Despite his size, Davis says his goal is to be world heavyweight champion
RENO – Imagine a pinball machine on wheels, rolling downhill and crashing into a man with his back turned.
That’s one way to describe the force and power of Reno heavyweight “Koncrete” Kelvin Davis’ left jab. As his brother-trainer-manager Kelly Davis wears a thick body vest – which resembles a red, padded turtleshell – and a pair of gloves, Kelvin fires single, double and triple jabs through Kelly’s guard and into the vest, pushing him backward with force with each blow.
Kelly, the older brother, wears a look of contempt and impatience as he corrects the 28-year-old Kelvin again and again to straighten his punch, to adjust his stance and several other technical nuances.
The 3-minute ring bell should have gone off 7 minutes ago, but Kelvin – who already has worked out all day – says nothing. He spits, backs up and moves forward into Kelly, his jab a telephone pole stabbing into a wall.
Again. And again. And again.
It’s Kelly who finally asks someone to turn on the electric bell, which gives Kelvin a 1-minute break for every three-minute round he puts in. After that first 10-minute round, Kelvin goes three more rounds, impatiently telling Kelly to “Come on” if he stops to tell Kelvin he’s making a mistake.
Most boxers would relish the break, but not Kelvin, who just wants to throw punches until whatever – or whomever – is in front of him is destroyed.
Adorned with tattoos – on his arms, chest, back and face – Davis is wearing skimpy black trunks, looking like a Jack Johnson throwback. A la Mike Tyson, Davis also wears no socks, only black boxing shoes to go with his black gloves.
Like Tyson, Davis, 21-4-2 with 16 knockouts, is built like an oversized pit bull, with impossibly large biceps and leg muscles pulled wire-tight over his compact 5-foot-7, 210-pound frame.
Already shorter than any heavyweight since Dwight Muhammad Qawi moved up to the division from cruiserweight to fight George Foreman in the late 1980s, Davis gets even shorter, as he does a dip-squat before coming back with a punch.
It’s Koncrete Gym. It’s a Saturday and it’s one week away from Davis’ first fight in Reno since Sept. 8, 2001. Kelvin thinks he’s fighting Jason Gavern on the undercard of the HBO-televised welterweight Paul Williams-Sharmba Mitchell fight at Reno Events Center, but unbeknownst to him, Gavern has suffered a cut and is off the show.
“I haven’t told him yet,” Kelly says later in the week. “Just because he’s knocked this (expletive deleted) out, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. This dude (Chris “Cold Steel”) Thomas, (whom Davis knocked out in the second round of his ninth fight back in 2000) has been knocked out and is going to come at Kelvin twice as hard this time. He’s going to take (Kelvin) 10 times as serious this time.”
That would be advisable for Thomas, 16-5-2 (14), who lost his last bout to Emmanuel Nwodo by third-round technical knockout on July 1. When he’s on – like he was when he stopped up-and-coming cruiserweight Richie LaMontaigne in two rounds in June 2004 – the 6-foot-4 Thomas can be formidable.
“I’m not going to see anything different,” Kelvin says. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Heavyweights don’t throw punches that much. They’ll be working the jab and moving. They’ll try and tie me up more. The only advantage a heavyweight has is his weight. But if you take away his weight, it becomes a disadvantage to him. He can’t take a break with me. They only throw 300-350 punches over 12 rounds.
“With me, he has to work hard every minute, every round, all the way through. They can’t work full-speed for 12 rounds.”
Kelly and Kelvin’s mother, Frances Gains, asks a reporter if he saw Kelvin’s last fight, a six-round draw with heavyweight Charles Shufford in Hyannis, Mass., last month.
The reporter says no, but tells her that an editor for the Cape Cod Times said Davis was robbed.
“You have to see this,” she says, and goes to get the DVD.
Veteran ringside announcer Dave Bontempo and former world champion Vinnie Pazienza call the one-sided fight, in which Davis batters the 6-3, 242-pound Shufford at will. Rocking him with huge left hooks in the first and third rounds and ripping Shufford with body shots which leave his opponent flinching, Davis looks to have won an easy decision.
“Davis is going to be rewarded by the judges for his constant aggression,” Bontempo says as he and Pazienza await the verdict.
Pazienza agrees, but two of the three judges have a surprise. Although Paul Driscoll scores it surprisingly close – he sees it 58-56 for Davis – Leo Gerstel and Don O’Neill were apparently watching something else and call it 57-57 and the bout is declared a majority draw.
“That’s a tough break for Davis,” Pazienza says above the din of the booing crowd, which cheers Davis when he stands up on the ropes and flexes his biceps. The cheers get louder as Kelly exhorts the crowd.
Kelly, Kelvin and their communications director, Darrell Hughes, watch the re-run of the draw and express their disgust with the judging in profane language and with gallows humor.
“It wasn’t a contest,” says Kelvin, who laughed at and played with Shufford, a former title-challenger, throughout. “The weight didn’t feel any different than cruiserweight (from which Kelvin is moving up in weight). I’m much faster than heavyweights. We all run – it’s part of the sport. But they can’t run as fast as I can. I run 6 miles a day in 46-47 minutes at Hug High School.”
Davis, who became Northern Nevada’s first world champion when he won the vacant IBF cruiserweight title with an overwhelming eight-round TKO over Ezra Sellers on May 1, 2004, opened his career as a heavyweight.
He was 16-0 when he faced David Vedder on Sept. 8, 2001, at Lawlor Events Center, on the undercard of an HBO-televised event. Even though he twice dropped Vedder and blood sprayed across and out of the ring when he’d connect on Vedder, the bout was scored a draw.
Rather than being demoralized by the draw, Davis turned it up, winning the vacant USBA cruiserweight belt over former IBF cruiserweight titlist “King” Arthur Williams in 2003.
Although he would taste defeat at the hands of Ravea Springs and current world cruiserweight champion O’Neil Bell, Davis never gave in and went on to win the title from Sellers.
As with that draw against Vedder, maybe the draw with Shufford will serve as an unlikely springboard for Davis to once again get on a roll and achieve his dream of winning the world championship.
A NEW-OLD DREAM
Neither Davis’ height nor any in-ring opponent was responsible for his losing his title. Although the official reason the IBF gives for stripping Davis of his belt was that he didn’t defend it within a year – the IBF’s rules mandate nine months, actually – what the organization doesn’t say is that Davis wasn’t allowed to officially step onto the scales at the Savvis Center in St. Louis in February 2005, when he was to meet Bell in a rematch.
The organization doesn’t mention that its president – Marian Muhammad – said to the Nevada Appeal before the match that Davis needed a promoter for him to fight, even though he showed up and stepped onto the unplugged scale.
It doesn’t mention the fact that Davis wasn’t allowed into the building by gun-toting security guards, who, according to Davis, were told by promoter Don King to keep out Davis unless he signed a long-term contract.
Davis eventually did sign with King, who is letting his fighter freelance with this fight. But also forgotten is what happened when Davis showed up in Chicago – on short notice – to fight a rematch with Steele, only to find out at the press conference that he was to instead face No. 1 challenger Guillermo Jones.
Davis ripped his left biceps muscle in the fight, which he lost on a four-round TKO. He dropped his next fight – to No. 1 Steve Cunningham – as well. Taking the fight 10 days after a cast was removed from his surgically corrected right hand, he chased Cunningham all over the ring and lost a unanimous decision in Cleveland.
But that’s all in the past.
Davis has a new dream, which is actually an old dream.
“It’s not a goal, it’s reality,” Davis says. “I’m going to be the heavyweight champion of the world. I said it before I started boxing. I’ve already accomplished the cruiserweight championship. I was in the wrong division.”
Not many people will think it’s a realistic goal. Only one champion has been 5-foot-7 and the heavyweight champion of the world, and that was Tommy Burns, who held the crown from 1906-08 and lost it to Jack Johnson in Australia.
Asked if he’s aware of that, Davis grins.
“I didn’t think about that,” he says. “I just found that out about 10 seconds ago. I only think about knocking them out – whether it takes one or 12 rounds. I train for the KO. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Kelly says it’s Kelvin – not the taller fighters – who has the advantage.
“The heavyweights have grown so big – phenomenally big – that guys 6-foot, 6-1, 6-2, always seem to have trouble.”
His plan for Kelvin – the proverbial David in a land of Goliaths?
“Just jab to the chest,” he says. “Use the jab offensively and defensively.”
Kelvin expands on the seemingly basic strategy – one which worked well on Shufford.
“Squat and come back with an overhand right and left,” Kelvin says. “Use body shots. Land all different punches. Most heavyweights know the 1-2. They don’t get low. They don’t have much mobility.
“With the number of punches I throw, I get in and wear them down. I chop them down. I know I have the punch to KO a person. I’m looking to beat their body up and then knock them out. I can throw punches for 12 rounds. I’ve been doing this for six years. My body’s used to it. I don’t throw pepper-shots.”
The heavyweight division is not virgin territory for Davis. It’s just a matter of making believers of the nonbelievers – the same ones who doubted the 5-foot-7 wrecking ball when he said he as going to be cruiserweight champion of the world.
In the Holy Bible, David slew Goliath. Beginning with Thomas at Reno Events Center, it’s going to be Davis – not David – trying to knock out the first of several Goliaths.