LAS VEGAS — It was initially unclear what happened during the seventh round at the T-Mobile Arena. Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia collided in the middle of the ring in one of the biggest fights in years and suddenly Garcia grimaced and dropped to one knee. Now it was obvious.
With a sneaky left hook to the body, Davis went undefeated and showed why he is one of boxing’s most transcendent boxers.
It was a fight that lived up to the hype in two ways. Months of chatter about two of the sport’s biggest names – conversations that culminated in some testy exchanges during fight week between the two men – manifested in a fight in which both fighters landed big shots and Garcia was knocked down twice. Even after the first knockdown, it didn’t seem like there was a foregone conclusion. The fans were on their feet, investing in every shot.
But more importantly for Davis, whose skills have been lauded for years, he is now more than just one of boxing’s best. In front of a celebrity audience, Davis had the show that could make him the transcendent crossover star that the sport badly needs.
When asked in Showtime’s Jim Gray postfight interview if he was the face of boxing, Davis had a simple answer.
“Abso-f—ing-lutely,” Davis said with a diamond-studded grin.
Ever since Davis appeared on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in 2017, the wheels have been turning for Davis to take Mayweather’s place at the top of the sport.
Garcia, meanwhile, re-imagined what it was like to build a modern-day star by amassing a huge following on social media before he had the ring credentials to match.
The crowd that could have leaned for Garcia at Friday’s weigh-in was nowhere to be found Saturday night. As Davis clipped Garcia with a counter left hook that sent him to the canvas, the crowd roared almost like massive white noise in decibels as Garcia struggled to get to his feet.
The crowd erupted again as Davis danced in the ring and climbed the ropes to celebrate his coronation. The fact that so many stars from different sports came out to see the event live speaks to the appeal Davis and Garcia both have.
The performance in the T-Mobile Arena could be clearly felt before the two fighters emerged from the tunnel to massive applause. NFL stars like Travis Kelce of Kansas City, Maxx Crosby of the Los Angeles Raiders and Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys chatted while fans flocked to boxing legends Manny Pacquiao and Sugar Ray Leonard. There were athletes from every sport, movie stars, musicians and other A-listers.
Parsons told ESPN the atmosphere was “amazing.” And that was before rapper Chief Keef came out and Davis performed “Love Sosa,” his massive 2012 hit.
Mayweather, standing a few yards to the left of Davis’ corner, shouted instructions to Davis mid-fight. Just before Davis finished the show, McGregor slipped out of the tunnel in an orange suit and weaved behind the line of fans before taking a seat. After the fight, he descended the tunnel again, triumphantly holding a bottle of whiskey in his left hand before disappearing under the stands.
Moments like this have always been reserved for boxing’s biggest events, featuring the sport’s top stars. Davis made it clear that he fits into that category.
Davis, now 29-0 with 27 knockouts, has made strong arguments as boxing’s biggest box office attraction, along with the likes of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, both mainstays on ESPN’s pound-for- pound box list. But like Davis, the only person who seems able to temper his star power is himself.
In 2017 he was stripped of the IBF junior lightweight title for lack of weight. Outside the ring, he faced several criminal cases. In February, he pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run count in February 2020, to which he will be sentenced on May 5. There is also a battery case in Florida that is currently pending. Davis has pleaded not guilty, according to Broward County court records.
Being boxing’s biggest star comes with many of the benefits that Tank has already tasted. To fight the fight, Garcia had to accept some key contract terms that were against his favor – a catch weight of 136 pounds after already being promoted to junior lightweight, a 10-pound rehydration clause after a late Friday afternoon weigh-in and a lower percentage of the total allocation.
There is no doubt that Davis is the “A” side in every duel at this point and his opponents could be other standouts like Shakur Stevenson or the winner of Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko. And regardless of in-ring credentials, Davis increasingly hardened in his case to command the bulk of the money following his victory over Garcia.
In a fight where the victor had so much to gain, Davis reaped the greatest reward that could pay off for years to come.