Hellraiser Boxing News | Gervonta Davis Spars Asinia Byfield in Las Vegas
IBF World Champion Gervonta Davis took on Hellraiser's Asinia Byfield in a tense sparring session in Las Vegas. Read the report here.
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by Adam Thorn
"I don't know where you from, but you a tough motherf**ker!"
It was only the second full day of sparring at the Mayweasther gym yesterday. Hellraiser fighters Asinia Byfield and Josh Ejakpovi had been there on Monday, and squeezed a little spar in on Friday when registering. The gym is a busy place, with a mix of youngsters, amateurs, novice pros, grizzled veterans and sage like trainers of varying fame all knocking about at any one time. Yesterday, however, came news that Gervonta Davis was due in to spar ahead of his IBF title defence against Roman Martinez.
Both Hellraisers wanted to spar Davis, but Josh had just finished 6 rounds, and Asinia is expert at selling himself. The man himself, Floyd Mayweather, rolled into the gym and Asinia went over, being asked about his style and stance by “TBE”. Mickey Helliet, too, was queried as to Asinia’s suitability for their world champion, “you’ll be surprised, trust me, in a good way.”
The training that was going on around the gym ceased, bags hung undisturbed, sparring subsided, shadowy opponents evaporated. Everyone, with the exception of the Showtime crew who were setting up to interview Gervonta later, lined the sides of the big ring. All cameras were ordered off, even our sound recorder, and the Hellraiser team went to the corner with Asinia. Floyd took centre stage, standing on the ring orchestrating proceedings with his inimitable persona. He’s good value, Floyd, and he loves talking some smack, as Asinia was about to find out.
Round one began with the crowd ringside fairly quiet. Mayweather loudly coached “Tank” as Asinia did what he does best, switched and moved and frustrated the Baltimore man. As this became something of the order of play, the taunts from the crowd and Tank’s team grew, and for a man five or so inches shorter than D’Ghost, Gervonta shut the distance down scary quick. It took a while for Davis to start unloading, readjusting as he was to Asinia’s awkwardness, but when he did, they were fast, powerful and from all angles.
Around the third, although rounds were hard to tell due to the casual nature of the timekeeping, Davis stepped things up and started throwing and landing. Tank was convinced he could blast Asinia out, who was bleeding from the nose, and struggling to breathe smoothly. Normally one might say “loading up” but Davis is such a heavy hitter and so fluid that he never seems to load, he just lets fly. With the whole gym, and Floyd encouraging him, Davis laid it on Byfield, who seemed dazed in the fourth. It was evident that Tank runs sparring partners over for fun normally, and all but the Hellraiser team were here to see a massacre.
The taunts from the US contingent grew, and the longer Asinia stood up well to the onslaughts he was dealt in rounds four, five and six, the farther they reached. At one point the UK was accused of having, “four round champions”. Mickey Helliet and Sam Fleetwood came in for the acid tongue, too. Asinia was regularly accused of having “no guts”. Nothing could be further from the truth, he was slipping, or taking much of the work on his gloves and arms, but what did get through lost none of its visciousness as the rounds went on.
Byfield took matters into his own hands. Rallying and taunting the champion, in an American accent! Dropping his guard, going for a walk, turning his head away; and his pièce de résistance, knowing Davis liked to lay it on late in the round, “Come on then minute man, come on then. Let’s fight for a minute shall we?” At the 30 second buzzer, “That’s your bell! That’s you, let’s start fighting!” It did not go down well, and the atmosphere became even more intense than before.
Asinia had visibly tired, but somehow found the reserves, even this early in his training camp, to keep Gervonta at bay. It was nervy to watch. Davis is a tough competitor, and with no referee until around the fifth, there were low and late blows thrown. At one point between rounds, Byfield turned back to his corner and didn’t see Davis follow him, standing behind, shooting dark thoughts into his head guard before flinging a punch as D’Ghost turned after about 10 seconds rest.
Davis might be tough, but so is the Hellraiser man, and he laughingly took punishment that lesser men would wilt under. Faced with this, The Money Team upped the tempo, the ring was banged on maniacally, intending to intimidate Byfield. He took 1000 West Ham fans booing him in his last fight, 50 Americans didn’t waver the Reading man, in fact it pumped him up and his game improved again. Though clearly tired and not hitting with as much power, his work nevertheless was accurate and regular enough to distract Davis from too many offensives in the seventh and eighth.
“Doghouse! Doghouse!” The cry went out. What, it transpired, this means is essentially anything goes. With no time limit. The Tank’s team clearly wanted to prove their man the better by wiping out Byfield. Although Asinia had taken punishment through the session, he had never looked ready to go and it was obvious this was not the norm.
Davis rallied and put in on D’Ghost, who was seemingly too tired to get out of the way. Until, after about 7 minutes or so, the tide turned, and Davis ran out of ideas. A beleaguered Asinia mustered the energy to start dabbing punches off the American. Nothing concussive but he began outworking, and crucially outthinking Davis. It seemed like the sparring would never end, but then the master of ceremonies decreed enough. Floyd called time and the tension eased. The ring bloodied, the thirst sated. Asinia endd on top and had given Davis all kinds of problems he'd not encountered before.
There is no doubt that sparring like this is invaluable to Hellraiser’s men. It must also be said that while astonishingly good, Gervonta Davis didn’t look comfortable or happy at the end. He showed respect to a suddenly bouncy again Asinia, but it was the respect of a man who hadn’t anticipated giving it. Those in the gym, who had been cheering their champion, also took time to put some love Asinia's way. They knew this was a spar out of the ordinary, and Byfield showed the mettle he’s been telling the world he has.
Posted: 10th Aug 2017
NEXT UP: Night of Thunder
4th May 2019 00:00, York Hall, 5 Old Ford Road, E2 9PJ
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