that point -- a stellar amateur career, a successful run in Europe, several US fights with aggressively (and obnoxiously) heavy promotion from HBO, and a fawning piggyback ride from the media. Plus, he was already 33 years of age when this stardom was declared.

Davis has done all of that (except for selling out MSG), much earlier in his boxing life and without much media support at all. 

The rise of Gervonta Davis has really been a grassroots affair. He made his case on undercards and now has been putting asses in seats in non-casino markets. He's been attracting fans the old school way-- because he's an entertaining, explosive fighter who produces a lot of buzz about what he can do in the ring. When he fights, at least based on the small sample of cards he's headlined, it's a party atmosphere. 

This is all stuff that the media has used as a barometer of rising stardom. Attract fans to live shows, bring them into arenas in local markets, generate buzz that creates in-person excitement. All of that is supposed to be the precursor to a next-level rise. Yeah, a barometer of rising stardom-- when they choose to apply it.

Davis's bout with Gamboa generated just an average of 577,000 viewers on Showtime, but Showtime has limited reach as a premium cable channel. He usually does well with video content on YouTube and on social media platforms. Episode one of Showtime's All Access: Davis vs. Santa Cruz docuseries on YouTube has drawn 2 million views in a week and Episode two drew nearly 570,000 views in its first day. Hell, even a recent official release of the full Davis-Gamboa bout has generated over one million views in a short period of time. 

Of course, none of this guarantees a successful pay-per-view event this coming Saturday, matched against Leo Santa Cruz, who'll also be making his PPV-headlining debut. There are a lot of moving pieces right now in this sport, especially when it comes to enticing fans to pay for the privilege of watching. The economy is bad and increasingly insecure; the card shares a fall schedule with other PPV shows; and, given all the pandemic stuff and the nasty politics of a contentious Presidential election, people just may not be in the mood. And, of course, there's the fact that a select chunk of the media is intent on targeting Davis and the event for derision.

One can speculate as to why some of the media has a hard-on for diminishing Davis. Maybe it's because his promoter is Floyd Mayweather and his adviser is Al Haymon-- two figures generally reviled by the white bread, lapdog, pro-status quo boxing media. 

But, whatever the case, the buzz about Gervonta Davis is there. The breaking through to next-level stardom seems apparent. Davis-Santa Cruz is a worthwhile "testing the waters" bout, whether it's a smash financial success or not. 

And Davis' rise to prominence should serve as a pretty dire warning to the boxing media. People just aren't caring about what they say anymore. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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