LAS VEGAS — At first, it was unclear what had occurred during the seventh round inside T-Mobile Arena. Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia clashed in the middle of the ring in one of the biggest fights in recent years and suddenly Garcia grimaced and dropped to a knee. Now, it was obvious.
With a sneaky left hook to the body, Davis remained undefeated and showed why he’s one of boxing’s most transcendent boxers.
It was a fight that lived up to the hype in two ways. The chatter for months about two of the biggest names in the sport — talk that culminated with a few testy fight-week exchanges between the two men — manifested in a fight where both fighters landed big shots, and Garcia was down twice. Even after the first knockdown, it didn’t seem like there was a foregone conclusion. Fans were on their feet, invested in every punch.
But more significantly for Davis, whose abilities have been lauded for years, he’s now more than just one of boxing’s best. In front of a celebrity-laden audience, Davis had the showing that could make him a transcendent crossover star that the sport has desperately needed.
When asked in the postfight interview by Showtime’s Jim Gray if he was the face of boxing, Davis had a simple response.
“Abso-f—ing-lutely,” said Davis with a diamond-studded grin.
Ever since Davis appeared on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in 2017, the wheels were in motion for Davis to take Mayweather’s spot atop the sport.
Garcia, meanwhile, re-imagined what it’s like to build a modern-day star by amassing a huge following on social media before he had the ring credentials to match them.
The crowd that might have leaned pro-Garcia at Friday’s weigh-in was nowhere to be found on Saturday night. When Davis clipped Garcia with a counter left hook that sent him to the canvas, the roar from the crowd almost sounded like massive decibels of white noise while Garcia tried to get to his feet.
The crowd erupted again as Davis danced in the ring and climbed on the ropes to celebrate his coronation. The fact so many stars across multiple sports came out to see the event live speaks to the drawing power that Davis and Garcia both carry.
The wattage inside T-Mobile Arena could be felt well before the two fighters stepped out of the tunnel to a massive ovation. NFL stars such as Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, Las Vegas Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby and San Francisco 49ers star Clelin Ferrell chatted while fans flocked toward boxing legends Manny Pacquiao and Sugar Ray Leonard. There were athletes across all sports, movie stars, musicians and other A-listers.
Ferrell told ESPN the atmosphere was “amazing.” And that was before rapper Chief Keef came out with Davis performing “Love Sosa,” his massive 2012 hit.
Mayweather, standing a few feet to the left of Davis’ corner, shouted instructions to Davis in the middle of the fight. Not long before Davis closed the show, McGregor snuck out of the tunnel in an orange suit and snaked behind the row of fans before he settled into a seat. After the bout, he descended back down the tunnel, holding a bottle of whiskey triumphantly in his left hand before he disappeared underneath the stands.
Moments like this have always been reserved for boxing’s biggest events that feature the sport’s top stars. Davis made it clear he fits into that category.
Davis, who is now 29-0 with 27 knockouts, has a strong case as boxing’s biggest box-office attraction, along with the likes of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez, both mainstays on ESPN’s pound-for-pound boxing list. But as is the case with Davis, the only person seemingly capable of dampening his star power is himself.
In 2017, he was stripped of the IBF’s junior lightweight title for missing weight. Outside of the ring, he has faced multiple criminal cases. In February, he pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run case in Feb. 2020, in which he’ll be sentenced on May 5. There’s also a battery case in Florida that is currently pending. Davis has pleaded not guilty, according to Broward County court records.
Being boxing’s biggest star comes with many of the advantages that Tank has already tasted. To make the fight happen, Garcia had to accept a few key contract provisions that were against his favor — a 136-pound catchweight after he already moved up to junior lightweight, a 10-pound rehydration clause after a weigh-in on late Friday afternoon and a lesser percentage of the total split.
There’s no doubt that in any matchup at this point, Davis is the “A” side, and his opponents might be other standouts like Shakur Stevenson or the winner of Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko. And regardless of the in-ring credentials, Davis became more entrenched in his case to command the bulk of the money after his win over Garcia.
In a fight where the winner had so much to gain, Davis reaped the biggest reward, one that could be paying dividends for years to come.