NEW YORK -- Gervonta "Tank" Davis, with the intensity and fury of a young Mike Tyson, bludgeoned Jose Pedraza in a seventh-round knockout to win a junior lightweight world title in an action-packed fight Saturday night on the Badou Jack-James DeGale undercard.
With Floyd Mayweather, Davis' promoter, ringside at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Davis turned in a potentially star-making performance.
"It feels great to win my first belt," Davis said. "It was a lot of hard work, but it means a lot to me that I had a great performance and boxed really well. I appreciate the best boxer in the world backing me, Floyd Mayweather."
The 22-year-old Davis, who fought his way out of horrible conditions growing up in Baltimore, is going to be a force to be reckoned with if his performance against Pedraza is any indication.
"I had a lot of experience [from the amateur ranks], but I learned how to keep my composure," Davis said. "Floyd told me to stay calm, and I studied Floyd Mayweather [videos] when he was 'Pretty Boy.' My uppercut was my best shot, and it was landing all night. It felt really good to fight the way I did. I could take it and dish it out. I was backing up a little bit, and then I went back to the body -- dig, dig, dig."
Mayweather said he was proud of his protégé.
"I didn't talk to him at all during training camp because I wanted him to focus and do his best tonight, and that's what he did," Mayweather said.
Davis had a big opening round, tagging Pedraza almost at will with uppercuts and right hands. He rocked him multiple times, and when the round was over, he had landed 17 of 33 punches while Pedraza (22-1, 12 KOs), 27, landed only four blows.
Davis (17-0, 16 KOs) continued to find a home for his uppercut in the second round against the taller Pedraza, who had no answers.
He was clearly frustrated in the third round when he blatantly hit Davis behind the head and drew a stern warning from referee Ricky Gonzalez. Davis was in total control midway through the third round when a left hook rocked Pedraza and sent spit flying out of his mouth.
But Pedraza, a southpaw, absorbed all the shots and got back into the fight in the fourth and fifth rounds as he began to land against Davis. With a minute to go in the fifth round, Pedraza backed Davis into the ropes and looked like he had him in trouble, but Davis came off the ropes hard and landed a series of hard shots in a fierce toe-to-toe exchange that brought the crowd to its feet.
They slugged it out throughout the action-packed sixth round, but Davis, who made $75,000, was doing more damage, especially with a right hand that landed constantly. At the start of the seventh round, Gonzalez called timeout for the ringside doctor to examine Pedraza, whose left eye was swelling.
In the seventh round, Davis continued his blistering attack, driving Pedraza, who earned $225,000 for his third defense, into the ropes with a left hand and then floored him with a nasty right hand. Pedraza dropped to his rear end and fell under the ropes and nearly out of the ring.
He beat the count, but Gonzalez did not like how Puerto Rico's Pedraza responded and waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 36 seconds. With the loss, Puerto Rico no longer has any male world titleholders.
Davis was ahead 59-55 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage. According to CompuBox punch statistics, Davis landed 160 of 403 punches (40 percent), and Pedraza connected on 117 of 414 shots (28 percent).
"I wanted to keep my distance. I was trying to fight at a distance, but it didn't work out that way," Pedraza said through a translator. "It worked in spurts but not how I really wanted it to happen. After the fifth round, I tried to put some pressure on him, and that didn't work either."
Aleem upsets Khytrov
Middleweight Immanuwel Aleem knocked out Ievgen Khytrov in the sixth round to pull an upset and end an action-packed brawl.
Khytrov, 28, a Ukraine native fighting out of Brooklyn and a former world amateur champion, has been hailed as a top prospect, but Aleem, 23, of Richmond, Virginia, who was coming off an eight-round draw with Demond Nicholson in July, did a number on him.
They started fast and never let up.
"I stayed focused in there. They told us that he would throw a lot of punches," Aleem said. "My power was strong early, but I let him gain some confidence after the first round. It took a little while to get into a rhythm. We wanted to touch him and move before we started to sneak something in. He started relaxing a little bit, so I wanted to take advantage."
In a wild third round -- a very early round-of-the-year candidate -- Aleem (17-0-1, 10 KOs) smashed Khytrov (14-1, 12 KOs) with a clean left hook that dropped him hard with a minute to go. Khytrov was in bad shape but made a huge rally, badly hurting Aleem and nearly stopping him with a series of shots late in the round. Aleem got in a few shots, but as the round came to an end, Khytrov had him backed into a corner and had him basically out on his feet.
But that was Khytrov's best moment.
"He caught me a little bit, but only because I allowed him," Aleem said. "Once I saw the opportunity, I caught him and knew he was going down. With a fighter who has a resume like that, I knew I couldn't give him a second chance. I had to finish him off for sure."
They continued to bash each other until the sixth round when Aleem hammered Khytrov with a left hand to drop him again. He beat the count, but Aleem was all over him, pounding him with two right hands and a left that sent him sagging into the ropes as referee Eddie Claudio waved off the fight at 1 minute, 20 seconds.
Welterweight Thomas Dulorme (24-2, 16 KOs), Puerto Rico, stopped Los Angeles' Brian Jones (13-7, 7 KOs) in the sixth round of their scheduled eight-rounder. Dulorme, who got knocked out by Terence Crawford for a vacant junior welterweight world title in April 2015 and recently signed with Mayweather Promotions, dominated as he won his second fight in a row since that defeat. Referee Shada Murdaugh docked one point from Dulorme for a low blow in the fifth round but was hammering Jones with a flurry in the sixth round when Murdaugh stepped in to stop it at 1 minute, 49 seconds.
Brooklyn-based Polish heavyweight Adam Kownacki (15-0, 12 KOs) took it to Joshua Tufte (19-2, 10 KOs), of Kernersville, North Carolina, in a one-sided second-round knockout victory. Kownacki cornered Tufte in the second round and unloaded on him until referee Arthur Mercante stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
Woodlawn, New York, welterweight Noel Murphy (8-0, 2 KOs) cruised to a one-sided decision against Maxito Sainvil (4-1-1, 2 KOs), of Nyack, New York, keeping him at the end of his jab and winning 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55, much to the delight of his cheering section.
Welterweight Kenny Robles (1-0), of Staten Island, New York, who recently signed with Mayweather Promotions, made his professional debut by outpointing Latorie Woodberry (1-3-1, 0 KOs), of Roanoke, Virginia. The judges scored the fight 40-36, 39-37 and 39-37.
Brooklyn welterweight Julian Sosa (7-0-1, 2 KOs) won a majority decision over Gabriel Solario (2-3-1, 0 KOs) of Seattle. One judge had it 57-57 but the two others had it for Sosa, 58-56 and 56-54.