It took an injury to his right eye for Victor Davis to begin seeing more clearly.
On Jan. 10, 1991, Davis scored what appeared to be a routine sixth-round technical knockout over Sammy Gervin at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie. At the time, he was ranked No. 8 among welterweights by the International Boxing Federation, and local promoters couldn't wait to sign him.
But something else happened that night that ultimately may have benefited Davis more than the win. Sometime during the fight, a rough portion of Gervin's glove brushed across Davis' face. It seemed harmless enough, but Davis' vision began to blur while he trained for his next bout, against Eddie Van Kirk for the Maryland welterweight championship.
"It was like I had black hairs in front of my eyes," he said, "and it got worse instead of better."
Surgery corrected the problem in "about two weeks," Davis said. He also believes that it has brought about other, equally &L significant changes.
"The injury scared me at that point and time," said Davis, 25, whose comeback against Levon Rouse (20-11) of North Carolina in an eight-round junior middleweight bout will headline Round One Promotions' dinner-boxing show tomorrow night at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.
"I learned a great deal, like not taking stuff for granted and to listen to my coach more. A lot of times when I was fighting, I was winning, but it was the way I was winning. I was getting hit too much, taking too many punches. I'd get told about it and I'd be like, 'Yeah, whatever.' I was taking for granted things like keeping my hands up. But I learned my lesson.
"You're going to see a new Victor Davis, a more mature Victor Davis and a stronger Victor Davis."
Not that there was much wrong with the old one, at least not judging by his 24-7-2 record and former ranking. Davis tumbled from the IBF's top 10 after the injury and subsequent 18-month layoff, but those closest to him say the setback should prove temporary.
"Once the major organizations realize he's active again, he'll be right back in there," said Victor's father, Adrian, who works as his son's trainer and manager. "He's fought a lot of top fighters."
And fought them well.
Davis, who now resides in Prince George's County, but in the past has lived in Crofton and Pasadena, has defeated former contenders Robin Blake and Edwin Curet, and he battled Kevin Pompey to a draw.
Perhaps his shining moment came on April 1990 in Philadelphia, when he stopped Vincent Pettway, then ranked No. 6 by the IBF, in the ninth round. The slugfest was voted USA Cable's Fight of the Year. Ironically, it was Pettway who later replaced the injured Davis and defeated Van Kirk at the Baltimore Arena for the Maryland welterweight title.
Josh Hall, the matchmaker for Round One Promotions, agrees with Adrian Davis that it won't take Victor long to surface again in the rankings "because of his prior record, because of the names he has on his hit list."
"You're gonna see that Victor Davis can fight," Hall said. "He's a master of the left jab. When he comes to a small arena, people don't expect to see a ring-wise professional like him. But you'll see something good out of him. He's a classy fighter."
Word of his return already has gotten out, and it could have cost Hall dearly. Promoter Don King flew Adrian Davis to New York in late August to negotiate putting Victor on one of his two undercards this month in Las Vegas.
Accepting either offer, and the reported $15,000 to $25,000, would have meant pulling out of tomorrow's fight.
"I care more about the kid than the money," said Adrian Davis, who is in Las Vegas training super welterweight Simon Brown for a Sept. 26 championship fight against Terry Norris. "These promoters offer all kinds of money, but it wouldn't be right for Josh to put him on his card and sell all these tickets, and then Don King calls and I fly Victor off to Vegas.
"Also, he's not ready for that. He's been off too long. This just wasn't the right time. And the biggest thing of all was I gave Josh my word."
Now, he hopes that Levon Rouse doesn't give his son any problems in the ring.
"The guy is a brawler," Victor said of Rouse. "He keeps coming in, lunging with his punches. I'll be looking to out-point him. I'm not looking for a knockout, but I don't want to look bad, neither."
"He's going to give Victor a good fight," Hall said. "People say, 'I never heard of him,' but these guys come out of the woodwork and the next thing you know, you find out they can fight."
Rouse soon will discover that he's fighting a different Victor Davis.
"I'm a lot more serious about the boxing game," Davis said. "It ain't no joke. I'm getting older, I'm going up in weight. I've got to pay more attention and work hard on everything now, like my defense, making sure I'm protected. I can't do this forever, you know."