This Saturday saw two of the best lightweights in the world finally collide at the T-Mobile
arena in Las Vegas. Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Ryan Garcia ended in round 7, when “Tank” landed a perfectly placed left to the body, which caused Garcia to drop to a knee, and stay there, beaten by the count, and perhaps able to get up, but seemingly beaten in all departments, and now considering whether to rise from the second knockdown in the fight, chose to accept defeat, rising to his feet a split second after the referee reached the count of 10.
The first round began with Garcia immediately trying to establish his jab whilst Davis seemed cautious, unwilling to engage, moving, feinting and dipping. Both men showed a lot of respect for each others power, not throwing much with full commitment or power, apart from jabs. Garcia was much more active in this round, Davis opting to move, and not allowing Garcia to plant his feet at all.
Round two started the same as the previous round with both men tentatively staying on the outside, although as the round started to progress, Davis seemed to be planting his feet and allowing Garcia to work. Ryan responded by opening up, throwing combinations, seemingly not concerned about what may come back from his opponent, who is known for devastating counter punches. Perhaps he thought he had hurt Davis, who definitely gave the impression that he didn’t want to engage, smothering Garcia’s work, holding and frustrating him on the inside. Garcia stepped in with a wild left hook to the head, which was ducked, and countered by a trademark Davis uppercut, landing flush and immediately sending Garcia to the canvas. He beat the count and was seemingly alert, and recovered upon resumption of the fight. Davis didn’t pour on the pressure, possibly aware that he had not hurt Garcia too badly, and confident that he was now ahead in the fight, and continued to frustrate his opponent, keeping things at long range to close out the round.
At the start of round three, Davis continued to feint and threaten on the outside, making it hard for Garcia to engage with confidence, Davis feinted a left uppercut early in the round, which drew a noticeable flinch from Garcia, and presumably some PTSD from the previous rounds knockdown. As the round progressed, Davis, whilst keeping things on the outside, managed to start coming forward, pressuring Garcia, leaning or half stepping back every time his opponent tried to land anything meaningful, smirking at Garcia as he missed two consecutive lefts seconds before the round ended.
Round four started with a similar caution from Davis. Garcia tried to land a left hook to the body from long range, as he had a few times in previous rounds. Garcia launched a good attack, managing to catch Davis with a hard right hook to the head. Davis was winning the fight whenever it was on the outside however, catching Garcia with a counter straight left, attempting to take away Garcia’s jab. The round ended with Davis clinching Garcia very deliberately, which seemed again, to frustrate him.
Tactically, things were starting to get desperate for Garcia by this point. He had struggled to establish his jab, and was now being outboxed whenever the fight was at long range, and whenever he got close, Davis was dictating when he could and couldn’t work, and had seemingly frustrated Garcia by clinching, and making his opportunities to land his highlight reel left hook at medium range few and far between.
For me, round five was Garcia’s worst so far, not on the scorecards, but from a tactical perspective, I feel this is where he started to lose faith, and with plan A and plan B taken away by Davis, he was in a position where he needed a plan C. Garcia was not committing to his punches in this round, not even his jab. Davis attempted to counter a jab with a straight left as he had done in the previous round, but didn’t land, due to the jab being thrown so tentatively from Garcia. Perhaps the counter in round four had hurt Garcia and had made him reluctant to commit on the outside. In any case, this was bad for Garcia, who missed with a wild left hook to the head and was countered with a left uppercut and right hook to the body from Davis.
Round six was fairly uneventful in terms of punches landed, although tactically there was a lot going on. Davis was stepping in with his hands up drawing wild attacks from Garcia, and planting his feet allowing Ryan to punch. With the lack of output from Davis, Garcia seemed confident to punch at medium range again. Davis stepped in and clinched very deliberately towards the end of the round, frustrating Garcia and preventing him from working on the inside. By this point, Davis appeared to be controlling when Garcia could throw punches and when he couldn’t.
At the start of round seven Garcia landed a solid right hook to the head, Davis landed a solid straight left moments later. In this round, Davis was attacking much more positively, with Garcia not committing to his punches, presumably concerned about Davis’ counters. Garcia was noticeably less committed to his attacks compared to previous rounds now, and as he threw a fairly half hearted left hook to the head, which was ducked by Davis, he held his opponents head down with his forearm. Davis waited for Garcia to take his weight off his neck, and as he stepped away, Tank landed a perfectly placed left hook to Garcia’s body. Garcia stepped back a few times before the pain set in, causing him to drop to one knee, staying down for the count, rising to his feet abruptly, but too late at the referees count of 10.
This was definitely not an exciting fight for the casual fan. For me however, it was one of my favourite fights of recent years. Gervonta Davis showed amazing tactical awareness, poise and patience. He took away all of Garcia’s advantages; reach, the left hand, and didn’t allow him to plant his feet. Davis understood that the best way to beat this particular opponent was not to do what was just the most suited to his own attributes, but to fight in a way that would take away Garcia’s attributes so that he sees no other way than to engage on Davis’ terms. Brilliant.