Keyshawn Davis: The Businessman Aims to Prove the Hype is Real
When Keyshawn Davis was named by both ESPN and The Ring Magazine as their Prospect of the Year in 2022, the American joined some illustrious company. Earlier notable recipients of the awards included Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Errol Spence Jr., and Teofimo Lopez Jr. – all of whom went on to win multiple world titles.
At 24 years old and just nine fights into his pro career, Davis has some way to go to emulate these fighters, but as one of the most exciting talents coming through a stacked lightweight division, expectations are high for the man known as ‘The Businessman’.
As Davis prepares for the biggest test of his career against Jose Pedraza on February 8 in Las Vegas – on the undercard of Lopez’s fight with Jamaine Ortiz – it’s the ideal time to profile a fighter who’s been receiving huge praise – and drawn comparisons with some of the greats.
‘One of America’s Greatest Amateurs’
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who famously represented legends like Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao, signed Davis from the amateur ranks and has high hopes for the American.
“Keyshawn Davis, one of the greatest amateur fighters the U.S. produced, has had a great pro career so far,” Arum posted on X on Thursday ahead of Davis’ fight with Pedraza.
Davis’s amateur credentials are clear for all to see. He dominated domestically and represented the United States on the biggest amateur stages. However, he had to settle for silver at the 2019 World Championships and Pan American Games and at the 2022 Olympics. The same man beat him each time: the Cuban phenom Andy Cruz, another lightweight prospect tipped for the top.
It’s not only figures likes Arum – who has a vested interest in hyping up Davis – who have been praising the lightweight prospect.
“He’s a helluva fighter,” Floyd Mayweather Jr, one of the all-time greats, said about Davis in an interview with FightHype.com last August. Mayweather has also been full of praise for Davis behind closed doors, according to the fighter.
“He told me, Keyshawn, you have everything,” Davis said last October before his fight with Nahir Albright. “You have the skill, you have the ability, you have everything.”
Hall of Famer Timothy Bradley has also been impressed with what he’s seen from Davis, whose brother Kelvin is also a prospect in the welterweight division.
“Keyshawn Davis is a serial killer,” said Bradley, a former two-weight world champion. “He approaches every fight the same way. He captures his foes and tortures them mentally to the point of submission. Then he knocks them out.
Slick, Quick, and Stylish
Given Davis’s amateur pedigree, it should come as no surprise that many of the attributes that made him so successful in the unpaid ranks have transferred to the pro game.
He possesses lightning quick hands and laser-like accuracy, excellent technical foundations and sharp reflexes in offense and defense. He can bang, too, and has shown so far that he has a clear understanding of when to go in for the finish.
Davis is also known to be a ferocious trainer with a focused commitment to hard work, always striving to improve and soak up the knowledge and experience of those around him. It certainly helps that among his mentors and close friends are welterweight king Terence Crawford and three-weight world champion Shakur Stevenson.
Davis has drawn comparisons with a young Mayweather, but the fighter himself disagrees.
” I really take my style from Shakur,” Davis said in an interview with Talksport in December 2022. “I steal a lot of his defensive moves because he’s one of the best if not the best defensive fighter in the game right now, so I really copy my style from all the best.
“Inside the ring it really shows for itself, training around [Stevenson and Crawford] and I’ve sparred them a lot of times. So, it speaks for itself how great I am so early in my career.”
Davis has also learned under the tutelage of another boxing hero from his hometown of Norfolk in Virginia; the one and only Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker.
“When you talk about boxing you have to bring up ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell [Whitaker] and being from my city, Norfolk, Virginia,” Davis said.
“I feel like if you make it out of here then you’re special regardless and ‘Sweet Pea’ was definitely one of them and if I can be a name like Pernell then I will have fulfilled my potential.”
Davis’s Pro Career So Far
The American’s start to his pro career has largely gone well. From his nine fights, Davis is unbeaten with six stoppages. He’s not just been beating up journeymen either; his opponents have had a combined record of 177 wins, 29 losses and eight draws.
It’s unsurprising given the hype around him that Davis is being fast-tracked and he collected his first belt – the WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title – in his seventh fight against Juan Carlos Burgos, the experienced Mexican and former featherweight world title challenger.
Davis retained the title with arguably his finest performance so far, taking part the experienced Anthony Yigit until a ninth-round stoppage last April.
It hasn’t all been entirely smooth sailing, though. After his majority-decision win last time out over Albright, who had Davis rocked in the eighth round, Davis tested positive for marijuana and the result was changed to a no contest.
He was handed a three-month suspension and will make his return against Pedraza, having initially been scheduled to face the Puerto Rican at the end of last year.
Davis feels he has some doubters to silence when he takes on Pedraza, and a win over the former world champion will be the biggest statement of his career.
“I think people got me messed up, and I’m going to show them how tough I really am,” Davis told FightHype.com in response to those who criticized his performance against Albright. “I feel like this is the perfect time to show them, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Sights Set on Title Fights
Inevitably, Davis’s primary focus is on world titles – and the riches that come with contesting the biggest belts in boxing.
“For sure the plan is belts,” Davis told Sky Sports. “Shakur is already fighting for the WBC belts, and there is no telling what the WBO and the other belts are going to do. I am definitely one of the contenders.”
He then continued: “I’m not up for paying for belts. I don’t need a trophy; I need a cheque. I don’t care if you think I am the best world champion or the best-undisputed champion. I’m gonna go about my business.”
The lightweight division is arguably the most competitive weight class in boxing at present. Stevenson holds the WBC title and Gervonta Davis the WBA strap, while Vasiliy Lomachenko and George Kambosos Jr. will fight for the vacant IBF title in May. Beyond the champions, the division runs deep. The likes of Isaac Cruz, William Zepeda, and Davis’s old foe Cruz all have legitimate designs on world title glory this year.
At present, Davis is ranked seventh by the IBF, eighth by the WBO, and ninth by the WBC, and he has already set his sights on the winner of Lomachenko’s bout with Kambosos.
That fight come too soon in his journey, but if he keeps winning, then Davis will be in the title conversation in no time.