Like so many of his devotees, were they graced with a private moment in his presence, Ryan Garcia got on his knee and let it come. There he stayed until it was over, and the man across from him was satisfied.
Satisfaction on this night belonged to Gervonta Davis, who promised to knock Garcia out in their catchweight clash at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Saturday. Technically, Davis did just that with a left hook to the body that kept Garcia on his knee for barely ten seconds. Though not the brutal ending either man implied in his promotional banter, it was in keeping with a fight that saw roughly seventy-five punches landed in seven rounds—a one-sided affair with mostly lukewarm action begetting a quiet capitulation.
That is sure to be an unpopular opinion among Davis supporters, among Garcia apologists too: neither, for their own reasons, wanting to deny Davis his glory. These same people are likely to direct focus to the success of the event itself, and understandably so: how many fights a year are as anticipated as the Davis-Garcia weigh-in was? The atmosphere outside the T-Mobile Arena Friday resembled a music festival—Hot 97 Summer Jam meets Corona Capital Guadalajara—the crowd an undulating and adoring tide. All this for fighters whose best wins are Jose Pedraza and Luke Campbell respectively. It was a loud, important reminder of the power of performance (Davis), engagement (Garcia), and celebrity in the influencer age. Those who sought something other than the simple entertainment generated by two men earnestly manifesting the other’s destruction found it—in the build-up, the aftermath, the winner, the loser. And how many of those people care about any opinion of the action incongruent with their own?
If Davis failed to produce violence commensurate with his prefight animosity, he might look to himself for why. Such is the intractable abyss between him and Garcia, one that makes administering the kind of punishment “Tank” desired too great a demand on the victim.
That chasm revealed itself in both the inaction and action of the fight. For inaction, look to the first round, where Garcia controlled the center of the ring, directing Davis along the ropes with his jab. What appeared to be a Garcia round, a harbinger of future struggles for the shorter Davis—who offered little response beyond a few short, exploratory lefts to the body—was only the first step in Garcia’s undoing. Before the round ended, Davis stopped moving exclusively to his left, away from Garcia’s left hook, the only elite weapon in the “Kingry” arsenal. It was a sign that Davis had learned what he needed. As trainer Calvin Ford spoke to him between rounds, Davis sat silently, a man not searching for ideas so much as pursuing a line of reasoning to its end.
Across the ring, trainer Joe Goosen encouraged Garcia to remain committed to his early tactics. Garcia ignored this counsel in the second, claiming he did so to enliven the fight. This rationale smacks of fake munificence; citing personal sacrifice for the good of the masses is the kind of palliative losers take refuge behind. It is just as likely that, with a perspective befitting his inexperience, Garcia belived his success in the first round warranted increased aggression.
Emboldened, Garcia, 23-1 (19), went on the attack in round two, unleashing a series of lead left hooks, just as Leo Santa Cruz had launched three lead crosses when he fought Davis. And as he had against Santa Cruz, whose chin he atomized, Davis timed Garcia’s third lead hook and dropped him with one of his own. Garcia recovered quickly but rightly interpreted that trip to the canvas as proof he had been parsed.
A series of mostly uneventful rounds followed, with Davis closing the distance under Garcia’s punches before ripping him to the body. When Garcia let his hands go, trying to force an outcome he was not fighter enough to deliver, Davis punished him. The last instance of this violent counterpoint came in the seventh when Davis, 29-0 (27), caught Garcia with a left to the body at the end of an exchange. Garcia retreated, his first step producing a slight wobble that mirrored the jiggle in his organs. Further retreat followed before Garcia took a knee, a self-proclaimed king bowing before his better.
Did Garcia quit, quickly assessing his prospects before exercising the better part of valor? Was he spellbound by the black magic of the body shot? Is your answer here informed by the outcome you hoped for? If Davis is firmly on the road to greatness, Garcia could do nothing but grimace as the seconds ticked away. And if this marked the end of a fraud, Garcia’s deceit revealed the truth. Either way, this was a soft defeat for Garcia, who took hardly any damage despite two knockdowns. He will be back in a major fight as soon as he wants. The people who most adore him will never read this. They will, however, turn up lustfully for his next fight, and the next, regardless of the outcome.
And yet this much remains true: Garcia-Davis happened because both fighters wanted it. Garcia was not ready for Davis and might never be, but he was willing to find out. Garcia was not daring to be great: that phrase is too often a flattering defense for matchmaking miscalculation—he was thankfully, however, daring to not waste our time.
Davis, whose frolicking across divisions has grown old, now has a scalp the public asked him to collect. Two or three more remain—in Las Vegas, in Newark, and Oxnard (by way of Ukraine). His answer when asked if he is the face of boxing—”Abso-fucking-lutely”—is the right one (even if it is untrue for now). It is, however, abso-fucking-lutely time Davis make the fights that drop that parenthetical qualifier from the previous sentence.