Mike CoppingerESPN5 minute read
LAS VEGAS — Ryan Garcia took a jab, then fell to one knee, the delayed effect of a stinging liver shot, a perfectly placed left hand from Gervonta “Tank” Davis that floored his opponent for the second time in their superfight on Saturday.
This time, Garcia did not beat the count.
Referee Thomas Taylor reached the 10 count at 1 minute, 44 seconds into Round 7, with Garcia still on one knee struggling to catch his breath. Davis’ victory came before 20,842 at the sold-out T-Mobile Arena, a disappointing but conclusive end to boxing’s most anticipated matchup in years.
With that single left hand, Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) cemented himself as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, if not one of the sport’s biggest stars in a 136-pound bout that was preceded by months. of trash talk and hype.
“I thought he was going to get up,” Davis said, “but I like to play mind games, so when he looked at me, I looked at him trying to tell him, ‘Get up,’ and then he just shook his head, ‘No.'”
Garcia (23-1, 19 KOs) was also floored in the second round, following a well-timed counter left hand that crashed in the face. As soon as his body hit the canvas, Garcia stood up as if to show that the blow didn’t hurt him. He showed no ill effects from the knockdown throughout the fight.
But body shots like the one Davis landed in the seventh are a different animal, even if they don’t produce the kind of brutality fans crave.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Garcia said. “I was going to get up, but I just couldn’t get up. … He just caught me with a good shot. I don’t want to make excuses here. … I just couldn’t recover… He caught me with a good body shot, snuck under me and caught me good.
The fight was mostly tactical with top all-around boxer Davis, who conceded 4.5 inches high, attempting to time Garcia. Davis, 28, baited Garcia with feints as he looked to open him up.
Punches were unleashed with blinding speed and punching power in a match that featured two of the sport’s most damaging finishers who also have some of the fastest hands. Despite their stardom, only Davis is a former champion, a title he won at 130 pounds in 2017 with a seventh-round TKO of Jose Pedraza.
Davis is currently campaigning at 135 pounds – and is ranked No. 3 by ESPN at lightweight – although he once fought at 140, an 11th round TKO of Mario Barrios in June 2021. Garcia has previously competed at 135 pounds, but his two previous fights have been contested at the 140-pound limit.
This led to a contractual demand from Davis’ side that both fighters weigh in a second time on the morning of the fight, where neither boxer could exceed 146 pounds for a match held at a catchweight of 136 pounds.
In the end, the set of scales did not seem to impact the result. Davis, as he pointed out before the fight, proved to possess a decisive advantage in ring IQ.
“The first knockdown was just that he didn’t know his placement, and I knew I was the smaller guy, and my coach (Calvin Ford) was telling me in camp that he was going to come with his head held high, so shoot just over the top,” said Davis, who patiently boxed afterward rather than attacking recklessly. “Once I got in there with him, I felt like the skills were second to none.”
Garcia, between his modeling looks and his 9.8 million Instagram followers, is often underestimated, but he’s proven himself once again. In his career-best victory over Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell, Garcia survived a knockdown, also in the second round, but bounced back to finish it with a left hand to the body in the seventh round.
Now Garcia will return to junior welterweight, where he will pursue his first world championship.
“I plan to fight the best fighters at 140 (pounds),” said Garcia, who suffered a 15-month layoff after the victory over Campbell while dealing with his mental health and recovering from a wrist surgery.
“I felt a little weak coming into the ring,” Garcia said. “I didn’t feel my legs under me. … But I can’t make excuses. I signed the contract, and that’s it.”
The contract contained a rematch clause, but only Davis possessed the ability to exercise his right to an immediate comeback if defeated.
“It’s what boxing needs,” Garcia said, referring to a rare clash between two stars in their primes. “That’s why I did everything I had to do to make the fight happen.”
Those efforts included the short end of the revenue split — both fighters were guaranteed to earn eight figures, sources told ESPN, from an event that was expected to generate a gate and pay-per-view bargain — as well as the concession on the weight and even the main promoter of the match.
Davis is aligned with PBC and wrestles exclusively on Showtime, which was the main network for the PPV. Garcia is with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and competes on DAZN.
As Garcia, who is fighting outside of Los Angeles, returns to the drawing board, Davis is set to rise to a new stratosphere on both the list of top boxing fighters and even the star hierarchy in all sports.
From the NFL to the NBA to music and movies, the biggest names had a ringside seat to soak it all up on Saturday night.
But Davis will also have to answer to his legal setbacks. He is expected to be sentenced on May 5 in his native Baltimore after pleading guilty to four counts related to a November 2020 hit-and-run that left four people injured, including a pregnant woman. The judge presiding over the case has already rejected a plea deal that would have saved Davis from jail time instead of house arrest.
On May 26 in Broward County, Florida, Davis has his next court date following a December incident in which he was charged with assault and battery. The woman, who is the mother of Davis’ daughter, filed an affidavit in January asking that the charges be dismissed after recanting. The alleged incident happened 11 days before Davis scored a ninth-round TKO against Hector Luis Garcia.