Gervonta “Tank” Davis won the fight to be the “new face of boxing” when he destructively and clinically stopped Ryan Garcia in seven rounds.
He had long been recognised as having the potential to become one of the world’s leading fighters but until the date, in Las Vegas, with Garcia was announced he hadn’t had the fight he needed to prove it.
Garcia was similarly admired ahead of their fight at the T-Mobile Arena – and to the extent it became inevitable that the winner’s career would be truly transformed. Yet even as the naturally bigger fighter he was challenged as much by Davis’ intelligence as his power, and after a knockdown in the second round, after 1.44 of the seventh he was stopped by a left hook to the body.
The 24-year-old Garcia had made an encouraging start, when his height, range and speed largely kept Davis on the back foot, making him hesitant to throw and forcing him to fall short with a left hand.
That Davis responded as he did in the second demonstrated not only his maturity, but his conviction. There were no signs of discouragement when Garcia, confident after the opening round and the range at which they were fighting, occasionally landed.
Davis instead focused on reading his opponent, and was rewarded for doing so when he punished Garcia’s aggression by countering with the powerful left hook that first sent Garcia to the canvas.
Though Garcia returned to his feet the knockdown had been heavy enough to transform what was unfolding. If he had recovered his balance his conviction simply never returned, and Davis, like a predator detecting weakness in its prey, remained patient instead of attempting to force the stoppage and slowly but surely capitalised.
When in the third Davis missed with a straight left he was given a further reminder, if he had needed it, of the value of taking his time. When Garcia swung and missed with a left hook it instead appeared a sign of desperation.
Garcia had become hesitant, had stopped throwing punches with the same purpose, and was being stalked by an opponent no longer on the back foot. As early as then it became clear that if he was to find a way to win then it would be because he was a special as his trainer Joe Goossen has repeatedly claimed.
Relishing the fact that he was perfecting his sense of timing and distance, Davis, 28, proceeded to land two further strong left hands. Heading into their fight the concerns surrounding Garcia largely centred on the fact he had long had a questionable defence, and it became increasingly clear that he remained vulnerable.
Where Davis showed disdain for Garcia, Garcia, in turn, showed too much respect. In the fifth round he swung with another left hand that missed, and after doing so he turned his back and in turn took two further punches to the body.
He regardless was given cause for encouragement in the sixth, when he landed a second right hand having just hurt Davis with the first. Davis responded by attempting to trade with him, aware that doing so suited him more than it did Garcia – as had already been apparent in the second – and when Davis then swung and missed with a left it provided a reminder of the extent to which Garcia was walking a tightrope.
It was still in the sixth when Davis worked his way inside and targeted the body, and it was then doing so in the seventh that so dramatically ended the fight.
When he again found Garcia in front of him Davis threw a left hook to the body and, after retreating somewhat and following a delayed reaction, Garcia moved to his corner, took a knee, and was counted out.
If it was tempting to wonder if he could have again returned to his feet – and certainly whether he would have done so had he not by then been made aware of how difficult it would be to win – it was also tempting to wonder how much he had been weakened by making the catchweight of 136lbs and not being able to rehydrate beyond 146lbs before Saturday morning.
Even before the stoppage Davis had looked the considerably more complete fighter. Garcia, by comparison, had looked both flash and flawed.