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Gervonta Davis ready for challenging junior welterweight debut

Unbeaten boxer Gervonta “Tank” Davis isn’t altering his personal definition of greatness. Not as he approaches the biggest challenge of his career.

Literally.

“For me, greatness is just not going backwards,” said Davis, the WBA junior lightweight champion. “I just want to keep going forward no matter what. No matter who’s in front of me, I just have to go through them.”

Davis (24-0, 23 knockouts) will fight for the first time as a junior welterweight Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta against Mario Barrios, who doubles as the tallest and heaviest opponent he’ll have faced to date. The 26-year-old normally fights in the 130-pound junior lightweight division and has also fought at lightweight.

Barrios (26-0, 17 KOs) is among the top 10 fighters in the 140-pound division and holds a secondary WBA title, but Davis didn’t seem to be concerned by the challenge of moving up two divisions.

“We can’t say who the bigger puncher is until we get in that ring and test his power,” said Davis, who trained in Las Vegas and fights under the Mayweather Promotions banner. “It doesn’t matter who is stronger. I want to be better than him across the board and in every aspect of the game.”

The fight Saturday marks the end off an eight-month layoff for Davis, who emerged in October as a prime pay-per-view draw by knocking out former four-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz. The fight Saturday is also on pay-per-view, cementing Davis as perhaps the brightest young star in boxing.

The southpaw from Baltimore has one-punch knockout power and is developing the comfort in front of the cameras necessary to further elevate his star status.

“Anytime you have the most exciting fighter in the sport, you know it’s going to be big,” said Davis’ promoter, Leonard Ellerbe. “He truly understands what he has in front of him. He knows that his ceiling is to be the biggest star in the sport. On the inside of the ring though, nothing has changed.”

Davis is known for his ferocious approach to fighting, but insists he has the necessary boxing skill to defeat Barrios should a knockout not come as easily as it normally does. All but four of his fights have ended by the sixth round.

He said his focus during training camp has been on using his skills to secure the knockout while not necessarily looking for one. But he won’t hesitate to “walk down” the bigger Barrios, who is armed with sizable height and reach advantages.

Barrios, 26, packs plenty of punching power in his own right and vowed Wednesday during the fight’s final promotional press conference to “present a lot of difficulties” to Davis with his size and skill.

A claim that didn’t seem to faze Davis one bit.

“When I fight bigger guys in the gym, I always show up,” said the 5-foot-5½-inch Davis. “I hate when people think I’m small and try to take advantage of me. This is one of the fights where you will see the best of Gervonta Davis.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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