By Paul Magno | April 17, 2023

There will be lots of Xs and Os analyses of this coming Saturday’s Gervonta “Tank” Davis vs. Ryan “King Ry” Garcia clash at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. I’ll have mine posted over at the Premier Boxing Champions website some time this week. 

But there’s a lot to unpack in this bout and a lot to suggest that intangibles (like character, mental toughness, focus, maturity, etc.) may play a bigger role in the outcome of this bout than is usually the case in big ticket matchups at this level. Hell, I was proclaiming from day one that this bout wouldn’t even make its April 22 date BECAUSE of the mercurial nature of both fighters (there’s still several days until fight night, by the way).

So, I’m about to piss off a lot of people (surprise, surprise) by going deep into the psyche of both fighters and pointing out some red flag personality quirks that may stand in the way of victory this Saturday.

In this column, we’ll be talking about Ryan Garcia. The Gervonta Davis discussion will be had during the week, also here at Fight Hype. 

When I first saw a teenage Ryan Garca, I said “this kid will be a star.” When he started coming along in his career, I repeated myself, “this kid will be a star.” Other boxing people would refute my assertion by pointing out Garcia’s many technical/tactical flaws-- and they all had a point. He WAS a technical/tactical mess in many areas. But this young man had a beyond-potent left hand that was almost superhuman-quick and the physical attributes to suggest that he could be molded into an Oscar De La Hoya-like multi-tool fighter. Plus, he was really young and definitely had time on his side. 

Well, Garcia is still young at 24. But the scouting report on him is the same as it was when he was 20. Talented. Blue chip athlete. Rocket left hand. The only thing that’s changed is that he’s now fighting Gervonta Davis and not Braulio Rodriguez.

There is a certain plasticness or phoniness about the way he’s been sold these last couple of years and the way he’s being hyped in the lead-in to this Davis fight. It’s almost as if he were a boxing superstar as designed by AI. Everything seems real if you don’t think too much, but there's something off. This plasticness (and maybe that’s not the 100% correct word for what I see, neither is “phoniness”) is not to suggest that he doesn’t have real talent and a weapon in the left hook that is among the very best standalone weapons in the sport (and, honestly, a right hand that is not too far behind). There’s just something there-- behind the eyes, beyond the seemingly rehearsed bravado, the facility with words-- that whispers “no.” 

Some might say that toughness is an issue with him, that he hasn’t suffered for his art in the traditional boxing sense. He’s a good kid from a good upbringing with good looks, lots of support, and a bounty of natural gifts. He hasn’t been battle-hardened by a hard-knock life or the kind of trauma that typically turns young men into hunters/killers/warriors. 

I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, even if the contrast to Gervonta Davis’ rough life in the foster care system, growing up on the streets of Baltimore, screams that these two fighters should be worlds apart in the area of real life toughness. Sometimes, well-honed talent is enough. Sometimes, motivation can come from somewhere other than a youth in distress. 

No, there’s something else there, some other thing that gives off the vibe that Garcia may be more show than go. 

I get that feeling almost every time I see him on camera doing anything. He has the look of a kid giving an oral book report, who hasn’t actually read the book and who keeps looking around at everyone to see if they've caught on yet that he has no fucking idea what he's talking about. 

At a very real level, Garcia does know what the fuck he’s talking about. He’s had over 200 amateur fights, won multiple amateur titles, and he’s undefeated in 23 pro fights. But that “have they caught on yet” energy is still there. I don’t feel that he believes much of what he should believe in himself. 

Sometimes, it looks as though he catches himself midway through his spiel, quietly says to himself “oh shit,” and then pushes through to finish. 

What I sense is not weakness or lack of toughness, it’s insecurity. It makes one doubt whether he can pull it all together when really, truly in a bad place and whether he can keep it together when things aren’t going too well. 

Given where the kid is at developmentally, it’s worth wondering whether insecurity, which could manifest itself as wavering focus and out-of-kilter ego at times, has affected his growth as a fighter. At some point you have to ask why, with so much experience and guidance under the eyes of smart trainers like Eddy Reynoso and Joe Goossen, DOES he still have so many very obvious technical flaws (Chin up, pulls straight back, poor footwork, etc.). It makes one wonder whether Garcia’s heart, soul, mind, whatever makes him untrainable to a degree or if he’s simply not mature enough, right now, to become the fighter he should be.

Yeah, his physical assets make it so that he can skate by and succeed with so many flaws. But any trainer worth his spit bucket should’ve ironed out those amateurish wrinkles long ago. Garcia’s had a couple of really good trainers and the wrinkles are still there. That could speak to the fact that Garcia is not 100% “there,” even when physically there-- something which Team Reynoso/Team Canelo alluded to when ties were severed with Garcia awhile back.

This Saturday, “King Ry” needs to be that technically/tactically impeccable fighter he should’ve been BEFORE asking for a fight this dangerous. Sure, he has a chance of doing everything wrong and still clipping his opponent-- as he’s done for all of his career thus far-- but that chance is almost like winning-the-lottery slim against a fighter like Davis. 

This is the big show for Ryan Garcia and, in terms of the complex nature of his opposition, he’s going from grade school to fourth-year university. 

After Saturday, he’ll either come off as the ballsiest fighter with dreams of greatness or as a pretender with delusions of grandeur. We shall see. 

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