During a contentious news conference Thursday, Gervonta “Tank” Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) threatened to break Ryan Garcia’s jaw. Turns out that was a misdirection. In the seventh round, Davis glanced a left hook off the side of Garcia’s abdomen that stunned his opponent, giving Davis the 27th knockout of his fledgling career.
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Leading up to the fight, Garcia’s 4.5 inch height difference and longer reach were touted as his strengths. Ultimately, Davis flipped that into his advantage. While Garcia repeatedly attempted to take Davis’ head off, he left his body exposed against an opponent with a lower center of gravity. Garcia walked out to a youth pastor soundtrack and ultimately Tebowed in the ring after Davis connected on a body shot that left him gasping for air. It wasn’t quite Dillon Brooks leaving LeBron sprawled out with a nut tap, but at least this one was legal.
A less-than-dramatic knockout
As far as the spectacle of Davis knockouts go, Garcia wincing, retreating and then kneeling for a 10-count by ref Thomas Taylor doesn’t even rank in Davis’ top-20 knockouts. In previous fights, Davis’ knockout blows have been concussive head shots that have left his opponents hugging the mat. Davis did connect a hook straight to Garcia’s dome in the second round that briefly put him on the canvas, but it was still an unusual ending.
Davis hits like a train and, on Saturday night, Garcia discovered the full brunt of standing on the tracks. Garcia’s been derided as a”boxing influencer” due to his enormous social media following. His knockout percentage and undefeated record entering his highly anticipated pay-per-view against Davis said otherwise. However, Davis punched through Garcia as if he were an amateur of Jake Paul’s ilk.
The path to superfights are typically paved with hot coals. A year ago, I didn’t think this fight would be expedited into a reality so quickly. Fighters of Davis and Garcia’s pedigree don’t thrust themselves into the oven against an undefeated rival at this juncture in their careers anymore. Davis is a spry 28. Garcia is 24. You could feel the youthful energy emanating off these two. Even their pre-fight trash talk felt like a scene out of Netflix’s Cobra Kai.
In today’s fractured boxing world, young fighters circle one another for nearly a decade until they tire out or need one big payday. Terence Crawford, 35, is boxing’s reigning pound-for-pound champion, but even he’s taken years to schedule a superfight with Errol Spence Jr., 32 and it’s still not a done deal. The fact that Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions-DAZN and Premier Boxing Champions-Showtime were able to bring Garcia-Davis to fruition so quickly is a miracle the Vatican should investigate.
Where does Garcia go from here?
Garcia is still searching for a statement win to elevate his profile. More importantly, Garcia’s loss to Davis ends his stint at the 135-pound level. One of the reasons preparations for this fight were expected to die on the vine is because Garcia claimed he’d fight Davis next, but vowed, “I’m never going back down to 135,” after knocking out Javier Fortuna last July.
Garcia has prevailed in his last two fights at the 140-pound limit, but showing up below 135 pounds for Friday’s weigh-in and then weighing again on Saturday due to a rehydration clause requested by Davis required an additional level of discipline.
Meanwhile, the angle of Davis’ career trajectory is about to make another sharp uphill climb. Davis’ placement in boxing’s top-10 pound-for-pound rankings is now in play. He’s also reaching marquee name-brand status as a close-quarters fighter with a heat-seeking pugilist’s spirit. Davis’ 93 percent knockout rate makes him a better bet to drop his opponents than a teenaged Iron Mike was in his first 30 fights.
What’s next for Davis?
It’s been a slow buildup for Davis, but he’s coming for the top dog status in the lightweight division. Davis’ tomato can era is over. Fans aren’t going to pay to shell out any ire to watch him pulverize has-beens and no-names.
The next undefeated opponent boxing aficionados will be clamoring for Davis to square up against will be phenom Shakur Stevenson. But I anticipate that fight won’t be happening anytime soon. For one, Stevenson hasn’t even gotten his feet wet at the 135-pound limit. At the beginning of April, Stevenson, a former featherweight champion and bantamweight Olympic silver medalist at 18, dropped Shuichiro Yoshino in his lightweight debut. Moving right into Davis’ path would be a bold move unseen in the modern age of boxing politics. On the other hand, I just admitted I’ve been wrong before when it comes to Davis’ ambition.
Stevenson is a more technically sound defensive fighter bred in the same mold as Floyd Mayweather. The clash of styles alone makes them a draw, but Stevenson carries clout as a knockout artist as well. Davis’ ring IQ and power make him an ideal dance partner. One of these two will rule the lightweight division. Expecting lightning to strike twice is a tall order, but now that Davis has been through the fire, Stevenson should join him.
Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex
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