Premier Boxing Champions

If you have watched unbeaten lightweight champion and pay-per-view superstar Gervonta "Tank" Davis closely in recent weeks, it has been hard to miss the size of the massive chips on each of his shoulders that belie his 5-foot-5 ½ frame. 

The 29-year-old Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) will snap the longest layoff of his pro career on Saturday when he defends his WBA title against top 135-pound contender Frank Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) in the main event of a PBC on Prime PPV card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 

The event offers no shortage of star power when you consider that two-time super middleweight champion David Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) will share the marquee in an intriguing co-main event tilt at 175 pounds against former titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs) for the interim WBC title. But Davis, who doubles as the one of the 10 pound-for-pound best in the sport, is undoubtedly the main drawing card as he looks to make up for lost time following 14 months on the sideline. 

Davis didn't take an extended vacation, of course. Two months after knocking out Ryan Garcia in their blockbuster PPV clash last April, Davis served 44 days in a Maryland detention center for violating the terms of his house arrest dating back to a November 2020 hit-and-run crash that left four people injured (including a pregnant woman). The legal setback was a culmination of years of similar issues -- including multiple arrests for battery and domestic violence -- which have threatened to prevent Davis from reaching the full climax of his bright potential. 

After being released, Davis has kept a relatively low profile -- with the exception of ongoing social media beefs -- heading into this comeback fight. In fact, he did a grand total of zero interviews ahead of this weekend (besides the Prime Video pre-fight documentary series, "Gloves Off") and admitted to purposely blowing off Tuesday's grand arrivals at the MGM Grand, one day after posting a deleted tweet criticizing the promotion of the event. 

The rare times Davis has spoken, however, have presented a introspective look into a seemingly more mature version of the fighter who survived such an unforgiving upbringing on the streets of west Baltimore and now realizes how close he came of late to throwing it all away. 

"I don't really let a lot of stuff bother me because I know I can adapt to the situation I'm in. I've already overcome a lot of stuff," Davis told "Gloves Off" cameras. "Being incarcerated, I felt like I wasn't supposed to be in there. It was a learning experience. It showed me that's not where I want to be. I have kids I have to take care of, along with family and friends.

"I'm already a legend from where I came from and what I have done. I have been through mad stuff like sleeping on floors and living in a crack house. I have done been through all of that. I ain't got to prove nothing to nobody else. Now, I'm fighting for my future and my kids future." 

A lot has actually changed in the year-plus since Davis last plied his craft. Not only did Garcia, the man he knocked out, raise himself to the level of global superstardom by publicly faking a mental breakdown only to upset former undisputed lightweight king Devin Haney in April, but the entire structural landscape of the sport has changed significantly. This includes the ongoing (and massive) financial takeover of boxing by Saudi Arabia, which saw Davis reappear multiple times on social media in recent months to speak negatively about (while implying he would need two Ferraris delivered to his door to consider fighting there). 

While Davis definitely appears to be entering a more thoughtful season of his career upon his return, it's no doubt that he's looking for vengeance, not just against the rock-solid confidence of Martin but against anyone who has forgotten how great Davis truly is as a boxer and what role he believes he still plays as one of the sport's biggest draws and most exciting practitioners. 

From the kickoff press conference in Las Vegas to announce the fight in May to the final one that took place on Wednesday, Davis has come out guns blazing. He has attempted to get into the head of Martin at just about every turn, including by making him flinch during their faceoff this week, and has also shot hot-fire insults in the direction of Errol Spence Jr., who promotes Martin, and just about anyone else on social media who has crossed his path. 

"He's shaking up there," Davis said about Martin at Wednesday's final press conference. "He was talking tough yesterday when it was just him. It's gonna show. He's a frontrunner. He's just worried about not getting knocked out. He's not worrying about winning. 

"All that movement he has is just fake footwork, it's regular. Mediocre. I'm gonna break you up."

Some have suggested Davis, whose tactics against Martin has been described as bullying, is only doing so because he understands just how dangerous his opponent truly is this weekend and is looking for every single edge to get ahead. Davis has more or less confirmed much of that sentiment in the rare times he has answered questions this week about Martin with a straight face. 

But from the standpoint of what fight fans should expect from his highly charged version of "Tank," his longtime trainer and mentor, Calvin Ford, believes Davis is merely amping up to show the boxing world the one version of himself that every one of his 29 pro opponents have been yet to bring out of him. 

"I want Frank to come with it because I need him to push that button," Ford said. "I haven't seen it yet. I know what's under that hood but there's a button yet to be pushed. I'm asking Frank to please, push that button. It's nothing personal but Frank is in the way.

"Y'all haven't seen the real 'Tank' yet until that button gets pushed."

The 29-year-old Martin, who fights out of Indianapolis, is trained by Derrick James, who guided Garcia to the upset of Haney just two months ago. Martin is not only an elite athlete who came to the sport late after excelling in football and wrestling, he's an explosive southpaw who can box and brings the mindset necessary to pull off such a huge upset. 

"This can go down however he wants it to go down," Martin said. "If he acts up, like I've been saying, you're gonna see Gervonta Davis get knocked out. If he acts up, he's getting knocked out, period. If he acts crazy, he's going to sleep."

Martin brings with him the confidence of a sparring session years before between the two at the Mayweather Boxing Gym in Las Vegas. While the content of the rounds they dueled bring contrasting opinions about what took place, Martin claims he rocked Davis with a big left hand before "Tank" answered with one of his own until the two needed to be separated by those outside the ring after a wrestling match between the two broke out. 

The danger that Martin brings alone suggests that fans should expect nothing short of the very best of Davis in his return. But it's clear from the tone and attitude shown by Davis of late -- along with those skyscraper-sized chips on his shoulders -- that "Tank" is back to send a much bigger message to the boxing world. 

"I just want to prove that I'm the best at 135 [pounds] and [Saturday] is going to be a clinic," Davis said. "He's someone in his prime and he's hungry. He's coming to win and he has that mentality. But [Martin] is just a stepping stone to what I want to do."