When Gervonta Davis and Yuriorkis Gamboa clash for the vacant WBA Lightweight World Championship on December 28 at the award-winning State Farm Arena in Atlanta, they’ll be making history in a long-underserved boxing hotbed that has hosted monumental fights featuring Hall of Famers Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield.
“Just to be mentioned with those Hall of Famers is amazing,” said Davis. “I’m lost for words. It’s not only big for me, it’s big for boxing in the city and all the other fighters that have the opportunity to fight on the card.”
The Davis vs. Gamboa SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast features two world title bouts and will be the first world championship event in Atlanta in more than 20 years. Jean Pascal will defend his WBA Light Heavyweight World Championship against former two-division champion Badou Jack in the co-feature of the Premier Boxing Champions event.
Prior to December 28, the last world title fight in Atlanta was unified heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield’s IBF and WBA defenses against Vaughn Bean on September 19, 1998. SHOWTIME televised that bout live from the since-demolished Georgia Dome where 41,357 fans in attendance saw the Atlanta resident floor Bean in the 10th round en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Despite the strong turnout and festive atmosphere for Holyfield vs. Bean, the Hall of Famer Holyfield fought just four times in Atlanta in his 57 professional bouts spanning nearly three decades. The city did host Holyfield’s first title fight, a bout that is widely considered the best cruiserweight fight in history and one of the last great 15 round fights. On July 12, 1986, Holyfield challenged WBA Cruiserweight Champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a back-and-forth bout that Holyfield won by split decision to capture his first world title.
While Holyfield vs. Qawi is considered the best fight in Atlanta boxing history, the most significant and biggest event in the city was Muhammad Ali’s comeback fight in 1970. Ali had been stripped of his heavyweight title and exiled from boxing after being controversially convicted of draft evasion in 1967. While his case was still under appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court, Ali received a license to fight in Georgia for his first bout in more than three-and-a-half years. Ali stopped Jerry Quarry in the third round on October 26, 1970 at City Auditorium in an event that would mark his triumphant return. Ali’s conviction was overturned the following year in June of 1971, just three months after the “Fight of the Century” with Joe Frazier.
While Georgia has been home to a number of recent world champions, none have fought in Atlanta as titlists. The late two-division world champion Vernon Forrest was born in nearby Augusta and lived in Atlanta, however he never fought as a champion in the state’s capital. Similarly, former two-division champion Paul Williams, also of Augusta, fought just once in Atlanta in 2001 before he became champion.
Davis, who is on-track to sell out his third consecutive venue of the year in three different cities, is hoping to make big time boxing in Atlanta a permanent fixture.”The spotlight will be on Atlanta,” said Davis. “They haven’t had a big fight there in many years. So it’s a dream to bring big time boxing back just like I did in Baltimore. Atlanta welcomed me with open arms for so many years. I always knew I had a fan base and I always wanted to fight here. Now is the perfect time in my career for it to happen.”
Sean Michael Ham/Mayweather Promotions