One of Gervonta “Tank” Davis’ past opponents cannot help admire his evolution into an “intimidating” figure on the brink of establishing himself among the very best.

Davis, 29, most recently stopped Frank Martin in the latest defence of his WBA lightweight title, enhancing his reputation as one of the world’s highest-profile fighters and perhaps also its finest at 135lbs.

It was in 2017 when he travelled to London to stop the previously undefeated Liam Walsh, and the retired Walsh, then one of Britain’s leading fighters, has continued to monitor his progress and witnessed in him significant change.

Speculation persists that Davis could be matched with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the IBF champion, and it is an opponent of that calibre that Walsh believes he still needs to defeat to establish himself as “elite”. 

Victories over Ryan Garcia, Martin and others have since demonstrated that Walsh was even more of an underdog than he was recognised as being in 2017, and Walsh – who remains passionate about his former occupation to the point of consistently watching fighters and fights – said: “The word ‘special’ is what my brother Ryan text me straight away [after the victory over Martin]. ‘He’s very, very special.’ ‘Ryan, I told you, he’s much better than just power.’ 

“I didn’t get a lot of time in there with him, so I can’t talk like I’m an expert. But when I was in there it was different to anyone else I’d been in with, and I had a feeling – he needs [Vasiliy] Lomachenko, like they’re talking, and you start talking about him being an elite fighter and a pound-for-pounder. 

“I admire the position he’s in, coming from, basically, being in care as a child [in Baltimore]. He’s got himself in a position where he can look after himself and his children for the rest of his life, so I’m a big fan. 

“What he was being given credit for, early, was, ‘He’s a massive power puncher’. [But] his judging of distance and his timing is immense, and his accuracy – no one ever mentions his accuracy. Every time he lets that go for real, it lands on the chin. He doesn’t hit the cheekbone, and it doesn’t skim off the side of the head, he hits the chin – nails them. 

“I had a feeling he was that good. I still think he needs the names, though. For me, his best win is still probably [in 2017, Jose] Pedraza – he went and took the title off the champion; a Puerto Rican in New York. He’s got some big names – [Ryan] Garcia; [Yuriorkis] Gamboa; ‘Pitbull’ [Isaac] Cruz looks an even better win. I’d like to see him and Lomachenko. I’ve always admired Lomachenko – what a fighter. But the longer it’s going, and the better ‘Tank’ looks each fight, I’m starting to think, ‘Can he beat Lomachenko?’ 

“He’s definitely got the advantage in the game-changer. I don’t think Lomachenko could hurt ‘Tank’. As long as the fight’s relatively close or in the balance, ‘Tank’ can take him out at any point. I used to think Devin Haney would beat ‘Tank’. I used to think his style – his cautious taking no risks – but I’m starting to look at ‘Tank’, thinking maybe he can beat them all. Teofimo [Lopez is] a hard ask, because he’s naturally a big, big man. I think Shakur [Stevenson] beats every one of them. He’s the goods; has a different mindset completely. 

“‘Tank’s’ elite as well; he just needs the names. Shakur’s sought them names; he fought [in 2022, Oscar] Valdez and made him look like he was an average fighter.”

The victory over Walsh represents the only time Davis has fought outside of America, and in contrast to during the build-up to his fights with Garcia and Martin, he cut a low-key figure who was perhaps even shy.

That he had the attention-seeking Floyd Mayweather, then his promoter, alongside him while he prepared to fight Walsh should not be overlooked, but Walsh believes that Davis has transformed as a figure outside of the ring as well as inside it.

“He’s improved a lot,” Walsh said. “He was a very good fighter when he fought me. He’s got a lot more belief in himself now; I think there was still a slight doubt in him when I fought him. The Pedraza win he looked invincible and like he didn’t have a care in the world. When he fought me he had the same, but I think there was still a little element of something missing. He failed the weight the next fight [against Francisco Fonseca] and I don’t know if he was wholly in like he is now. 

“Now he’s like, ‘I know I’m the best fighter in the world’, and he carries himself like that. The experience he’s picked up has helped him a lot, because he’s patient as well; he’s losing rounds but he hasn’t been getting frustrated in any way. ‘That’s fine – I’m gonna catch ya.’ He’s picking it all up [learning to read his opponents]. He knows what’s coming. He’s a lot better now, definitely. 

“He didn’t try and bully me. He didn’t come across me anyway. We did that head-to-head thing, and he got asked how he thinks the fight’s gonna go, and he said, ‘I’ve watched a bit of Liam and if he fights like I’ve been watching he’ll be gone in under six rounds’. It turned out he was right. He weren’t trying to intimidate me. Now he plays that card, doesn’t he? 

“At the end of the fight he come over – we was in the ring – and went, ‘It’s all business’, and that was all he said. 

‘It’s nothing personal.’ There were no animosity, really. Even on the morning-of-the-fight weigh-in, there were no looking at each other. He weren’t trying to intimidate me in any way, and I do see him do it now, and I quite like it. I watch it, and I think, ‘They’re actually scared’, and he is intimidating them. It’s quite good to watch.” 

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