An All Too Familiar Story of Abuse: Now is the Time for Change

By Christian Giudice

When Gervonta Davis started his boxing journey in 2013 as a protégé of Floyd Mayweather Jr., he quickly became an inspiration for any young boy or girl in Baltimore needing to hear that he or she mattered. That their lives meant something. A critic might argue that there have been a thousand Gervonta Davis stories and his was no more motivational than the others, but that theory is short sighted. Davis symbolized resilience in a city where it was a miracle that he even survived his childhood. Thus, Davis’s story in its essence may have saved the lives of young boys and girls who saw what he achieved and began to believe in themselves. What he had experienced and survived gave him a sense of authenticity that separated him from others. President of the Baltimore City Council, Nick Mosby, perfectly summed Davis up when he told a New York Times reporter, “His whole stance, his whole posture, his whole demeanor is Baltimore.” Heading into 2023, Davis still is viewed in a favorable light by many fans. Others have understandably abandoned him.

Last Tuesday, Davis was charged with “battery causing bodily harm” after he hit Vanessa Posso, the mother of his child, with a closed-hand slap. He was released on $1,000 bail; three days later Posso publicly retracted the statement. As he prepares for his Jan. 7 bout with Hector Luis Garcia, Davis (27-0, 25 KOs) understands that the new allegations come with harsh repercussions. The offense (which should not be minimized by Friday’s public retraction) is not as concerning as the cycle of violence itself. At this stage in his career, the undefeated fighter’s career has been overshadowed by a self-destructive path of brutality and lies that has only intensified since he escaped uninjured from a hit-and-run car crash he committed on Nov. 5, 2020 that injured four people. In the crash, Davis left pregnant woman, Jyair Smith in the car he collided with to fend for herself. Trying to navigate Davis’s transgressions has become nearly impossible, each one sadly blending into the next.

After Davis slapped the unidentified victim Tuesday in Parkland, FL, he went to social media to plead his innocence- (again). The incoherent rant, however, did not achieve its purpose and was quickly – and wisely – taken down. If this pattern of recklessness sounds familiar, it is. In Feb. 2020, four months prior to the hit-and-run, Davis was caught on video forcefully grabbing the estranged mother of his child during a celebrity basketball game in Coral Gables, FL. It marked a hideous display of abuse, but did not hinder his career path as he returned to defend his title that June. Despite the evidence, Davis denied the abuse, and then offered a half-hearted apology, promising to seek professional help to manage his anger.

Once an inspiration, Davis has regressed to a caricature of himself. Legally, on Feb. 16, Davis faces 14 misdemeanors or seven years in jail for the hit-and-run incident; additionally, he also faces a civil suit from a separate case. The case involving his ex-girlfriend at the Feb. 2020 celebrity basketball game has been discarded. Career-wise, forget about the megafight with Ryan Garcia; that fight is now further away from happening than a prime Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight ever was. Ideally, if Davis does not get jail time for the hit-and-run incident, public opinion would rise up and denounce that showdown. Regarding Davis’s tune-up with Garcia, it is unlikely that anyone from Showtime or PBC will step up to condemn Davis’s behavior this week, but the fight itself will suffer. Protests will drown out any leftover hype surrounding the fight. Emotionally, Davis needs help, not the “professional” help he claimed to have sought in the past, but real help where he recognizes how deplorable his behavior is.

One in every three women gets physically abused, but it is never about them when the tragic situation involves a professional boxer. It is all about whether or not the fight itself can move forward or even if the fighter himself will be in the right frame of mind to match previous performances. When Floyd Mayweather Jr. was at the height of his stardom inside the ring and acting recklessly outside of it, the question that everyone asked was “Can he manage to stay focused despite his turbulent public life?” not “What about the people he hurt along the way?”

Will boxing make amends for its transgressions in the past? No. But can it start to set a standard now? Yes, absolutely. For too long domestic abuse has been treated as a sidebar where victories – and knockouts – overshadow the real tragedy that suggests that women do not matter. Those who support Davis claim that he is a victim and unfairly targeted for his celebrity. Their argument might gain more traction with the recent retraction. But retraction or not, Davis’s behavior is not isolated to one incident or a rare occurrence; in fact, his actions are so pervasive that they blind fans to his ring performance. He does not need to fight now; he needs help. But no one cares, especially those making money off his star power. The axiom that boxing can be a savior is no longer a relevant one.

The damage Davis has caused is too overwhelming to ignore.  Unfortunately, the women involved are treated as nameless pawns, mere step asides in his career ascendancy. Instead of stopping the fight against Garcia, Davis is allowed to move forward. But you, we can do something, even if it seems insignificant. You can refuse to purchase the fight or any future Davis fights. If you are going to the fight, urge you and your friends to turn your back or even walk out when Davis enters the arena. Covering the fight for an online publication? Refuse to cover Davis or any other fighter who abuses women. Cover his fight and refuse to state his name, replaced with a blank space for a name just like those women he harmed. That might get people’s attention. Turn your back, demand a refund, write a letter, do something so that your voice is heard, even if, sadly enough, there are not enough people to drown out the “Tank” chants on Saturday.

Boxing might not have an oversight committee, but that does not mean it can’t have a moral compass. Let’s not wait for next year to right the wrongs of the past in this sport.

Let’s start now, one small step at a time.

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