Davis-Garcia: The Week That Was

Tuesday, April 18

For all that there is already an unmistakeable buzz around the MGM Grand for Saturday’s fight, at the T-Mobile Arena, that buzz is at risk of being surpassed by the sense of satisfaction emanating from so many of those involved. 

Gervonta Davis’ characteristically late arrival – he was scheduled to arrive at the lobby of the MGM at 3.30pm; it took him until considerably after 4pm – had regardless contributed. With Showtime therefore having valuable airtime to fill, they took to interviewing, among others, Leonard Ellerbe, and even acknowledging the presence of the “legendary Kelly Swanson”, a both likeable and very competent public relations professional who, refreshingly, appeared to have little interest in the attention being sent her way.

Having spent five minutes selling Davis-Ryan Garcia as The Biggest Fight Ever, as though for dates involving Floyd Mayweather he’d not already repeatedly done the same, Ellerbe – dressed like he was auditioning for a role in Miami Vice, such were the sunglasses he was wearing indoors to complement a baby blue jacket and trousers and white shirt and shoes – then said, “When Ryan gets knocked out on Saturday night…”. 

When he did so he was interrupted by his interviewer excitedly responding, “You’re going there?”.  “When Tank knocks him out Saturday night,” Ellerbe continued, “it automatically elevates him – he’s going to become the face of boxing. Line these guys up, and he’s going to go and do what he’s going to do. This is just the first step of being the best.”

For all that Davis is the favourite for Saturday’s fight, ProBox TV was unaware his victory is a formality. That they were supposed to be so evenly-matched was, it had at least previously felt around the MGM, largely its appeal.

In the same way Ellerbe would routinely introduce Mayweather by starting, “a man that needs no introduction”, he then concluded, without looking or sounding in any way ecstatic yet no doubt with dollar signs behind his sunglasses, at the prospect of a Davis victory: “I’m just, ecstatic.”

Garcia, interestingly, showed hints of uncertainty for the occasion of his grand arrival. Wearing a tracksuit that proudly exposed his chest, and perhaps more relevantly a large golden crucifix, the way he was so ready to bounce on his toes, clasping his hands together and nodding his head as he spoke betrayed adrenaline, or nervous energy, or perhaps even both.

It regardless cannot be overlooked that he has previously spoken of battling anxiety. It also cannot be overlooked that he is a fighter, and therefore that there is little reason he should not feel as uncomfortable as anyone else if stood on a stage speaking in front of a large audience – nor instead feel considerably more at ease in the ring. 

When Davis later arrived in his shorts, hat and trainers he not only looked like he was dressed for a holiday, his relaxed demeanour meant that he could have convinced someone he had spent the previous week by the pool outside the MGM. There was nothing forced about his smile and the confidence with which he carried himself – there stood a fighter convinced he is days away from winning his biggest fight. 

If Garcia had hoped Davis was distracted or apprehensive about the fact that on May 5 he is being sentenced to four counts stemming from a hit-and-run in November 2020 he will almost certainly have been discouraged. Garcia, regardless, was flanked by someone capable of putting into perspective the significance of Saturday night.

AJ Latiner, a 12-year-old fan of Garcia who is undergoing chemotherapy to battle leukaemia, joined him on stage, was given a warm reception, and then asked for his thoughts about how Davis-Garcia will unfold.

“I mean this was crazy, though,” he responded with heartening enthusiasm, maturity and confidence. 

“This was like one of the biggest things I could ever do. I ain’t gonna say too much crazy stuff but I just hope Tank’s ready. [Garcia’s] coming.”

Wednesday, April 19

Perhaps true to form, Ryan Garcia attended the public workouts for the undercard fighters hosted at the MGM Grand, and Gervonta Davis, despite suggestions that he would, did not.

In many respects, in his absence – word was Davis was simply elsewhere in the MGM – he was in good company. The promising David Morrell Jr also did not attend because – as Davis is almost certain to do if he has not done so already – he supposedly had missed his flight.

While Garcia risked repeating much of what he said at Tuesday’s grand arrivals, in doing so he gave a potentially interesting insight into his frame of mind. By again speaking of his faith and in so doing reminding his audience of his sense of spirituality, it became tempting to conclude that much of his confidence in defeating Davis is tied, simply, to his confidence in his understanding of his faith. 

It was while Bektemir Melikuziev spoke, via an interpreter, to the crowd present about his rematch with Gabriel Rosado that Showtime officials prepared for the arrival of a previously unannounced guest. Showtime’s host Ray Flores concentrated on filling airtime until, to that crowd’s excitement, the photogenic Garcia swept down the stairs, followed by his obligatory entourage, and into the makeshift ring. 

While speaking with a sense of confidence, even more than a fighter he looked like a teen idol promoting his latest, and presumably ghastly, hit. He appeared both relaxed and comfortable until his sudden exit, having ensured he remains relevant – not that he needs to attempt to – as the biggest night of his life nears.

Perhaps fittingly, there are also frequent suggestions about the extent to which Saturday’s fight has crossed over into the celebrity community. None other than Mike Tyson has confirmed that he will be attending, and word is that Mark Wahlberg and Mario Lopez could be among those sat nearby. It has also been said that many of the musicians recently performing at Coachella in California are expected, as are numerous inactive NFL players – at a time when the contacts books of PBC’s Al Haymon, once so influential a promoter in music, and Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza, a veteran of the red carpet, can also be expected to be in use.

That Saturday’s fight is not competing with the NFL season, nor the NCAA’s March Madness – of college basketball – has no doubt contributed to its potential to attract a wider and higher-profile crowd. 

The perhaps inevitable conclusion is that much of that still owes to Floyd Mayweather. Even beyond being so destructive a fighter, and the fact that, perversely, the notoriety he has gained from a succession of unsavoury incidents outside of boxing has enhanced his profile and in many respects appeal, Davis’ long-term association with Mayweather is the biggest reason he has such a following. 

Years after he was last in a worthwhile fight, and despite having split with Davis in 2022, Mayweather, whose similarly questionable conduct outside of his career also did little to harm his popularity, continues to shape the very highest level of his sport.

Thursday, April 20

Looming over the top table at Thursday’s final press conference for Saturday’s fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia were posters promoting the exciting main event.

Whether intentional or otherwise, there is little question that they portray, in Garcia, the archetypal boy next-door and that the menacing Davis appears every inch the villain. 

Such is the disproportionate value invested from the most egotistical and insecure of cultures in being the so-called “A-side”, however, that anyone looking at said poster for the first time could easily be misled. 

To feature A-side’s Davis towards its left has meant the photo being reversed, and therefore one of the world’s leading southpaws being given the appearance of fighting with an orthodox stance. Towards the right similar applies to Garcia – a fighter portraying not only a southpaw stance, but, equally puzzlingly (surely there were other photos?) pictured with his eyes closed. Whether so little care was taken because he was only the “B-side” remains unclear.

For all that it is Davis being given the bigger billing, it became increasingly apparent as they spoke that those around him have developed a siege mentality not unlike that often seen around Floyd Mayweather. Both Leonard Ellerbe and Davis’ trainer Calvin Ford appeared to take offence to Oscar De La Hoya, in his role as Garcia’s promoter, suggesting that they were guilty of an error of judgement in demanding a catchweight of 136lbs. 

Sat to De La Hoya’s left, regardless, was Garcia looking drawn and licking his lips in an attempt to avoid enduring a dry mouth. His baby face has been transformed since Tuesday’s grand arrivals as he attempts to make the catchweight he has agreed to, and if it was already tempting to wonder how much he was struggling, his increasing irritability made that more tempting still.

When he and Davis faced off, on stage, at the press conference’s conclusion, it was Garcia who accused the more comfortable-looking Davis of appearing dehydrated. Garcia, once stood up, looked even less healthy once he was no longer behind a table, and potentially guilty of projecting on to Davis the struggle he is enduring.

All along his experienced trainer Joe Goossen consistently remained the most composed and quietly confident figure of all – even given Davis wore a hat that read “I Heart Sex”. If he listened to what was being said during the press conference he remained unaffected, and when his fighter was being interviewed after the same press conference he had so little interest in what was being said he instead scrolled through his phone. Incidentally Garcia, often promoted as a Mexican fighter in an attempt to attract a wider audience, needed the questions asked in Spanish to be translated before he would speak.

Friday, April 21

Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia both came in comfortably under the 136lbs catchweight limit for their fight, on Saturday night, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

It’s not unthinkable that the intense heat outside of the arena where they will meet in a fight that could define their careers may have contributed to them doing so, but it was noticeable that they had attracted a significant crowd.

For the fight at the same venue last year between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Dmitrii Bivol there was a considerably flatter atmosphere generated by the fewer in attendance, even though Alvarez is regarded as the world’s highest profile fighter, is Mexican, and was fighting in Vegas on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Among those present on Friday were none other than Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. Tyson, typically, was welcomed on stage by all, and with open arms. Bowe, 55, was content to be sat in front of the same stage among those not considered VIPs until someone sat alongside him encouraged him to move to join Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and more.

When he rose from his chair he couldn’t stand up straight, and he moved unconvincingly – and to the extent he was helped. Bowe and a friend wearing a “Baby Tyson” t-shirt moved to the front of those chairs and attempted to get the attention of “Iron Mike” and others. His apparent discomfort made it difficult to watch him waiting – particularly given that after five minutes he still hadn’t been seen. 

Bowe would have required a pass of sorts to sit where he was until then, so there is little reason he couldn’t have been given the same freedom as Tyson. The same friend appeared to lead him in the direction of an exit with the intention of trying to get to the stage entrance, but Bowe, after shuffling away, never reappeared. 

Garcia had looked drawn at Thursday’s final press conference, and while weighing in at 135.5lbs looked similarly dehydrated. After his weight was announced De La Hoya – whose career ended the night in 2008 he made the mistake of attempting to return to welterweight to fight Manny Pacquiao and therefore very aware of the importance of healthily making weight – looked beyond relieved.

If it was predictable that Davis, in many respects the classic bully, would do something to attempt to provoke Garcia – he shoved him when they faced off – it also came as little surprise that Hopkins was nearby when tempers frayed. A master of mind games while an active fighter, as Felix Trinidad and Jean Pascal, among others, can attest, Hopkins, of Garcia’s promoters GoldenBoy, would have had plenty of reason to attempt to get under Davis’ skin.

Saturday, April 22

Before documenting the following, if for no other reason than for the sake of balance, it seems only fair to acknowledge how tedious the undercard to the superb fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia often was. 

Perhaps so much so it tested the patience of many of those present – to the extent some had started to boo even before the first round of Gabriel Rosado’s fight with Bektemir Melikuziev had concluded (had they even had time to determine whether or not they were watching a fight boring enough to boo?).

No one on the press rows could be heard booing, but at one point what could be heard was one exasperated reporter saying to a female colleague: “Watch where you’re going! You have to be careful! You’re the second person who’s done that!” That colleague had just tripped over his unnecessarily long and untidy laptop cable, at the edge of a step that was tall even by the standards of a venue like the T-Mobile Arena, and nearly fallen to where she would at the very least have hurt – if not injured – herself. 

He then proceeded to watch her, in an act of politeness he didn’t deserve, tidy up the cable that was in the walkway and tuck it away to minimise the risk of someone else injuring themselves as she so nearly had. When she finished doing so the owner of the laptop also didn’t thank her, or ask whether she was okay. It seems likely that if he was more mobile he’d have tidied it away when he first plugged it in, or have a greater appreciation for the value of remaining injury-free. 

The same reporter was among the handful given the opportunity to ask, at the post-fight press conference, a question to “Tank” Davis. He didn’t, however, ask Davis anything along the lines of how he had managed to perform so impressively given he is to be sentenced on May 5 and is expected to spend the coming months in prison – nor how he felt about the prospect of doing so given the biggest fight of his career was out of the way. 

If it wasn’t his responsibility to do so, it was frustrating that broadcasters Showtime and promoters Premier Boxing Champions kept the questions to who they are hailing the “new face of boxing” to a minimum. Davis has become essential viewing; his answers to both questions would likely have enhanced his appeal.