Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Boxing bout fallout: Next fight options for Gervonta Davis, David Benavidez, Liam Paro after big wins

Saturday was a big day for boxing with world title fights and big-name stars in action. The headline of the day was Gervonta “Tank” Davis’ crushing eighth-round stoppage of Frank Martin to retain the WBA lightweight championship.

Davis has emerged as a huge star in the sport and his fights have consistently delivered either incredible action or brutal stoppages. Martin tried to hold his own, winning a few early rounds, but Davis’ power and accuracy eventually took over to score the stoppage.

In the featured undercard fight of that same event, David Benavidez made his light heavyweight debut after twice holding the WBC super middleweight championship. Benavidez, who holds an undefeated professional record, took a lopsided win on the scorecards over former light heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

After big stars score big wins, the conversation naturally shifts to one question: What’s next?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what could be next for the weekend’s biggest winners.

Gervonta “Tank” Davis

Top choices: Shakur Stevenson, Vasiliy Lomachenko … maybe Ryan Garcia?

Davis fights have started to play out almost exactly the same every time. Davis starts slow, figures his opponent out and then crushes them just as they think they’ve got a chance. Once again, the world is Davis’ oyster as arguably the biggest star in the sport and a world champion.

Davis has always talked a big game about facing the best fighters available but, honestly, he has taken a very managed approach to facing any real risks. Martin is a good fighter who belongs somewhere around the middle of the top 10 in the lightweight division, not exactly on the level of WBC champion Shakur Stevenson or IBF champ Vasiliy Lomachenko. Stevenson and Lomachenko are two names Davis has called out and both are compelling fights.

Shortly ahead of the Martin fight, there were reports that preliminary talks had already started between the Davis and Lomachenko camps, making that seem like the most likely next step for Davis. It would also be good to make the fight now while Lomachenko, though no longer at the peak of his talent, is still a legitimately great fighter and at 36 years old, may not be much longer.

Stevenson brings his own benefits to a potential fight. He faces Artem Harutyunyan on July 6 and becomes a promotional free agent after that bout. Davis is promoted by Premier Boxing Champions, who do prefer to work in-house as much as possible. If Stevenson signs with PBC or takes the fight as a free agent, that could be more appealing than co-promoting a Lomachenko fight with Top Rank.

One other possibility for Davis is a rematch with Ryan Garcia. Garcia was trounced by Davis in 2023 but the fight was a mega-event. Garcia is coming off a dominant performance over Devin Haney that breathed new life into his career and made him an even biggest star, even though the result could be overturned after Garcia failed drug tests for performance-enhancing drugs before and after the fight.

Garcia came to the ring after Davis’ win and the pair shared a hug, though Davis said in the post-fight press conference, “He’s crazy talking about rematch. He said I was the best at 135 to 142. He said that. He said he wants to fight me again. I’ll kick his ass again.”

David Benavidez

Top choices: David Morrell, winner of Dmitry Bivol vs. Artur Beterbiev … continue to campaign for Canelo Alvarez

Benavidez had a successful move to light heavyweight against a crafty former world champion. It wasn’t perfect though, with Benavidez not showing the same blistering pressure and endless gas tank he’d shown at super middleweight.

There were still plenty of positives, though. Benavidez’s defense was exceptional for most of the fight, using head movement and a high guard to avoid clean punches. And even at this stage in his career, Gvozdyk is a talented, crafty fighter who never picked up any significant momentum across 12 rounds.

The obvious “fight to make” for Benavidez is a return to super middleweight to finally get his fight with undisputed champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That isn’t going to happen, however, since Alvarez has shown no real interest in ever stepping in the ring with Benavidez.

With nothing more to accomplish at 168 beyond a fight with Alvarez, Benavidez is likely to continue campaigning at 175. The obvious biggest fight possible would be against the winner of the Oct. 12 clash between Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol to crown an undisputed light heavyweight champion.

It’s not clear if the two will rematch after that first fight and if they do, that would leave Benavidez in limbo until a rematch is scheduled and actually takes place.

The best option for Benavidez could be a fight with David Morrell, the other fighter Alvarez seemingly refused to fight despite Morrell being a longtime mandatory challenger. Morrell followed Benavidez’s path to light heavyweight and faces Radivoje Kalajdzic for a secondary WBA title on Aug. 3.

Morrell vs. Benavidez and Bivol vs. Betterbiev serving as something of a mini tournament would be thrilling for fans and great for the division, building big fight on top of big fight.

Liam Paro

Top choices: Subriel Matias rematch or Richardson Hitchins

Paro is coming off an impressive upset of Subriel Matias to win the IBF junior welterweight title in the main event of Saturday night’s other big card. Matias was viewed as something of a boogeyman in the division, the kind of guy Devin Haney or Teofimo Lopez would likely want to avoid. Paro got his shot to become world champion and took it in a fun fight that got a bit chippy at times.

While it’s natural to start looking at Lopez, Haney or Isaac Cruz, the other three world titleholders in the division, it seems somewhat likely that a rematch would be in order. The other likely option would be Richardson Hitchins, who won an IBF title eliminator against Gustavo Lemos in April.

Those aren’t the kind of big payday fights that Paro may want, but a Matias rematch would be fair and reasonable and Hitchins did earn his shot and the IBF is far more serious about championship responsibilities than the other three major sanctioning bodies.

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