By Paul Magno | April 24, 2023

Listen, there was ZERO reason to pick “King” Ryan Garcia over Gervonta “Tank” Davis, other than wishful thinking and the hope of a shot out of the blue. 

The difference in skill level and ring maturity was clearly evident Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as Davis dropped Garcia twice en route to a seventh round KO. The keys to victory for Davis really were as simple as “Avoid the left hand...Wait for Garcia to run into something.”

With the exception of a few brief skirmishes where he seemed more surprised than hurt or bothered, the 28-year-old Davis owned the tempo and the pace of the fight and pretty much had his way. The grin on his face when he figured Garcia out, very early into the contest, told the tale of a fight that was never really in doubt. 

A counter left hand in the second round dropped Garcia hard and, from that point forward, Garcia’s blister and bluster (and confidence) seemed gone. His push forward on Davis ended with that big shot. The 24-year-old became more cautious, as if suddenly becoming aware of the fact that he didn’t have the skill or wherewithal to keep himself from getting countered like that again. 

With that force-feeding of self-awareness, Ryan Garcia’s only real chance of winning-- a lightning bolt shot in a wild exchange that catches Davis by surprise-- was gone. He wasn’t letting his hands go like he did in the first half of the second round, the only minimal stretch of time where he looked like he might have a chance at scoring the upset. 

A big body shot from Davis midway through the seventh round would force Garcia to take a knee. He was unable/unwilling to beat the ref’s count. Fight over.

Kudos to Gervonta Davis for being who he is-- a really, really good fighter and someone well-deserving of the respect he receives from people who actually know their boxing. The man is an elite-level talent and needs to be recognized as such. 

But, really, what we saw on Saturday was a great fighter squaring off against a talented kid who is still not a finished product (and may never be).

Simply put, Garcia was just not ready for a fight like this against a fighter like Tank. He lacked the mental toughness, the discipline, and, most importantly, the maturity as a fighter to have a legitimate shot at victory. 

As I wrote in last week’s Notes from the Boxing Underground column:

“What I sense [in Ryan Garcia] 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.”

And I knew I was right on the money with that assessment when Garcia’s present tense trainer, Goossen, made the following statement in a recent interview:

"You don't necessarily train Ryan Garcia, you have to collaborate with him because he has his ideas and thoughts…"

So, yeah, it’s never a good thing when a young, developing fighter has somehow talked himself into the notion (or has been talked into the notion) that his flawed fundamentals are actually a ring “style.” Raw talent will take you far in boxing, but you can’t break into the elite class of the sport without the seasoning that can only be found in long, rough, not-at-all glamorous gym work. 

Garcia was a star in his own world well before fighting on any boxing main stage and it’s tough training a star to be a fighter. 

Davis, himself, recognized that he was simply operating at another level.

“I was, like, a level above him,” the now 29-0 Davis said in the post-fight press conference. “Everything he was doing in the ring, I was already aware of. Everything. I was aware a couple steps before he did it. I was mostly calm and just let him make his mistakes and I countered off his mistakes.”

To translate-- Davis is a well-trained, mature fighter; Garcia is not.

Golden Boy-- with Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins high up on their food chain-- is smart enough to see this. So, one can only surmise that allowing their guy to take this fight-- and be outmaneuvered in negotiations the whole way through-- was their way of cashing out on Ryan Garcia, a fighter they figure, based on a rocky past with the company, would not stay with them for the long haul, anyway. If he managed to shock the world by clipping Davis with something big, great. If not, they’d simply ride Ryan until he either leaves them or stops drawing. 

Garcia says that he will move up to 140, following the “I need to be fighting at a higher weight” pattern of most fighters humbled in big fights. Next will probably be the firing of his trainer and the acquisition of a new, high-profile trainer. That seems to be the standard boxing protocol for a star who takes an embarrassing “L.” 

But none of that will matter if Garcia doesn’t let himself be trained properly. At 140 or beyond he’ll still be that guy who’s talented enough to beat the bottom 99% of fighters, but who’ll flounder against the top 1%. 

By the way, it’s not lost on me that most of this big fight postmortem has been about the deficiencies of Ryan Garcia. That’s the story in this fight, IMO. Everyone should’ve already known that Gervonta Davis is the real deal and, honestly, everyone should’ve known what he’d do to Ryan Garcia.

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