LAS VEGAS — Ryan Garcia took a beat, then dropped to one knee, the delayed effect of a stinging liver shot, a perfectly placed left hand from Gervonta “Tank” Davis that floored his foe for the second occasion in their superfight on Saturday.
This time, Garcia didn’t beat the count.
Referee Thomas Taylor reached the count of 10 at 1 minute, 44 seconds of 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, an anticlimactic but conclusive finish 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 pound-for-pound best fighters, if not one of the sport’s singular biggest stars in a 136-pound catchweight 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 was looking at me, I was looking 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 Round 2, the result of a well-timed counter left hand that crashed flush into his face. Just as soon as his body hit the canvas, Garcia sprung up as if to show the shot didn’t hurt him. He didn’t show any ill effects from the knockdown throughout the bout.
But body shots like the one Davis landed in the seventh are a different animal, even if they don’t produce the sort of brutality fans lust for.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Garcia said. “I was going to get back up, but I just couldn’t get up. … He just caught me with a good shot. I don’t want to make no excuses in 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 the better all-around boxer Davis, who conceded 4.5 inches in height, attempting to time Garcia. Davis, 28, baited Garcia with feints as he looked to open him up.
The punches were unleashed with blinding velocity and thudding power in a matchup that featured two of the sport’s most damaging finishers who also have some of the quickest 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 currently campaigns at 135 pounds — and is ranked No. 3 by ESPN at lightweight — though he did fight once at 140, an 11th-round TKO of Mario Barrios in June 2021. Garcia formerly competed at 135 pounds, but his two previous fights were contested at the 140-pound limit.
That 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 matchup held at a 136-pound catchweight.
In the end, the game of scales didn’t seem to impact the outcome. Davis, as he pointed out before the fight, turned out to own a decisive edge in ring IQ.
“The first knockdown was just him not knowing his placement, and I knew that I was the smaller guy, and my coach [Calvin Ford] was telling me in camp that he’s going to come up with his head up, so just shoot over the top,” said Davis, who patiently boxed afterward rather than recklessly attack. “Once I got in there with him, I felt like skill-wise, it was unmatched.”
Garcia, between his model looks and 9.8 million Instagram followers, is often underestimated, but he once again proved his mettle. In his career-best victory over Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell, Garcia survived a knockdown, also in Round 2, but rebounded to finish him with a left hand to the body in Round 7.
Now, Garcia will return to junior welterweight, where he’ll chase his first world championship.
“I plan to fight the best fighters at 140 [pounds],” said Garcia, who endured a 15-month layoff following the win over Campbell as he addressed his mental health and recovered from wrist surgery.
“I felt a little weak going 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 that.”
The contract contained a rematch clause, but only Davis possessed the ability to exercise his right to an immediate return bout in the event he lost.
“This is what boxing needs,” Garcia said, referring to a rare matchup between two stars in their primes. “This is why I did whatever 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 windfall from the gate and pay-per-view — and also the concession on the weight and even the lead promoter of the matchup.
Davis is aligned with PBC and fights exclusively on Showtime, which was the lead network for the PPV. Garcia is with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and competes on DAZN.
While Garcia, who fights out of L.A., goes back to the drawing board, Davis should reach a new stratosphere on both boxing’s list of best fighters and even the hierarchy of stars across sports.
From the NFL to the NBA to music and movies, the top names were ringside to soak it all in Saturday night.
But Davis will also have to answer to his legal troubles. He’s set to be sentenced on May 5 in his native Baltimore after he pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with a November 2020 hit-and-run incident that left four people injured, including a pregnant woman. The judge presiding over the case already rejected a plea deal that would have avoided jail time for Davis in lieu of house arrest.
On May 26 in Broward County, Florida, Davis has his next court date following a December incident in which he was accused of battery. The woman, who is the mother of Davis’ daughter, filed an affidavit in January asking to have the charges dismissed after she recanted. The alleged incident was 11 days before Davis scored a ninth-round TKO over Hector Luis Garcia.