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Whicker: Gervonta Davis’ power is likely to bring out the stars at Staples Center

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Some boxers command respect. Others make you dial your friends and yell into the phone.

To join the did-you-see-that group, you need to create two different sounds.

One is generated by a fast-moving glove landing on flesh. The other is the sound of the body that owns that flesh, hitting the floor like a sack of flour.

There are knockout artists throughout boxing. They get those knockouts through accumulation. There are very few sudden sluggers out there, the ones who make you reach for your credit card.

On Sunday. Gervonta “Tank” Davis fights at Staples Center. There is no dimmer on his light switch.

Davis, the “regular” lightweight champion of the WBA, has held two belts each in three different divisions. He is only 27. He is unbeaten in 25 fights, and the only one that went the distance was a six-rounder in 2014 with German Ivan Meraz, and Davis knocked him down twice.

Davis has 3 million social media followers. This fight with Isaac Cruz is his first in Los Angeles. In lieu of the judges’ cards, which are irrelevant in Davis’ fights, the boxing businessmen will be watching the turnstiles, for quantity and star quality.

Davis lured a crowd of 16,570 to State Farm Arena in Atlanta when he stopped Mario Barrios in the 11th round. He was walked to the ring by Lil Baby in Atlanta, and Hollywood and Hip-hop World know exactly who he is.

Davis’ knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa topped 14,000 in Atlanta on Dec. 28, 2019, just after LSU finished off Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinals, next door at Mercedes-Benz Arena. It was Atlanta’s first championship fight in 21 years.

How do you trace Davis’ appeal?

Some of it comes from authenticity. He grew up in a tough part of Baltimore and goes back often.

“I feel natural there,” Davis said, “although I don’t want to get caught up in the drama there, or the ghosts. A lot of people know my background, but I always had a vision. I was traveling around when I was 10 in the amateurs because I was winning. If you just stay in one spot, you’re probably going to fail as a person. I wanted to learn and grow.

“I never came to L.A. until Adrien Broner fought Manny Pacquiao (in Las Vegas). I really didn’t want to leave. But I don’t know if I ever want to live here. I might go broke.”

His magnetism also comes from the same place Mike Tyson’s did. Start daydreaming at ringside and you might miss the boom-boom.

Davis and Leo Santa Cruz, who was 37-1-1 and one of the most skillful boxers alive, got together in San Antonio last year. Davis was leading by one point on all cards when he backed Santa Cruz into a corner in Round 6.

His left hand sent Santa Cruz down like a clay pigeon, and the victim did not move until long past the count.

“It was actually an uppercut, something we’d been working on in camp,” Davis said. “He threw the same punch three straight times. I don’t know why he did that. It was just a lazy jab. That’s why I don’t throw many jabs. I don’t throw punches if I’m not going to hit you. Throw a meaningless punch, that’s when you can get knocked out.

“I didn’t really throw it hard, but it was clean on the money. My reaction was ‘wow’ or ‘damn.’ Sure, I was a little concerned. This is just business. You don’t want to hurt people.”

At the time, Davis said, “There ain’t no safety on this Glock.” Although he’s a friendly interviewee, there is menace in his past. That never has hurt a promotion either.

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Davis will stand trial in March for a hit-and-run incident in Baltimore that injured four people. He was indicted on 14 counts and faces years of jail time if convicted. He still faces two counts of misdemeanor battery in Miami, where he roughed up a girlfriend at a University of Miami basketball game.

Tank is Floyd Mayweather’s protégé and boxing heir, although his style is a far better sell. Both are managed by Leonard Ellerbe, who has said that Davis will only fight within the purview of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.

One suspects the money involved in a fight with Josh Taylor, Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney or Ryan Garcia might loosen those boundaries.

Meanwhile, there’s Cruz, who knocked down Diego Magdaleno in 0:53 last year and is 22-1-1 (15 KOs).

“I’ll just check him out early, see how fast he is,” Davis said. “And whatever mistake he makes, I’ll be there to correct it.”

Unbeaten lightweight champion Gervonta Davis celebrates during his victory over Mario Barrios on June 27 in Atlanta. Davis (25-0, 24 KOs) takes on Isaac Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) on Sunday at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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