Danny Flexen analyses the professional career so far for Ohara Davies, a polarising figure who has made money but not yet a legacy
Ohara Davies, the polarising Hackney super-lightweight, only turned professional in 2014 – following an 18-fight amateur stint having found the sport aged 17 - but it’s been an eventful five-year career to date. With a must-win fight looming next week against veteran former world champion Miguel Vazquez, it seemed the time was right to assess OD’s story so far.
Davies has made an exceptional amount of money despite never winning so much as a British title and is one of Britain’s most famous – or notorious – boxers. Of his 20 professional contests, an impressive, and lucrative, 15 have taken place on televised shows: nine on regular Sky Sports, two on Sky Sports Box Office, one on terrestrial Channel 5 and three on BT Sport. His bouts with Andrea Scarpa and Jack Catterall were main events on subscription channels. It is no surprise the 27-year-old owns his own home and seems to buy a new car every few months. His controversial persona and dedication to social media have reaped rewards beyond Davies’ in-ring achievements, although wins over Scarpa, Derry Mathews and Paul Kamanga are respectable. He is arguably better known than more decorated British fighters, including recent world champion Terry Flanagan. His 39,000 Twitter followers and 54,000 on Instagram dwarf many of Davies’ more accomplished rivals, including most current British title-holders.
Davies has struggled to nail down a permanent home in the sport, drifting across different trainers, managers, broadcasters and promoters. Initial pro trainer Tunde Ajayi remains a close friend but their professional association only lasted for a few unpaid bouts and Ohara’s first two pro fights. The esteemed Tony Sims took control for the next 15 before a huge fallout (more on that later) led to OD leaving his trainer, manager (Sims’ son Charlie) and Matchroom, who had backed him from pro fight No. 3. Davies then joined longtime mentor Miguel Dapenticul and enjoyed a three-fight spell with Frank Warren and is now managed by MTK Global, who also stage the Vazquez showdown.
Davies has fallen short in his two biggest fights, albeit to world-class fighters in Josh Taylor – who may well win the World Boxing Super Series and could be the best 140lb fighter in the world – and Jack Catterall, who is the mandatory challenger for WBO ruler Maurice Hooker. He was outclassed by Taylor in 2017 and many fans accused him of quitting when floored for the second time, in round seven. Against Catterall last October, however, a close, cagey dispute appeared winnable if Ohara had just increased his output; that time, a lack of urgency appeared significant.
One of the reasons for Davies’ celebrity is his past inclination, tempered in recent years, to say the wrong things, occasionally out of ignorance but predominantly to gain attention. His laundry list of infractions includes frequently calling opponents ‘bums’, insulting Olympic hero Paddy Barnes and his wife and targeting the city of Liverpool before his wins over native sons Mathews and Tom Farrell.
This concerning pattern of behaviour came to an inevitable conclusion just after Christmas 2017. Arguing with potential opponent Tommy Coyle on Twitter, Davies believed he was using his rival’s hatred of The Sun against him, when he posted that he would give his “favourite newspaper” a post-fight interview after defeating the Hull man. The paper’s awful reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy and resulting status in Liverpool, when allied with Davies’ history of abusing the city’s residents, people naturally assumed the worst regarding Ohara’s intentions. He protested his innocence but Matchroom and his then-manager, with a Liverpool show imminent, understandably distanced themselves.
Since that low watermark, Davies has remained relatively quiet, sensibly allowing MTK to craft his public image and statements. He has begun to fix his persona, but now needs to change his fortunes where it really matters, in the ring.