An old story with new faces – Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia provides throwback to boxing’s golden past.


Updated: Apr 20, 2023 10:00 pm

Riding on the back of a period in which boxing continues to suffer a YouTube induced identity crisis, it’s reassuring to get back to a bit of truth. Two unbeaten young boxers, well schooled and dedicated, both thrilling talents on their own paths, both totally assured of their own destiny, yet only one can prevail. There are many narratives which can combine to create fascinating fights, but few work as well as that. To coin a phrase that nobody uses anymore, ‘someone’s 0 has got to go.’

In one corner on Saturday night at the T-Mobile arena in Vegas, will stand current WBA lightweight world champion, Gervonta ‘tank’ Davis (28-0). The Baltimore southpaw, who has a bit of everything in the ring, personifies a boxing cliché outside it. The kid from the wrong side of the tracks, who grew up rough. The one that boxing saved from a life of madness.

Davis began boxing aged seven but started fighting well before. An uncle witnessed one of his many street fights, recognised the raw talent, and brought him to a gym. Prior to that Tank’s life showcased a litany of what early years’ psychologists refer to as ACES (adverse childhood experiences). As a toddler, his drug addicted parents frequently left he and his brother alone. As a result, he was removed from their care and placed in group foster homes where he found himself forced to fight much bigger kids to survive. Then rescued by his grandmother, he moved to one of Baltimore’s toughest districts, where, as the new kid on the block, he had to step up again. While most kids his age learned to ride bikes and read, Davis learned to fight or die.

Kids like Davis, growing up with all those ACES, tend to become very chaotic adults. Either that, or maybe professional fighters. In that way, he didn’t choose boxing. Not really. Boxing chose him.

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Facing him across the Vegas ring will be Ryan Garcia (23-0). Chiselled, slick-haired, with matinee idol looks, he started boxing at the same age as Davis. However, he was introduced to the sport by his father, who still works with him now. A kid from the Californian sunshine, rather than Maryland’s urban decay. A kid with a stable family and the clean-cut demeanour of a chorister. These attributes have led many to write him off as a ‘pretty boy.’ Yet 19 KOs, a devastating left hook, electric speed and instinctive timing have told their own story. He may not have come from the gutter, but Garcia is a serious, disciplined and reflective fighter, unafraid to be vulnerable in public.

Garcia is a guy who carries the pure honesty of the ring through his everyday life. You can’t hide between the ropes and he doesn’t hide when he talks. An old fashioned, straight-up, no-nonsense kid. Ryan Garcia deserves to be respected.

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Despite Davis’ status as a current world champion, his WBA lightweight belt is not on the line. The fight has been made at 136lb catchweight, as Garcia prefers to box at super-light (140lb). This should mean the ‘king’ will come in as the bigger man on the night, although the contracted 10lb rehydration clause will ensure that advantage is not too great.

There are echoes here of Dempsey v Tunney, Duran v Leonard, Liston v Ali (Clay) and a whole host of other boxing classics. Will Davis’ street rawness, allied to his skill and talent, overcome the polished, athletic prowess of the Garcia?

World In Sport Prediction

In many ways it’s a ‘pick ‘em’ fight and one in which it’s possible to make a case for either. Both are elite competitors around the lightweight and super lightweight divisions and the winner will rightly move into the very highest echelons.

Garcia has boldly predicted he will finish Davis within four and talks like a man of purpose. Davis, meanwhile, has suggested a longer, drawn out affair, in which Garcia wilts in the later rounds. Despite the strength of both men’s armouries, Davis appears to have a more variety, more options if things do not go his way. He also perhaps has a heavier touch of that indefinable quality known as the X factor. Despite that, it’s a struggle to see either man giving in.

It’s a fight that could turn on a single moment, a cut or a stroke of luck. But for the reasons outlined above, Gervonta Davis to win on points.


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