It’s the sign of a truly big fight. It lingers. The dust takes longer to settle than it does for a rank-and-file bout. Gervonta Davis’ seven-round stoppage of Ryan Garcia is no exception. The hotly-anticipated match-up might be behind us, but the key issues stemming from it remain. ‘Tank’ vs ‘KingRy’ actually brought not one but two enduring boxing debates back to the fore.
The first is the idea of “quitting”. Some have been quick to accuse Garcia of taking the easy way out of the bout. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding on numerous levels. Firstly, Garcia had multiple opportunities to sit the rest of the bout out should he have wanted to. ‘Tank’ fired enough artillery at him that he could have reached for the exit plenty of times. The fact that Garcia gritted his teeth, spat his blood and kept going should be applauded.
It also demonstrates a surfeit of boxing knowledge. The sort of short, sneaky body shot that dethroned ‘King Ry’ is a boxing standard. Luminaries like Virgil Hill, Jose Luis Castillo and Oscar De La Hoya have been felled by such punches. Saying Garcia quit having taken one isn’t just disrespectful. It also marks you out as someone who could probably only name five boxers with one being KSI and another being Jake Paul.
The idea of quitting is nothing new, but everyone’s line is drawn in a different place. Something like Andrew Golota’s utter collapse and refusal to engage Mike Tyson in 2000 is quitting. Roberto Duran’s infamous ‘No Mas’ against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980 is quitting. Daniel Dubois was accused of quitting in 2020, when Joe Joyce’s mammoth glove caused severe damage to his eye socket. That isn’t quitting, that is realising that with part of your skull broken you probably aren’t going to win a boxing match. Equally, having the air and energy sapped from you by a body shot is not an example of quitting. Garcia would have carried on, if he could.
Much has been made in the aftermath of the rehydration clause in the contract for the fight. Some have cited it as another possible reason for Garcia’s defeat. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it has brought the matter of weight draining and rehydration to the fore once again.
Something felt amiss when this fight was made at a catchweight of 136lbs, rather than the 135lb lightweight limit. Considering Davis is a belt-holder at lightweight, you’d have thought he and Garcia would have fought for the title. But this complicated match-up was made a pound over, setting off alarm bells.
Garcia is naturally the bigger man out of the two, despite the fact Davis has held a title up at super lightweight. A clause was inserted into the contract that prevented the fighters from adding more than 10 pounds between the weigh-in and the ring walks. Make no mistake, this was primarily incorporated to stop the taller Garcia from bulking out too much for Davis’ liking.
But boxing and MMA are rife with fighters who boil down to an unconducive weight due to money-making incentives. Davis was the biggest fight out there for Garcia, so he risked getting down to 136lbs rather than pursuing alternative challenges up at super lightweight. Sure, it now looks like he will be heading to 140lbs, but he does so with a bumper payday in his pocket.
Of course if you swing too far the other way, you end up in situations where the fighters are two completely different sizes on fight night. You either endanger the naturally bigger man by making him boil down or you put the smaller man at risk by letting his opponent bulk up to whatever he wants. Weight classes exist for a reason and there’s more of them than ever before. There is really no excuse for fighters to put their long-term wellbeing on the line in mismatches.
While a big fight will always stir emotions and discussion, it is important to remember the reason we’re all actually here. Davis vs Garcia was a great match-up of two fighters close to their prime years. Each man came in with an unbeaten record they could have no doubt embellished by fighting C-level no-hopers. Instead, they put those zeroes on the line in a bout where someone was going to lose theirs. The weight issue was perhaps not ideal, but nobody quit. It was, quite simply, a good fight delivered at the right time. If only we could say that more often these days.