It’s always fascinating to see fighters small in stature wreak absolute devastation in the ring. Everybody expects knockouts when the heavyweights are on show, but there is something extra special about seeing a smaller man knock out all of his opponents.
With a knockout-to-win ratio over 90%, Gervonta Davis is one of the hardest hitters in boxing today, despite being a lightweight.
The undefeated southpaw powerhouse, suitably nicknamed ‘Tank‘, has evolved to become one of the best lightweights on the planet in arguably the most competitive division in boxing today. Even though Davis already has won major world titles and is in his late 20s. He is still considered one of the top talents in the sport, with much more potential still uncovered.
In this blog, I’m going to take a look at the training methods that have made Davis into one of the most explosive punchers and most exciting fighters in the sport today
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
Background & Amateur Career
Like so many great champions before him, Davis had to become tough very early in life, growing up in the crime-ridden inner city of Baltimore, he had two choices: crime or boxing. Luckily, Davis took the second route and entered the gym at a very young age.
His knack for fighting was evident from the beginning, and Davis amassed a very successful amateur career, winning the 2012 National Golden Gloves Championship and three straight National Silver Gloves Championships from 2006 to 2008, among other less important titles.
Davis finished his illustrious amateur career with an impressive record of 206–15 and immediately turned his attention to professional boxing at the tender age of 18.
Meeting the right mentors
Fate denied Davis a normal family life, but it was compensated by putting the young Tank in front of the eyes of his lifelong coach Calvin Ford and, later, Floyd Mayweather, who was the main architect behind Davis’ rise from obscurity to boxing stardom.
With his father in prison and his mother a drug addict, young Gervonta bounced between foster care and group homes until he found the father figure he needed at the Upton Boxing Center.
Calvin Ford, a former drug dealer turned boxing instructor, provided all the support he needed, and in their words, they both saved each other from the streets that claimed the lives of many promising boxers from the gym. (*Interestingly Ford was the inspiration for a character dubbed Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise from the acclaimed HBO series ‘The Wire.’)
Floyd Mayweather, one of the best boxers of all time, was the next hugely influential person in Davis’ life. After scoring 6 KO victories in his first 6 professional fights, Floyd saw something special in Gervonta, and the young boxer signed with Mayweather Promotions in 2015.
The move turned out to be fantastic. Under the expert guidance of Floyd and his team, Davis became a Pay-Per-View star that makes millions each time he gets in the ring.
Mayweather has not spared efforts to promote his protégé, and this proved instrumental in his mainstream success, along with his electric fighting style, of course. And outside of marketing, his mentoring is a dream come true for many boxers, and we can find traces of Floyd inside Davis’s boxing style as well.
The training of Gervonta Davis
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the story and accomplishments of Gervonta Davis thus far, it’s finally time to see the physical aspect of what made them possible.
A championship-caliber boxer must be able to box for 12 rounds without losing too much spring in his step. Usually, power punchers have more fast-twitch musculature, which is responsible for their explosiveness and devastating power.
Like with anything in life, this huge benefit also comes at a cost, which is usually endurance. The fast muscles burn more energy and are less efficient. A knockout artist himself, Tank fights in a style that does not require too much energy expenditure. He is a very good counterpuncher and is very patient until his opponent is hurt. This lets him preserve the energy and keep his greatest asset—the power fully loaded throughout the fight.
The fact that only two men have managed to go the distance with Tank means he doesn’t usually box that many rounds, but the times we see him in the later rounds, he did not seem to tire out.
Personally, I think this is due in part to his energy-efficient style, but it is also due to his elite-level cardio. Tank idolizes Mayweather and follows some of the routines of his mentor, which of course include running and rope skipping. But where Floyd trains pretty much like an old-school fighter, Davis utilizes more modern principles and is not known for long morning runs.
Instead, when he hits the pavement, Tank usually does sprints to further improve his explosiveness and anaerobic capacity to deliver full power sequences. There are some very impressive videos of him doing hill sprints worthy of a track athlete. Still, he also does slow miles both outside and on the treadmill.
From what we see online, Davis frequently does grueling conditioning circuits that both improve his cardio and help him shed pounds. He is often training in a Boxraw’s sauna suit, which maximizes weight loss. The benefit of these long circuits is that the big variety of exercises helps him develop other attributes alongside cardio, while they can also be done long enough to improve the cardio itself. Check it out in action below:
As much as physical fitness is important for a boxer, his main attribute should always be his boxing skills, and Tank Davis is a testament to that. What makes him so dangerous is not just his sheer power but the fact that he boxes the way the game was intended to be played: by hitting and not getting hit.
The fact that knockout power is generated from the ground up through the legs and hips has been known by old-school boxers and various martial artists and has only been reconfirmed by modern sports science.
The most powerful strikes can be delivered only with proper muscle activation and body mechanics. While Tank Davis surely has that natural sting in his punch, his perfect technique and the ability to torque his body into punches are what make him such a powerhouse.
And that technique can only be acquired through years of diligent and focused practice. Here is how Tank trains and perfects his already formidable boxing skills.
No modern boxer can afford to skip training on the mitts with his coaches. In fact, this is the main method of trying out offensive and defensive scenarios and sequences. From watching Tank with his trainers, he looks to add variety and utilize the whole array of pad work.
You will see him train in the flowing style Floyd is famous for, by doing his nonstop sequences at lightning-fast speed, which are not too realistic obviously. But will help work on his speed reactions and conditioning.
On the standard pads drills, he does more classic realistic combinations and sequences that you would see in his fights. Which greatly aids in developing accuracy and tactics in the ring. He likes to implement slick footwork into that type of training.
Sometimes his trainer will also add in the body shield, which is a great way to help Tank work on body shots, while also having to react to his trainer using the pads at the same time.
Finally, Tank also likes to let punches rip on every boxer’s new best friend, the punch shield. Where the heavy bag remains unrivaled as a power-building tool, the shield allows for full power strikes. But also requires more accuracy, and punch variation with different upper movements – which really helps tank by the time it comes to fight night.
The sight of Tank Davis in front of a TMT heavy bag is like an echo of Floyd Mayweather. Tank loves drilling on the heavy bag the same way his mentor famously does. He flows with continuous light shots, breaks the rhythm with a few power shots, and then immediately goes back to the flow.
There have even been times Floyd himself can be seen navigating Tank and teaching him his proven methods. To burn out his shoulders, he also likes to blast a series of machine gun punches that send gunshot sounds through the entire gym.
You will also see Tank using a double-end bag, which is a key tool in developing his punch timing and anticipation, and reactions.
I personally think this is a brilliant tool for anyone to develop better punch timing as it forces you to react to what is in front of you by the time you get in the ring.
While he will also use the speed bag, mainly to help shoulder muscle endurance and also to help your hand-eye coordination, timing, and rhythm.
Like all fighters Tank will of course Shadow Box, mainly as a way to warm up before a full-blown boxing session.
This helps him loosen up, and refine his technique and movement.
What I do like is you will see him also incorporating footwork, and upper body movement – while he will at some start throw his punches with mean intentions as if he has an opponent.
As much as the strength and conditioning aspects of training are improving, boxing sparring at the higher levels remains HARD. There are many videos of Tank sparring opponents in full gear with a coach acting as a referee.
Davis is almost always smaller than his opponents in his fights, and he chooses sparring partners to replicate that, often trading blows with taller opponents. Tank also doesn’t shy away from sparring partners that are even a few weight divisions above him.
Just like in the rest of his training, we can often see Mayweather and Ford encouraging and witnessing Tank busting training partners in the gym. In all the videos we have, Davis does not hold back and spars with full power.
Strength and conditioning
Because Tank usually gives up the height and reach advantage, he has to compensate with power and explosiveness. This is why strength and conditioning play a very important role in his training. Most of the punching power comes from proper technique and muscle activation, but the remaining factors of speed and strength must be diligently developed and preserved in the gym.
Tank fully utilizes the modern science of strength and conditioning. Whereas older boxers relied solely on traditional exercises. Davis has become best friends with medicine balls and bands. They help immensely by adding resistance to moves that are much more fight-specific than regular strength exercises. This does not mean, of course, that he doesn’t do pushups and pullups. They are a part of his routines but are most often part of a full-body circuit.
The many variations of medicine ball slams, throws, and twists have been proven to be extremely beneficial for strikers, and Tank uses them constantly. The bands also help add isometric tension to many exercises and help Davis improve his muscle endurance.
Davis has also been seen to use heavyweights, combining fundamental strength exercises like the bench press and deadlift with some loaded isometric holds. The significance of core muscles in boxers is well known, and Tank employs a myriad of core work exercises to fire up all the muscles needed to deliver a powerful punch and withstand one.
Diet and Recovery
Now a world champion, Tank Davis takes his craft seriously and has a personal chef and a nutritionist who take care of his diet. Tank revealed in front of Muscle & Fitness that he follows a strict Spartan diet, including lean proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats are eaten every four hours.
Breakfast – Turkey bacon with eggs and mixed peppers
Lunch – (Protein) Such as Tuna with spinach along with a light snack
Dinner – Salmon, potatoes and either broccoli or asparagus
While this sounds exactly like how you would imagine an elite boxer should eat, this was not always the case.
Up until around 2019, Tank would eat everything he liked, which of course included a lot of junk food like fries and slushies. He shares that before some of his fights, he ballooned up and had to first drop weight before he could even begin to train properly for a boxing fight.
This appears to be behind him now, and despite occasionally enjoying some skittles at unexpected times. (see below) Tank trains and fuels himself like a real champion, which can only be a good thing for us as fans in eager expectation of the possible super-fights at lightweight we have in front of us.
Now from everything I’ve seen with Tank and even with his personality, he definitely seems to be a guy that absorbs the information given to him. He is not as outspoken as many other fighters which also gives that sense of mystery behind him sometimes.
Is he a guy that gets hyped up because of the people around him? Or is he a man that truly listens and applies to what is being relayed to him?
Personally, I think it is a bit of both, you just need to watch any of the training and you see the likes of Ford or even Floyd shouting instructions ringside. Interestingly Ford said the following about keeping Tank on point:
“When I see Tank not paying attention, that’s when I get on him. People don’t know this, but fighters get lackadaisical sometimes in a fight. It’s like a part of you gets bored a little bit. So you start letting your guard down. Main thing I work on as far as a situation like that is that he’s paying attention. ‘You got hit with a good shot. Look at me.’ To make sure that you understand I’m saying something to you.
If I see that you ain’t paying attention to me when I say something to you, that means something’s seriously wrong.”– Calvin Ford on keeping Davis focused, Interview PBC
With the high knowledge and boxing IQ around him, it’s clear to date Tank takes on their advice when in the ring. You just need to see him being able to box on backfoot, before of the suddenly setting up an explosive knockout out of nowhere!
It’s clear to me however, Ford puts in the work in terms of studying opponents so Tank can concentrate on the training part and implement what is being taught to him. For example Calvin Ford talking about Santa Cruz in the lead-up to that fight is evidence of this:
“[Volume punching] is Santa Cruz’s strength. Every fight I’ve seen him in, he throws a million punches. Look at Paul Williams. He threw a lot of punches. But guess what? One punch can change a fight. You can throw a million, I just got to get one good one. I know Santa Cruz is coming like that. I invite him to come like that. But if I can change his style of fighting, I got him.
Santa Cruz might change up what he’s doing. We are working on a lot of things. What I always tell ‘Tank’ is the fight may not be how we train. We can do a lot of stuff in the gym, but we might have to change. We just have to be effective with what we have to do. Leo’s been putting in the work.” “Calvin Ford, on tactics vs Santa Cruz, interview PBC
I also like that Ford works on his mental game by putting up pictures of his opponent in a round the gym, which is proven to give mental rehearsal and motivation before fight night. It gives you the ability to mentally be ready before you are in the ring.
Tank training is a combination of working extremely hard in all areas, but with a slight focus on being able to generate knockout power at any moment.
Being the smaller man in most instances, he’s had to look for ways to compensate for his lack of height and reach, by instead looking to use explosive power that he can utilize at any moment.
Many still downplay Gervonta due to his undisciplined younger years where he relied more on his incredible talent. But since maturing and absorbing the information over the years from the likes of Floyd and Ford – watching any of his training sessions you can tell he works his a** off now.
And if he can keep up the discipline I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Tank continue knockout and steal the show for many more years to come.
Why not read my Gervonta Davis style breakdown here?
You can also get more boxing training advice by visiting the link here or related useful articles below:
- Top 10 Exercises To Improve Hand Speed For Boxing
- 10 Exercises To Improve Your Reflexes For Boxing
- Shadow Boxing Exercises For Home Or The Gym
- 10 Exercises To Increase Your Punch Power For Boxing
- Simple Boxing Workout Routines For Home
- 6 Key Boxing Defensive Techniques – Hit And Don’t Get Hit
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