Gervonta Davis has the stage and the ideal opponent. Now all he needs is to perform to the expectations of those who project him as one of the top boxers of the next decade.
“The ultimate goal is to make this kid a household name and a pay-per-view star,” said promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr., who thinks so much of the unbeaten World Boxing Assn. super-featherweight champion that Mayweather made a rare fight news conference appearance Thursday in El Segundo.
Baltimore’s 24-year-old Davis (20-0, 19 knockouts) headlines a Showtime-televised main event Saturday night at Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park when he meets replacement foe and former super-bantamweight world champion Hugo Ruiz of Mexico.
Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs) promises the type of action that will enhance Davis’ reputation following the champion’s 2017 misstep — missing weight on the Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard — then fighting only once last year while tending to the birth of his first child, a daughter.
“I’m ready to look into the future. I need to stay on track,” said Davis, who points himself not only toward super-featherweight unifications this year but a 2020 move to lightweight, where he aspires to ultimately clash with two-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and prospects Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez.
“I have another generation coming after [the current standouts],” Davis said. “So I’m picking the right time. I have all the tools to be that star.”
Ruiz, 32, was summoned after Davis’ original opponent, former three-division champion Abner Mares, revealed recently that he suffered a torn eye retina and underwent surgery.
Ruiz, who responded to a gripping 2015 knockout loss to Julio Ceja at Staples Center by making Ceja one of his 18 first-round knockout victims six months later at Honda Center, insists he will not alter his aggressive style despite the move up in weight that would seem to encourage some alteration.
“It’s very simple: I will go after him and try to knock him out from the beginning,” Ruiz said through an interpreter. “Moving up two divisions, I feel much stronger because I don’t need to lose any weight. Unlike Davis, I haven’t suffered to lose weight at all and I will give everything I have to win in this great opportunity.
“To all who are coming to support me, I will be a warrior and I will fight until the end.”
Mayweather Promotions president Leonard Ellerbe, who is planning for Davis to fight at least twice more this calendar year, said, “These are the most dangerous guys — the guys you haven’t prepared for — and that will make for an even more exciting fight. ‘Tank’s a complete fighter. He’ll be able to display his array of skills. He’s not just a power puncher. He’s a tremendous boxer.”
Davis listened at the news conference Thursday as the unbeaten Mayweather (50-0) reiterated he’s likely retired, spoke of the importance of hard work, of winning each fight and “striving every day to be the very best we can be.
“Nobody’s perfect, but this kid works extremely hard,” Mayweather told reporters at the LAX Westin Hotel. “All ‘Tank’ has done is beat the fighters put in front of him — the same I’ve done. They’re going to write good about you. They’re going to write bad about you. The ultimate goal is that they write about you.”
The Showtime card, starting at 7 p.m. PST, also includes a co-main event between unbeaten, top-ranked WBA junior-welterweight contender Mario Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) of San Antonio versus Mexico’s Richard Zamora (19-2, 12 KOs).
Coached by Virgil Hunter, who previously cornered retired two-division champion Andre Ward, Barrios wrapped up sparring in Oakland recently against former 140-pound world champion Amir Khan.
Steered to a boxing gym along with his older sister, Selina, as a child by his mother, Isabel Soto, the 23-year-old Barrios is hopeful both he and his North American Boxing Federation lightweight-champion sibling can each elevate to world champion.
“We didn’t grow up on the good side of town, so my mom, at first, just wanted us to be able to protect ourselves, to stand up for ourselves,” Mario Barrios said. “I know it’s very unheard of, but we’ve dreamed of this, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we bring both world titles back to San Antonio.”