Ryan Garcia vs. Gervonta Davis: T-Minus Ninety Days
By Rory Hickey: A fight between Gervonta Davis (28-0, 26 KO) and Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KO) has been simmering on social media for years, with the two exchanging insults and questioning the validity of the other’s resume. Their bout, which will take place at a catchweight of 136 pounds, is scheduled for April 15th, 2023. Three months in boxing can be a lifetime, especially given the legal issues Gervonta Davis has had and the acknowledged struggles with mental health Ryan Garcia has had.
With over nine million Instagram followers, 24-year-old Ryan Garcia does not look like boxing’s next superstar. He resembles an actor who happens to box, maybe Rocky Balboa’s distant nephew from California. Garcia has been promoted by Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions throughout his career, which has done nothing to diminish the comparisons between Garcia and de la Hoya. Since being in the public eye, Garcia has gotten labeled as an Instagram creation, a pretty boy, or worse. That line of criticism has become less relevant as Garcia has continued winning against better competition. He changed some opinions when he defeated Luke Campbell at the beginning of 2021. Garcia was knocked down for the first time as a professional in the second round but showed mettle in brushing that off and ultimately knocking out Campbell in round 7.
Following that victory over Campbell, Ryan Garcia took some time off because he was dealing with mental health issues. It was a commendable action from the young fighter, one which ten or even five years ago would have seemed out of the realm of possibility– a boxer stepping away from the sport because of mental health. Even in these generally more compassionate times, mental health and boxing seem to mix like oil and water to some. I cannot help but look at Adrien Broner, who once upon a time enjoyed the same young phenom status that Garcia and Davis currently have. With everything that has happened in recent years to Broner, who is just one prominent example, it is encouraging that fighters like Ryan Garcia have taken a more proactive approach toward their mental health.
Between taking time off to manage his health and well-being and a hand injury he suffered in training, Garcia had a fifteen-month layoff between defeating Campbell and his next fight, a unanimous decision victory over Emmanuel Tagoe, in April 2022. With everything Ryan Garcia has achieved, many fight fans are still not sold on him as a legitimate top fighter. A vocal group of detractors says that Garcia’s handlers have put his resume through a proverbial Instagram filter. The defining moment of Ryan Garcia’s career will come against Gervonta Davis.
Gervonta Davis, who was once Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s protege, has not lost a pro fight yet. Inside the boxing ring, Davis has had few issues in knocking out opponents and building a large fanbase. He has had only two of his fights go to the judges’ scorecards. Outside of the ring for “Tank” Davis has been another story. He has had multiple run-ins with the law, and staying out of trouble has proven to be an issue for Davis.
On February 16th, Davis will stand trial in Baltimore for an alleged hit-and-run incident in November 2020. Davis allegedly fled the scene of an accident that involved four people, including a pregnant woman. Davis faces fourteen charges stemming from the incident in Baltimore Circuit Court. That case is separate from the misdemeanor battery charge Davis faces after being arrested in South Florida on December 27th. Those charges came just weeks after the resolution of another recently discharged case in which Davis had faced misdemeanor charges from a February 2020 incident in Coral Gables, Florida.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. once said: “Whether you paid to see me win or you paid to see me lose, I’m the smart one at the end of the day because you paid to see me.” Whether he intended it or not, Gervonta Davis seems to be reproducing the Mayweather persona through his numerous legal issues. Davis has a very loyal fanbase- his fights have sold well in arenas ranging from Brooklyn to Baltimore to Atlanta. But Showtime received criticism for going forward with their recent PPV of Davis against Hector Luis Garcia after Davis was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery less than two weeks before the event.
Barring any further legal complications or incidents, Gervonta Davis will get featured in promotional material for the megafight as the bad boy to Ryan Garcia’s golden child. Garcia will probably reference Davis’ past incidents in a press conference. Maybe Davis will react in a way that causes a viral moment that can help sell more pay-per-views. Whether or not this should happen is debatable, but it is just part of the fight game.
Come April 15th, Ryan Garcia will have the same objective as every Gervonta Davis opponent- do not get caught by a big shot. Davis’ 93% knockout percentage shows how difficult that task is. Garcia has a bit of power himself, but it is hard to imagine a Garcia victory in which he does not play the role of the boxer to Davis’ puncher.
Garcia will enjoy a six-inch height advantage over the 5′ 5″ Gervonta Davis, so Garcia’s trainer Joe Goosen will likely try to get Garcia to employ a strong jab, utilize his length advantage, and keep away from Davis’ powerful shots. Ryan Garcia has the skill and quickness to avoid being tagged by one of Gervonta Davis’ heavy shots, but will Garcia be able to do it for twelve rounds in the defining moment of his career while avoiding the temptation to get into a slugfest with Davis? As Hall of Famer Tim Bradley has noted, Davis struggled when he faced Isaac Cruz, who was the same size, if not smaller, than Davis. Davis seems to fight better against bigger opponents, using his lower center of gravity to land punches effectively on his larger targets.
The 136-pound catchweight for the fight is interesting. Gervonta Davis has recently moved up in weight and fought three times at lightweight, where the weight limit is 135 pounds. At the weigh-ins before his last two bouts against Rollie Romero and Hector Luis Garcia, Davis tipped the scales at 133.75 pounds and 134 pounds. Ryan Garcia has begun to campaign above the 135-pound weight class, and before his last two bouts against Emmanuel Tagoe and Javier Fortuna, Garcia came in at 138.8 pounds and 140 pounds.
At 24 years old, Garcia should have little trouble getting back down below 136 pounds for the weigh-in. Davis has the latitude to come in a couple of pounds heavier than he usually does for this fight, but will he? Ryan Garcia will be bigger than anyone Gervonta Davis has ever faced professionally. With 26 knockouts in 28 fights, Davis has good reason to trust his power punches. What happens if Davis lands a punishing shot that has hurt or floored previous opponents, but Garcia takes that shot and keeps coming forward? Can Davis withstand a mid-fight crisis in confidence if his power punches are not inflicting their usual damage? Neither Davis nor Garcia has faced adversity inside the ring against an opponent as good as the other. Whether Garcia or Davis can impose their will early in the fight and then seeing how the other man responds is part of what makes the fight intriguing. Right now, I would probably lean toward picking Gervonta Davis to win by decision. I think he will knock Garcia down, but not out, and win by a score in the neighborhood of 116-111. I reserve the right to change my mind multiple times between now and fight night.
If everything goes according to plan, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis will step in the ring with each other ninety days from now. The fight between two young, undefeated fighters promises to be entertaining, full of bad blood, and has the potential to launch the winner into boxing superstardom. But to paraphrase Robert Burns, in life, and especially in boxing, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. For the sake of boxing, in three months, I hope the discussion revolves around a fight rather than another miss in matchmaking.
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