The balance of risk and reward often keeps young, undefeated and extremely popular fighters from stepping into the ring for big showdowns. Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Ryan Garcia decided the reward outweighed the risk and stepped into the ring to face each other inside T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. In the end, it was Davis who reaped the rewards, scoring a body shot knockout in the seventh round to secure his place as arguably “the face of boxing.”
It was a tense contest, with both men having moments, but the biggest belonged to Davis, who also scored a big knockdown on a left hand in the second round.
After years of trash talk and calling for the fight to happen — and forcing their respective promoters and networks to get a deal done — one man was always going to walk out a bigger star and the other would be forced to take a step back, regroup and get their career back on track.
Let’s take a look at the takeaways for both men coming off this massive showdown.
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Gervonta “Tank” Davis
What we learned: Coming into the fight, Garcia’s speed, left hook and body work were seen as three of his biggest assets. Davis matched Garcia’s speed to the point where he was taunting Garcia mid-fight by repeatedly saying, “You’re slow.” He also almost entirely erased Garcia’s left hook from the fight. In the second round, Garcia showed a lot of aggression but Davis ducked under a wild left hook and immediately prepped himself for another, that time blasting Garcia to the chin for a knockdown. Garcia mostly abandoned the left hook from that point forward. And, of course, it was Davis who made the body shots matter more. Garcia did land several left hands to the body, but Davis remained committed to the body as well and eventually, his own left landed to Garcia’s ribs, causing Garcia to take a knee on a delayed reaction and end the fight.
That all speaks to the talent Davis has as a fighter. Yes, he sits alongside Deontay Wilder as boxing’s elite of the elite in pound-for-pound power. Davis is not a high-volume puncher because he’s not trying to wear his opponent down, he just wants to find the spot to apply his power with pinpoint accuracy. However, beyond that power, he has a pure boxing mind that allows him to make reads and in-fight adjustments as well as nearly anyone in the sport. Davis knew what Garcia brought to the table, experienced it in the ring and ultimately neutralized every one of Garcia’s best paths to victory.
What we truly learned about Davis is that the things we already knew were true. He’s a tremendously talented and dangerous fighter who understands the sport at a level that adds extra dimensions to his game.
What’s next: There’s one area where everything is not sunshine and roses for Davis and it’s right in his immediate future. On May 5, Davis is scheduled to appear in court after pleading guilty to a Nov. 5, 2020 hit and run that left a pregnant woman and three other victims. There was no agreement in place on what Davis’ sentencing would be after he pleaded guilty. It’s unknown what — if any — jail time awaits Davis, nor how that time will affect his career.
Setting that aside, Davis sits in an odd space. He’s arguably the best lightweight in the world, but 135 pounds has an undisputed champion in Devin Haney. Haney is already set to defend his four world titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20. What happens from there is very much up in the air, but Top Rank has a lot of the power in what happens with those belts and Davis is not a Top Rank fighter. Davis does hold the secondary WBA lightweight title, however, which does give him some power should he try to pursue that avenue.
Davis has also fought at junior welterweight, beating Mario Barrios for the secondary WBA title at that weight as well. Still, Davis forcing Garcia to agree to a 136-pound catchweight with rehydration clauses doesn’t speak to a clear desire to move up to 140 pounds full-time, which makes some sense as he stands just 5-foot-5.
Davis is the A-side in any fight going forward. It’s just where he wants to fight, what goals he wants to chase and how soon he is even able to fight again that are all up in the air.
What we learned: Garcia got dropped for the second time in his career, again getting caught flush by a brutal left hook. Just as happened against Luke Campbell, Garcia was on his feet basically before the referee had even started the count. There are guys who have bad chins and guys who get knocked down but recover quickly. Garcia’s chin seems fine. He’s not getting finished by clean shots, but his defensive liabilities may just be so instinctual that he will never be able to overcome them. Garcia simply leaves his chin too unprotected at times and he pays for it in big ways. Still, it feels fair to say he has a good chin if he can get blasted by Davis’ power and quickly be on his feet and on steady legs.
Garcia also showed some key adjustments during the fight. Trainer Joe Goosen told Garcia to work his right hand after the first round and that punch became Garcia’s best shot for the rest of the fight despite the right rarely being mentioned as one of his best assets. It’s good to see a fighter be able to adjust on the fly, even in a losing effort.
We also learned that Garcia is not a finished product — or if he is, it is a big issue. At just 24 years old, Garcia is still a pup in the boxing game. He has plenty of room to grow both in his skills and physically. There aren’t many fighters who can pose problems like Davis, and Garcia still has a ton of upside should he continue to fight rather than suddenly retiring into life as a social media influencer.
What’s next: Garcia has to be ready to weather criticism in the immediate. Fighters and fans alike are already claiming he “gave up” and “could have gone on” after taking a knee from Davis’ left to the body. Body shot knockouts aren’t a rarity, but they can be hard to understand. It seems like a fighter is quitting when his body won’t cooperate and many times “just getting up” means a more brutal end is on its way. Garcia’s first obstacle from here is dealing with the criticism while also mentally accepting that he’s no longer an undefeated fighter. Can he deal with being forced to accept that he’s as human as the men he has collapsed with his own body shots?
Garcia has also clearly outgrown lightweight. He had already started to move to 140 pounds and even seemed uncomfortable with making that cut. Getting down below 140 again seems like a bad idea. He’s young and growing and draining his body is not a good plan for his future.
Luckily, once Garcia takes a “get-right fight” or two, there are plenty of enticing options at junior welterweight, including other big names like Teofimo Lopez and Josh Taylor — two fighters already set for a showdown on June 10. The winner or loser of that fight would be a big attraction, as would be fights with Regis Prograis, Jack Catterall, Jose Ramirez, Gary Antuanne Russell and others. Lightweight is the past, now it’s time for Garcia to settle in to a new weight class and bring out the best version of himself.