Like so many of his admirers who have been graced with a private moment in his presence, Ryan Garcia knelt down and let it happen. He stayed there until it was over, and the man in front of him was satisfied.
The satisfaction of the evening belonged to Gervonta Davis, who vowed to knock out Garcia in Saturday’s middleweight bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Technically, Davis did just that with a left hook to the body that kept Garcia on his knee for just ten seconds. While it wasn’t the brutal ending both men were implying in their promotional banter, it was consistent with a fight that saw around seventy-five punches landed over seven rounds – a one-sided affair with mostly lukewarm action that led to a quiet surrender.
It will certainly be an unpopular opinion among Davis supporters, including Garcia’s apologists: or, for their own reasons, those who want to deny Davis his glory. Those same people are likely to focus on the success of the event itself, which is understandable: how many fights a year are as highly anticipated as the Davis-Garcia weigh-in? The atmosphere outside the T-Mobile Arena on Friday was like a music festival – Hot 97 Summer Jam meets Corona Capital Guadalajara – the crowd was heaving and loving the wave. All this for the players whose best victories 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 age of influencers. Those looking for something other than the mere entertainment generated by two men sincerely manifesting the destruction of the other found it – in build-up, follow-up, winner and loser. And how many of these people care about any opinion of action that is inconsistent with their own?
If Davis has failed to generate violence commensurate with his pre-fight hostility, he may be looking to himself for the cause. Such is the gulf between him and Garcia that is difficult to bridge that makes it too much of a burden for the victim to administer the punishment “Tank” demanded.
This gulf has revealed itself both in inaction and in combat action. As for idleness, look at the first round where Garcia controlled the center of the ring, steering Davis along the ropes with his jab. What appeared to be Garcia’s round, a harbinger of future struggles for the shorter Davis – who offered no response other than a few brief, exploratory movements of the body – was only the first step to Garcia’s undoing. By the end of the round, Davis had stopped moving exclusively to the left, away from Garcia’s left hook, the only elite weapon in the Kingra’s arsenal. It was a sign that Davis had learned what he needed. While Coach Calvin Ford chatted with him between rounds, Davis sat silent, a man not so much seeking ideas as striving to the end of his reasoning.
On the other side of the ring, trainer Joe Goosen encouraged Garcia to stay true to his initial tactics. Garcia ignored this advice in the second, claiming he did it to liven up the fight. This justification smacks of false generosity; invoking personal sacrifice for the benefit of the masses is a kind of refuge for palliative losers. Equally likely, from a perspective appropriate to his inexperience, Garcia believed his first-round success warranted increased aggression.
An emboldened Garcia, 23-1 (19), went on the attack in the second inning, landing a series of left hooks, just as Leo Santa Cruz made three lead crosses when he fought Davis. And as with Santa Cruz, whose chin atomized, Davis timed Garcia’s third lead hook and dropped it with one of his. Garcia recovered quickly, but correctly interpreted this trip to the canvas as evidence that he had been analyzed.
A series of mostly calm rounds followed, with Davis closing the gap under Garcia’s punches before ripping him to the body. When Garcia dropped his hands in an attempt to force a score he wasn’t fighter enough for, Davis punished him. The last instance of this brutal counterpoint came in the seventh when Davis, 29-0 (27), caught Garcia in the body with a left hand near the end of a rally. Garcia stepped back, his first step causing a slight wobble that mirrored the trembling of his organs. There was a further retreat before Garcia knelt and the self-proclaimed king bowed to his superior.
Did Garcia resign, quickly assessing his prospects before showing most of his fortitude? Was he enchanted by the black magic of the body shot? Is your answer based on the result you were hoping for? If Davis is on his way to greatness, Garcia could do nothing but grimace as the seconds ticked by. And if that meant the end of the deception, Garcia’s deception revealed the truth. Either way, it was a soft defeat for Garcia, who took almost no damage despite two knockdowns. He’ll be back for the big fight whenever he wants to. The people who love it the most will never read it. However, they will lustfully appear for his next fight and the next, regardless of the outcome.
And yet it remains true: Garcia-Davis happened because both fighters wanted it. Garcia wasn’t ready for Davis, and maybe he never was, but he wanted to find out. Garcia didn’t dare to be grand: that phrase is all too often a flattering defense against miscalculations in matchmaking – but fortunately he had the courage not to waste our time.
Davis, whose inter-division playfulness has grown old, now has the scalp the public asked him to collect. There are still two or three left – in Las Vegas, Newark and Oxnard (via Ukraine). His answer to the question of whether he is the face of boxing – “Abso-fucking-lutely” – is correct (even if untrue for now). However, it’s time for Davis to fight fights that will remove that qualifier in parentheses from the previous sentence.