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Falls amateur fighter is making bid to step up Pro boxing's return to Buffalo Feb. 20 is first since Mesi

Johnnie Davis is a big man with a large shadow.

Yet as menacing as the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder looks in person, for the past few years he's been lost in the shadow of a couple of more celebrated area amateur heavyweights.

Until now.

The 26-year-old Cataract City native makes his professional boxing debut in 12 days in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as part of seven-card event presented by X-CEL Worldwide Promotions.

Davis, along with five-time New York State Golden Gloves light heavyweight champion Lionell Thompson of Buffalo; cruiserweight Greg Brady of Buffalo; and heavyweight and Sweet Home graduate Paul Marinaccio, now of Cary, N.C., are scheduled to appear on the Feb. 20 card that's the first professional boxing event in the Queen City since Sept. 27, 2003.

That last date, Baby Joe Mesi made short work of DaVarryl Williamson in HSBC Arena during an HBO telecast before the former No. 1 heavyweight contender's career was slowed by subdural hematomas suffered in a March 2004 Las Vegas fight with Vassiliy Jirov.

The co-main event features former world super middleweight champion Byron Mitchell (26-4-1, 19 KOs) battling Zach Walters (23-3, 18 KOs) for the NABA United States light heavyweight title. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the action scheduled to start at 7:30.

Davis will face fill-in foe George Jacobs (1-2) after his regularly scheduled foe, William Bonner, was KO'd in a Jan. 30 bout.

"I'm very excited," Davis said. "Can't wait to get it over with, get rid of the jitters and move on to the next [match]."

This is the fourth professional card to be held in Western New York since September 2007, with the previous three occurring at Seneca Nation venues -- including two at the Seneca Niagara Events Center.

Davis was supposed to make his pro debut back in November in Pennsylvania, but in the ever-changing world of boxing you never know. Most matches aren't deemed as officially going to happen until both fighters show up at the prefight weigh-in.

"This one might fall through, and then all of the sudden you'll get a fight next week. You never know," he said.

On his previous fight falling through and being able to make his debut in Western New York, he said, "It's definitely a blessing because [now] you're fighting in your hometown, and all of your friends and family can make the fight."

The Davis name might sound familiar in these parts, and it should. Johnnie is the older brother of Lorenzo Davis, the heavyweight whose attempt at turning professional a year ago became stalled after it was discovered during a prefight licensing eye exam that his vision wasn't at the minimum standard required for pros.

Johnnie said his younger brother is currently attempting to correct the problem through the costly laser-surgery process.

But Johnnie's boxing talent shouldn't be a complete mystery. He compiled a pretty good resume in the amateur ranks. Davis is a past Western Region Golden Gloves open-division champion, which in itself is a feat, considering the super heavyweight has competed in a division that includes Buffalo Northwest Community Center training pal Excell Holmes, a four-time state Golden Gloves champion who is a past member of the United States National Team.

While Davis has lost seven times as an amateur in 20 fights, three of his defeats have come at the hands of Holmes, with another in the state Gloves final to 2008 Olympic alternate Kimbo Bethel.

So is Davis ready to make the jump to prizefighting?

"I think I'm pretty much ready," said Davis, who also is a school bus driver for Niagara Falls Coach Lines. "I've trained with Excell and Lionell. . . . I'm ready."

"His losses are to the top guys in the country," said Don Patterson, Davis' trainer. "He's definitely ready. Johnnie's been boxing for quite a while. He's in the gym [training] before fighting [in the ring].

"Because a guy doesn't make it to the championship [in major events] doesn't mean he's not a good fighter. He's definitely prepared for the pros."

Davis isn't the only part of this boxing promotion with a local tie. X-CEL Worldwide head Nick Garone splits his time between Youngstown and Long Island, as he is married to a woman from Niagara Falls. So Garone sort of has a personal stake during his attempt at proving professional boxing and Western New York do indeed mix.

"I just think this is a market, such a great boxing market for so many years," said Garone, who co-promoted the November boxing card at the Seneca Niagara Casino. "I really believe in the city [of Buffalo]. I really believe it's a fight town. Somebody just has to grab the bull by the horns and start doing shows. . . . I really feel I'm filling a need, a void, since Baby Joe stopped fighting [locally]."

Tickets for the event are available online at or by calling 578-4733, (631) 878-1676 or (201) 951-0076.


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