Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia need each other
NEW YORK — Gervonta “Tank” Davis is a box office star, a fact reinforced on Saturday when 18,970 customers—”Paid customers,” noted Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, crammed into the Barclays Center to watch Davis flatten Rolando Romero by sixth-round knockout. Madonna was there. Tracy Morgan too. Notable fighters from Errol Spence Jr. to Shakur Stevenson have made the trip. It was the highest-grossing boxing event in the building’s 10-year history – event organizers predict gate revenue will approach $5 million – and compelling evidence that Davis, who has already fueled in Baltimore, Atlanta and LA, is one of the biggest draws in sports.
Tank Davis is not a boxing star, not yet anyway, and a stoppage of Romero highlights won’t get him there. Tank’s social media cartel will turn Romero into a quality win, as if Rolly’s record wasn’t the result of careful matchmaking (hello, Arturs Ahmetovs), late substitutions (Anthony Yigit, Avery Sparrow) and of a horrifying judgment (Jackson Mariñez appeal). Romero wasn’t the stumblebum bettors attributed to him, but his lunging style was always going to leave him exposed to the kind of crushing counter that Tank cut him with. Afterwards, Ellerbe said Romero was the second-best 135-pounder in the division. Somewhere, George Kambosos, Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko are still laughing.
Tank is what it is: powerful, popular and, even after Saturday, yet to be proven. It’s been five years since Davis stopped Jose Pedraza to win a legitimate 130-pound title. Davis has remained undefeated since then, swelling his record with a series of carefully selected opponents, from faded big names (Yuriorkis Gamboa, Leo Santa Cruz) to less flawed (Ricardo Nunez, Mario Barrios), collecting a pair of hubcap titles along in the manner. As a deep lightweight division zigzagged, Davis zigzagged, passing up opportunities to test himself because, as Floyd Mayweather said last year, “we keep things in-house.”
He can’t anymore, because at the moment Davis, 27, lives in an empty nest. The PBC landscape between 130 and 140 pounds is downright sterile. Chris Colbert, once a minor titleholder at 130, was beaten by Hector Luis Garcia in February. Gary Russell Jr., a longtime 126-pound champion, is coming off a loss to Mark Magsayo. A rematch with Isaac Cruz, who lost a competitive fight to Davis last December, is possible, but that pay-per-view went so poorly that those involved didn’t care about the age-old practice of leaking inflated numbers. on this subject.
Davis needs a real dance partner. And there is one available: Ryan Garcia. At 23, Garcia is one of boxing’s rising stars. He’s undefeated with explosive power, a former Canelo Alvarez protege who established himself as a legitimate contender with a win over Luke Campbell last year. Garcia’s rise came to a halt after that, with injuries and mental health issues limiting him to one fight in 2021. He’s back now, and Garcia, who was at ringside on Saturday, said IF he was ready to make a fight against Davis.
“If you really want to show who ducked who, and you’re really convinced I’m ducking, well, we could tape the entire negotiation,” Garcia said. “If you want to add that, I’m ready to do it. I’ve never dodged anyone.”
Davis needs to push for the fight. Garcia too. Because it’s complicated. Davis, a PBC fighter, was built by Showtime. Since 2018, Garcia, promoted by Golden Boy, has fought exclusively on DAZN. For Davis-Garcia to happen, the networks must work together, as HBO and Showtime did in 2015, when Floyd Mayweather faced Manny Pacquiao in what turned out to be the most lucrative fight in the history of the boxing.
Are they going? In a text message, DAZN Executive Vice President Joe Markowski said IF that DAZN was “very willing” to do a joint production with Showtime. “Awaiting discussions,” Markowski said. Stephen Espinoza, the president of Showtime Sports, didn’t rule out the possibility of teaming up, but made it clear that he thinks Showtime would rather do Davis-Garcia on their own.
“Honestly, I don’t know what DAZN brings to the table, to be completely honest,” Espinoza said. IF. “I understand what the UFC has brought to Mayweather-McGregor. I understand what HBO brought to Mayweather-Pacquiao. I don’t understand what DAZN brings to the table. It’s not a big enough fight to split into five different ways.
Except it is. Davis and Garcia have two of the biggest fanbases in boxing. Different fan base. Davis was built largely in urban markets. Garcia, backed by nearly nine million Instagram followers, ping-ponged between Southern California and Texas. His last fight, a lopsided decision victory over the unheralded – and completely unknown – Emmanuel Tagoe, generated $1.3 million at the door. Davis-Garcia could exceed 500,000 pay-per-view purchases. Maybe more. This could produce a gate north of $10 million.
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It’s not Mayweather-Pacquiao. But it’s not nothing either.
Garcia understands. Garcia is set to face Javier Fortuna in July (Cruz declined the fight) in what will be Garcia’s second fight in three months. But Davis is the fight he is looking for. In a phone interview, Garcia said IF he believed the winner of a fight between him and Davis would be the new face of boxing.
“On Canelo, on everyone,” Garcia said. “I swear. I promise you. That’s exactly what it’s gonna be. It’s too monumental.
Will it happen? Ellerbe is skeptical. On Saturday, Ellerbe reminded reporters that he had attempted to make a Davis-Garcia fight in the past, as recently as last year, when preliminary talks vaporized after Garcia turned his attention to Manny Pacquiao ( in a lengthy text message, Garcia expressed frustration with longtime Pacquiao adviser Sean Gibbons for allegedly driving him). Ellerbe said that despite the public comments, Garcia wants nothing to do with a Davis fight, good-naturedly shooting some reporters — or a reporter — in the process.
“Ryan doesn’t want to fight Tank, man,” Ellerbe said. “Come on man. There’s guys like Mannix trying to pump him like he’s a killer. Ryan Garcia, he’s a good fighter, he got a lot of respect for him, but he doesn’t want that smoke He doesn’t want that smoke because if he did, he would make Golden Boy do it.
Garcia, naturally, disagrees.
“Golden Boy will not be able to [prevent it]”, García said. “They can’t. I won’t allow it. There’s no way. I’m going to war to fight Tank. Ultimately, this fight is going to earn me my respect, and I think I deserve it. So I’m up for the challenge. I’m very confident to beat him. He’s a great fighter, don’t get me wrong. But I’m just a lot bigger. And I want to show him, I want to show everybody what I could do, and that’s the fight. Everybody wants to see it, and I’m ready now.
“I had to deal with a lot of disrespect towards me as a fighter. And even though I’ve worked hard, been boxing since I was seven, been kicked in the head since I was little. Traveling everywhere, going everywhere with my parents, sacrificing my childhood, everything I had to do. I paid those dues. I just did it in a smart marketing way. It is exactly what it is. I’m smart. And honestly, now that I look at it, I think it’s just because I’m handsome. Honestly, I think they’re envious. And I think they hate me. It’s a bit arrogant to say, but fuck it. It’s true. I’m handsome and they hate it.
Says Ellerbe, “Gervonta Davis is a terrific fighter. We have a big business. I have a great team and we will continue to do what we do: Organize these great events for the fans. Giving fans exactly what they want to see.
Maybe. But Davis is at a crossroads. He can continue on the current path, fight lesser opponents, fill arenas, and generate just enough pay-per-view money to make it all worthwhile. Or he can test himself and prove he’s the pound-for-pound talent that Ellerbe and many others believe he is. In a recent interview, Davis said it was time to remove the training wheels. The way to do it is clear
Tank Needs Garcia. And Garcia needs Tank. Boxing? He just needs the fight.
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