Social media boxer. Too weak. Too fragile. In it for the wrong reasons. Considering the fact he is just 24 years old, Ryan Garcia has taken more than his share of criticism. The California kid with the movie star looks has always been seen as a misfit in the hurt business. You’d think boxing’s boo boys would have learned their lessons from Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya. Being handsome and throwing hands aren’t mutually exclusive. In taking a fight with Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis this Saturday, ‘KingRy’ has already shown more guts than most give him credit for.
Boasting a fervent social media following and displaying a disarming openness about his mental health struggles, Garcia is as modern as they come. A true Gen Z fighter. But don’t mistake that for a soft centre. You don’t put yourself in the path of the ‘Tank’ if you lack mettle. In an era where too few of boxing’s elite are willing to put their neck on the line, both Garcia and Davis are risking reputations and unbeaten records in a fight for supremacy.
Some of the critiques of Garcia are fair. While his outside of the ring troubles kept him inactive after a star-making knockout of Luke Campbell in early 2021, his activity since returning hasn’t been strenuous. A decision over Emmanuel Tagoe was an acceptable warm-up after a year on the shelf. But former world super featherweight king Javier Fortuna lacked the size or skill to make a dent last July. Many quite rightly felt that summer showdown should have come in stronger company. Or at least the company of a full-blooded lightweight.
But nobody can cast aspersions over Garcia’s choice of opponent this time. Davis is 28-0 with 26 knockouts to his name. The southpaw from Baltimore, Maryland has accumulated five world title belts across three weights. At the age of 28, ‘Tank’ is right in his prime. Perhaps only unified lightweight champion Devin Haney would represent a tougher challenge around the 136lb catchweight that Garcia and Davis will meet at.
We’ve established how tough an assignment this is and what a brave thing Garcia has done for accepting it. But is it a fight he can win? The oddsmaker aren’t convinced, though there isn’t a massive amount in it. At time of writing the bookies have got Garcia as a 2/1 underdog while Davis is 2/5 to triumph.
These odds are largely what you’d expect when an established, multi-time world champion meets a fighter who is arguably leaving “hot prospect” territory for the first time. Factor in the fact that Garcia has been knocked down before, by Campbell, and you would see why he isn’t favoured to beat a fighter as powerful as ‘Tank’. But ‘The Flash’ is far from a passenger. There’s a reason this is shaping up to be one of the best of 2023.
Garcia is a slickster, using speed, precision and distance to nullify his opponent’s strengths. He has rarely been dragged into the deep waters, but on those occasions no fighter has managed to drown him in them. Incorrectly labelled a soft touch by some, Garcia is yet to meet a man who has truly tested him. Campbell knocked him down but was steamrollered from there. There is a steely resilience behind Garcia’s silky skills.
A victory over ‘Tank’ is one upon which you launch a career. One of the standout fighters of this era, whoever beats Davis will go straight into the upper echelons of the sport. There are no world titles on the line in this bout, a win for Garcia would do more for him than one of the many belts scattered across the sport. The best seeking out the best in order to improve their own stature in the sport is essentially what boxing was founded on. While pugilism is often cruel to the defeated, Garcia should be given immense credit for taking this bout whatever the outcome.
‘KingRy’ isn’t coming just to take part. He will hope this is the start of a period of dominance at the top of the sport. It is a level of promise he has long since touted for himself, to the point of alienating many with his arrogance. But then a little self-promotion never hurt anyone in this game. If Garcia beats Davis he has justified his hubris. If he doesn’t, but puts up a brave display, he’ll still enhance his reputation. Better to try and fail against the best than keep beating up bloated super featherweights. It’s fights like these, and the chances taken within them, that make this sport special.