BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s just days away from Gervonta Davis’ biggest fight of his career.
The southpaw boxer and pride of West Baltimore is undefeated with 19 knockouts. Davis and his team gave WJZ inside access to his training.
Rick Ritter sat down with Davis and his coach for the exclusive interview, as they countdown to Saturday night’s main event on Showtime at 10PM.
The name is nationally known. The ability is that of greatness. Tucked away in West Baltimore, just blocks from the bustling Penn and North, sits the Upton Boxing Center.
Inside, he could be the future face of boxing, gearing up for the biggest fight of his life.
“I believe I was born ready,” said Gervonta Davis, the two-time super featherweight world champion.
The 24-year-old, known as Tank, grew up on the streets of West Baltimore.
“I grew up, my mom and dad were on drugs, things like that. I went through foster care. My grandmother fought for years to get me and my brother back.” Davis said. “I was the new kid on the block, the kid in school, so I was fighting a lot,”
Struggles that could have easily turned Davis into another statistic in a city ravaged by crime.
“I actually fought outside my house, my doorstep. My uncle walked out the door one day and saw me fighting. So, he brought me to the gym. He turned a negative into a positive. Once I got to the gym, I was feeling the love that I wasn’t getting at home” Davis said.
That love was fueled by his longtime coach, Calvin Ford, who’s been changing kids’ lives for years at Upton.
“We always get a bad rep in Baltimore city about the youth but the youth got an idea of what they want to do if we help direct them where they want to go. We’ve had our tragedies and bad stories. We’ve lost guys in the streets. Tank was one of them who went through that tunnel and made it” said Calvin Ford, who’s trained hundreds of fighters at the Upton Boxing Center over the years.
Tank is just one of many of Ford’s guys, rising through the ranks, pummeling opponents on his way, and now getting his first crack at a main event fight on February 9th against Hugo Ruiz.
“I’m excited to be on a big platform like this, with my first main event on Showtime,” Davis said. “I’ve just been staying in the gym, 6 days a week. Making sure I’m running and working hard. I’m surrounded by such a great team,”
While Davis’ talents steal the headlines, his impact behind the scenes is even deeper.
“He’s trying to uplift the city and trying to stay here and show them you can do it,” Coach Ford said. “People can relate to him because he’s from the streets, he’s from the hood, he’s from the neighborhoods,” says Ford. “It’s all up to him. All he has to do is reach for it and this fight is going to determine if he’ll be that mega-star.”
“He’s motivation. I want to be like him someday,” said Samari Everette, a 12-year-old champion who trains at Upton Boxing Center.
Davis serves as a role model for hundreds of kids, just like Samari.
“It means a lot to me and I believe I was put here for a reason and I’m just grateful to be in this position,” Davis said, talking about how kids look up to him.
“The biggest thing I learned is this keeps you out of the streets and trouble,” Everette said. “When I’m in the gym, Tank and Coach Ford always push me even harder,”
“It’s very hard for kids to make it through that tunnel because that tunnel is little sometimes. The negative situations they have to go through sometimes and what they see every day while growing up, can be tough” Ford said.
Saturday is now a chance to give Charm City its own born and bred star.
[WJZ Reporter Rick Ritter:] “When you hear people say Gervonta Davis is the future face of boxing, what’s that mean to you?”
“It gives me a lot of hope but I don’t ever let it get over my head. I like to stay grounded and balanced and stay humble” Davis said.
But perhaps even bigger than being a mega-star is laying the foundation for Baltimore’s youth.
“When I see the little kids and I see Tank, I see the same patches, the same walk that he took. It takes people like us to actually guide the youth, nurture them, steer them in the right direction and tell them everything is going to be alright” Ford said. “I feel if we can get the kids here, they will be steered in the right direction because they’re looking at the guys in front of them and the work that they’re putting in, like Tank. It gives them hope.”
“Everybody doesn’t have that father figure, but I believe there’s someone out there, you can look up to and say I want to be like that person. I want to be that person for these kids. This generation needs someone to believe in and look up to” Davis said. “I think the Orioles had their time to shine, Ravens had their time, now it’s time for Gervonta Davis.”
Davis says if he wins this fight, he would love to come back home and host a main event fight in Baltimore.
Davis was originally supposed to fight the talented Abner Mares, who was forced to back out of the fight late due to an injury sustained in training camp. He’ll still have his hands full with Ruiz, who’s known as a brawler.
“If we win this, it’s going to tell Baltimore that we’re breeding champions here,” Ford said. “And guess what, we ain’t finished. We’re just getting started,”