Sunday, May 21, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Haney-Lomachenko

What I will remember most from the thrilling Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko fight is how both boxers went for it, how they pushed themselves out of recent comfort zones, that they both understood that they needed to do more than their recent best to win, how they were willing to take risks. They were fighting for their reputations, their legacies, the undisputed lightweight crown, to remain important factors in big-money boxing. There was a lot on the line and they fought like it. 

First, let's discuss the quality of the fight. It was so much better than I anticipated. I was expecting a low-volume, cagey fight with periodic passages of interest. But that's not what happened. Instead, we had a high-energy battle with both fighting with urgency from the opening bell. 

To my surprise, Haney started the fight on the attack. As he has faced better opponents, he has often tried to dominate from the outside. This was the dynamic in both George Kambosos fights. But against Lomachenko, he and his father Bill decided that the best way to fight Loma was to back him up, that Loma was less of a threat when in retreat.

Haney (right) connects with a right hand
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

For Loma's part, he clearly understood his problems with slows starts in recent fights and unlike those outings he was bright and vibrant in the first half of Saturday's bout. He was trying to win every round. He was moving much better than he had in his last fight against Ortiz. He certainly didn't look like an aged fighter in the ring on Saturday. 

But what's interesting in how the fight played out is that even though both guys tried to do things differently, the ultimate trajectory of the bout was what most anticipated: Haney, early; Loma, late. Thankfully, the fight was a higher-voltage version of this matchup, but the overall dynamics were as expected. 

As good as Loma was early in the fight, I believe that Haney was better. His straight right hands to the body were pinpoint and easy to see for the judges. He landed a couple of menacing left hooks (he should have used his left hook more in my opinion) and his defense was fantastic. According to CompuBox, Lomachenko landed at a 22% success rate in the fight. Now, use whatever margin of error you want for the punch counting service, but they often have had Lomachenko landing at 40% and above. So, at the very least, Haney was extremely successful in nullifying a lot of what Lomachenko was trying to do on offense, especially in the fight's first half and remember that defense is one of the four scoring criteria for judges. 

As many expected, Lomachenko took over in the second half, but I think that the reasons why were different than anticipated. It wasn't a question of when would Lomachenko finally find the range. He was getting to Haney enough early in the fight. I think that it had to do with Loma's pressure and the repercussions of how Haney decided to start the fight. 

I don't believe that Haney is comfortable yet fighting as a hunter for 12 rounds. At his core, I think that he's a defensive fighter. He expended a lot of energy on the attack in the first half of the fight and I don't think that he had the gas tank or the focus level to sustain his approach for 12 rounds. 

In the second half of the fight, Lomachenko continued to poke and prod with his single left hands and his 2-1 (left hand/right jab) combinations and more started to find their way home. In addition, where Haney was expertly slipping punches and rolling away from the action at the fight's outset, he was a half-step slower in the back half. Later in the fight Lomachenko was able to flurry with multi-punch combinations. And while not everything landed, Haney was close enough and still in range for Lomachenko to throw four or five shots, which illustrates Haney's fatigue.

Loma scoring with a left uppercut
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

This was a tremendously difficult fight to score. In the post-fight roundtable, ESPN's Bernardo Osuna stated that he had circled seven rounds in the fight that he thought were swing rounds that could have gone to either fighter. And as high as that number sounds, I think that he's correct. Round-by-round, so many were hard to determine a clear victor. To use CompuBox one more time, in seven of the rounds, the fighters were within two landed punches of each other. However you slice it, those are competitive rounds, where a decisive punch or a short sequence or two could determine the round's winner. 

I scored the fight a draw and could see plausible scenarios for either fighter winning. The judges had Haney winning 115-113, 115-113 and 116-112. Dave Moretti's 116-112 scorecard was widely ridiculed after the fight because of his scoring of the tenth round for Haney, even though that was an obvious Loma round. But even in a vacuum, I think that the legitimate boundaries for scoring the fight were 116 to 112 (or eight rounds to four) for either fighter. There were that many swing rounds. 

In the aftermath of the fight, the tired calls of robberies and corruption were trumpeted by many on social media, as seems to be de rigueur whenever "their guy" loses a 7-5 fight. Boxing does have systemic problems and the quality of judging is one of them, but Haney-Lomachenko wasn't an example of that. Tim Cheatham and David Sutherland's 115-113 scorecards were fine. And if they weren't popular tallies, they were certainly defensible. 

In assessing the performances of each boxer, both fought at a world-class level, but I believe that each had one key aspect that they could have incorporated to make the fight go more in their favor. For Haney, I think that he needed to mix in more of his traditional boxing approach with his attacks on the front foot. Although I respect the Haneys for employing a bold strategy AND it was enough to win the fight, they very easily could have lost it with different judges. And a major reason why I believe that the fight was in jeopardy for them was because Devin burned up too much energy on attack in the early rounds. 

Haney isn't a relaxed fighter in the ring. He features lots of quick movements (sometimes he over-moves) and twitching upper body feints. Not all of these moves are servicing the fight in front of him; often they are manifestations of the pressure in the ring. However, he's far more relaxed when he is on the outside boxing than when he's going after an opponent. If he has a comfort zone, that's it. Perhaps one day he'll be able to become an attacking fighter for 12 rounds, but he's a long way from there right now. 

When looking at Lomachenko's performance, I think what stands out to me is how he ignored Haney's body. After observing how significantly Haney fatigued in the second half, imagine what could have happened if Loma had invested in the body early in the fight. CompuBox had him landing nine body shots all fight! And there were opportunities for him to go to the body, especially in the last six rounds. Yes, he was successful in landing punches throughout the fight, but it's clear that he could have caused more damage, and more sustaining damage, if he had gone to Haney's body.

But fighters not being able to execute at their absolute best is part of why high-level boxing matches can be so compelling; the other guy gets paid too. Loma wanted to start faster and did, but he met a guy who had much more agility at the beginning of a fight. Haney certainly wanted to win convincingly, but he had an opponent with far more championship experience and who had been able to overcome mental and physical fatigue better than his younger counterpart. They did nullify each other to a degree, but they both went for it. There were thrilling passages throughout the fight and each made the other earn everything. 

Ultimately, I will remember the astoundingly high quality of boxing from Haney-Lomachenko. The rounds flew by and it was an absolute pleasure to watch. Haney at 24 showed that he belongs at the elite level of the sport and Lomachenko affirmed his status. Although he's 35, he's still a tremendous boxer and gave Haney all sorts of problems in the second half of the fight. I thought it was a great night for boxing. But for those who want to obsess about a scorecard that was a round off, or how a guy losing a disputed 7-5 fight was a great tragedy, have at it. Please forgive me if I don't join you on your journey of discontent. Reflecting on the fight a day later, I'm still smiling from ear to ear. Haney-Lomachenko was that good.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Haney-Lomachenko: Preview and Prediction

Undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) defends his belts against former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs) on Saturday in a mouth-watering matchup between two master boxers at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Although there were opportunities for this fight to happen when Lomachenko was champion, it will finally take place on Saturday, but now with Lomachenko as the challenger.  

In analyzing the matchup, the first noticeable distinction between the fighters is their ages, with Lomachenko at 35, relatively old for a lightweight, and Haney closer to his athletic prime at 24. In addition to Lomachenko's age, he had participated in over 300 amateur fights before turning pro in 2013. Lomachenko also had shoulder surgery in the recent past and it's fair to question just how much tread is left on his tires. 

In his last fight, Lomachenko struggled with Jamaine Ortiz. Perhaps it was a case that Ortiz had the advantage of familiarity in that he had sparred many rounds with Lomachenko in previous training camps (of course, that advantage could work the other way too). Maybe Ortiz is far better than advertised. Perhaps it was Loma's inactivity. For whatever the reason, it was concerning how easily Ortiz was able to land on Lomachenko during the first six rounds and with big shots as well. Although Lomachenko achieved clear separation over Ortiz in the fight's second half, he had to go to the well to beat a relatively unheralded opponent. 

Haney (left) and Lomachenko during their face-off
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Haney is coming off back-to-back wins over George Kambosos in Australia, the first of which cemented his undisputed status in the division. Although Haney did have convincing victories via the scorecards, I wouldn't claim that he authored complete performances in either fight. While he landed his jab and right hand at will, there were opportunities to go for the stoppage in both fights, but Haney chose to box instead of taking unnecessary risks. 

Now there are two ways to read that. On one hand, one can point to disciplined performances from Haney. He got the job done and didn't take too many hard shots in return. He won in hostile territory and didn't let the magnitude of either event take him away from his game plan. However, he also was playing with fire a little bit in that he was the away fighter content to go for the decision. For instance, in the first fight, it would be hard for a neutral observer to find four rounds to give to Kambosos, yet two judges did. When fights go the distance, there is always a risk of relying on boxing judges; we've all seen what can happen in the sport. 

This highlights a potential issue with Haney in that it doesn't seem as if he's wired to go all out for a stoppage. To this point, he hasn't needed to come from behind to secure a victory, but if needed, can he get a fighter out of there? What if he is behind early against Lomachenko? How does he change the dynamic of the fight? Does he have the punch to do it? Does he have the temperament? 

Another major factor that stands out between Haney and Lomachenko is reach. Haney has a 71" reach, while Loma's is only 65 and a half. That's a significant difference. And more to the point, Haney uses every inch of his reach in the ring to his advantage. He wants to be on the outside and is at his best at range. He's also not going to stick around and trade if an opponent is able to get on the inside. He'll either clinch or get out of Dodge with his superior athleticism. 

This leads to the central dynamic in the matchup. Loma will have to get at least to mid-range on Haney, and he can't count on opportunities for prolonged exchanges. He's going to have to get to a spot and be able to cause damage with a single shot, or a two-punch combination at best. And it's worth pointing out that while Lomachenko is certainly a solid puncher, and a guy who can land with shots that an opponent doesn't anticipate, he's not a knockout puncher at lightweight. He's only had three stoppages in his eight fights in the division. The KO can happen for him, but it's not what most often has occurred for him at lightweight. 

What most likely transpires on Saturday is an intriguing battle of cat-and-mouse, where Haney will look to control the outside while Lomachenko will try to get in range to land something menacing before Haney leaves the pocket. Don't expect flowing combinations from either boxer; this fight will mostly be about who can do best at landing single shots against an opponent on the move. And it's apt that Top Rank has used chess in its marketing for this fight. Saturday's fight could be one for the purists who appreciate the intellectual aspects of boxing. Who will be better at executing his game plan? Who can force the other guy into a mistake? Who has a better Plan B? 

Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams

Another key factor worth considering is Haney's jab and how much of a factor it will be in the fight. In a vacuum, Haney has one of the best jabs in the sport. He essentially won the first Kambosos fight with his stick. However, Lomachenko is not an easy fighter to jab. He rarely stays in one place for too long. And if Haney believes that he can simply jab his way to a victory on Saturday, he will be surprised to find out how quickly that strategy won't work. Haney of course has to believe in his jab. There will be opportunities to land it and score with it, but Lomachenko's lateral movement will nullify it to a degree. Haney is going to have use his entire arsenal of punches to win the fight.

I'm sure Haney will have studied how Teofimo Lopez was able to build a big lead against Lomachenko in the first half of their fight. There, Lopez anticipated Lomachenko's attempts to get outside positioning before going on attack. Lopez turned with him and threw power shots (either right hands to the body or left hooks) where he believed that Loma would go. It was a masterful bit of strategy that kept Lomachenko from letting his hands go with regularity. But even that approach lost its luster after the seventh round. Loma was eventually able to bypass Lopez's strategy and he came on in the second half of the fight. It was only when Lopez found the right uppercut in the 12th that he was able to have sustained success once again in the fight. (Again, an example of Lopez using his entire arsenal to win the fight.) 

The early rounds on Saturday will be key for Haney. He must build a significant lead on the scorecards. He doesn't need to do anything fancy, just land single shots that are easy to see for the judges. Mixing in jabs, left hooks and right hands, he should be able to have success in the first third of the fight until Lomachenko can find a consistent pathway to get past his length. 

Although Haney doesn't need to throw a high volume in the first half of the fight, he has to win rounds definitively. He must maintain his focus and not allow Lomachenko, who fights in spurts as he has aged, to steal rounds. 

The back half of the bout is where I believe that we will see the fight's drama. Loma, like many master boxers, does his best work in the second half. He will have figured out what can work to get in range. In the fight's final third, I believe that Lomachenko will be able to let his hands go more freely and finally have success with combinations. 

It's not a secret that Jorge Linares clipped Haney in the second half of their fight and Jo Jo Diaz had success against Haney in the back half as well. However, you'll notice that both of those fighters still lost against Devin. Whatever success they had, it wasn't enough. The question will be if Lomachenko can hurt Haney. Can he drop him for a 10-8 round? Can he stop him? If yes can be answered to any of those questions, the path to winning will be considerably easier for him. If not, he'll be playing a game of catch-up against a savvy fighter who doesn't provide many openings for his opponents. 


I think that this fight will be won in the fight's first half. I see Haney using his legs, reach and discipline to win the early rounds clearly. He'll have a significant working margin after the sixth round; he'll need it too. Haney is a supremely talented boxer, but he does fall into offensive patterns that can be counteracted. I think that Lomachenko will have several convincing moments in the second half and he'll even build a head of steam. But ultimately, I don't believe that Lomachenko has a big enough punch to change the fight in a significant way and I don't think that Haney will make enough mistakes to give up his lead. Haney will see his way to the finish line in a fight that tests his resolve. It won't be a performance that inspires 100% confidence, but he will do enough in my opinion to get his hand raised at the end of the fight.

Devin Haney defeats Vasiliy Lomachenko by a competitive decision: 8 rounds to 4 or 7 rounds to 5. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

DAZN and DiBella: Testing the Waters

The last few years in boxing have been challenging for promoter Lou DiBella. With dozens of fighters in his stable, but without a high-profile TV or streaming platform contract, he's had to fight and claw to create opportunities for his boxers. In some instances, this meant making deals with a co-promoter who had a dedicated platform (Tevin Farmer with Matchroom and Richard Commey with Top Rank). In other scenarios he's had to accept B-fighter or "opponent" offers from larger organizations. He's utilized platforms such as ShoBox and the now-defunct Ring City for his developing fighters. But there have been frustrations. Talented fighters such as O'Shaquie Foster, who now has a title at junior lightweight, left DiBella Entertainment. 

Despite these business challenges, DiBella has continued to sign talent: established fighters, young professionals, and those who recently turned pro. He struck lightning in a bottle a few years ago when George Kambosos defeated Teofimo Lopez, which eventually led to a co-promotional deal with Top Rank for Devin Haney. He also promotes one of the more exciting heavyweight prospects in Olympic gold medal winner Bakhodir Jalolov. 

But now the promoter without a distribution home has found temporary housing, or maybe an Airbnb. He recently made a deal with DAZN to provide two club-level shows for the platform. The first event will be in conjunction with promoter Larry Goldberg of Boxing Insider for Thursday, April 27th at Sony Hall in New York City.

Promoter Lou DiBella
Photo courtesy of DiBella Entertainment

The show is headlined by one-time top prospect Brian Ceballo (13-1, 7 KOs) against Luis Alberto Veron (20-6-2, 9 KOs). Ceballo, suffered his first loss in his last fight against Nicklaus Flaz. Brian is from New York, but hasn't fought there since 2019. This is a big opportunity for him to get his career back on track. 

Interestingly, Ceballo isn't promoted by either DiBella or Goldberg, but by veteran boxing promoter Tom Loeffler. Ceballo made sense for Goldberg and DiBella because they understand how important local fighters are for generating buzz (and ticket sales) at the club level. On another fight on the card, Sydney Maccow (8-8) against Christian Otero (5-3), two boxers from rival New York City gyms will be squaring off. While neither fighter is above the club level, DiBella thinks that the fight is well matched, and that the local rivalry will help at the box office. 

DiBella is most excited about two of his undefeated prospects on the card. Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 5-0 Mongolian Olympian who fights in the junior lightweight division, and David Lopez, a 2-0 fighter who used to be with Mayweather Promotions. Lopez has fought at junior welterweight and welterweight and will be in the ring with Nelson Morales (3-5). In addition, the broadcast will highlight a female fight that DiBella believes could be fantastic, Miyo Yoshida (15-3) against Indeya Smith (6-6-2). DiBella thinks that Smith is a far better fighter than her record indicates. 

Erdenebat, who recently made waves when he admitted to dropping Ryan Garcia in sparring in the lead up to Garcia's fight with Gervonta Davis, will face Edy Valencia Mercado (20-9-6), who has gone the distance with high-profile fighters such as Jessie Magdaleno and Jose Vivas. DiBella has kept tabs on Erdenebat since the amateurs and is excited about promoting him.

"I had seen Erdenebat when he faced Shakur [Stevenson] and other top guys in the amateurs," said DiBella. "He's like a bull. He's a physically imposing little guy who fights like a monsoon. He's also an intelligent boxer. I've always kind of had my eye on him...He thinks he's ready to fight anyone in the world right now. He's that type of kid." 

The structure of the deal between DAZN and DiBella is interesting. Goldberg will be the official promoter of record for their first show, which will contain DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" branding. Eric Bottjer, who works with DiBella, has assisted with the matchmaking on the card and DiBella's staff will also help with the promotion. But a lot of the nuts-and-bolts for the event itself will be handled by Goldberg, and that's fine with DiBella. 

"Larry Goldberg is trying to do the types of shows in New York that I did for years," said DiBella. "To the extent that I can help him out, lend my staff, put some of my talent on his cards, and make the cards make sense, I want to do that. He has a vision similar to mine – that you need to do quality cards in New York City. For New York to stay as a capital of boxing in the larger sense, you need to have a presence on the grassroots level and Larry understands that."

DiBella has talked with DAZN over the years about making a content deal. This agreement will be a trial for both sides. On one hand, the rights fees for these fight cards will be far lower than those paid by DAZN for a typical Matchroom event in the United States. However, DAZN Executive Vice President Joe Markowski has wanted to open up the platform to additional promoters, and this is an example of him putting his money where his mouth is. 

"The fact that DAZN is looking to add more programming for their subscribers is a good thing," said DiBella. "Over the last six to eight months, Markowski has made clear, both publicly and privately, that DAZN wanted to experiment with different levels of boxing, with grassroots boxing, looking at boxing at a regional level – developmental boxing. I think developmental boxing is key. Broadway Boxing has been doing developmental boxing for 20 years."

Hopefully, the move works out for both sides. The health of New York City boxing is very important to DiBella, who lives in Long Island and has been a key figure in the New York boxing scene for decades, first as an HBO programming executive and then as a promoter. 

The insurance requirements to stage shows in New York has reduced the number of club shows in the state and especially the city. Some promoters have left New York entirely. Others have drastically cut down their number of New York cards. Having a broadcaster to help subsidize costs in New York will definitely be helpful to the New York boxing scene. 

As for DAZN, this is an opportunity to provide more programming for their subscribers. These shows will feature a lot of talent that hasn't been widely seen, an opportunity for these fighters to build additional momentum for their career. And if the deal succeeds, DAZN will be able to plant a flag in New York City, which could become an important plank in their overall strategy for U.S. boxing. 

For now, the deal is an important first step in cultivating a working relationship between DAZN and DiBella. DiBella has always had a keen eye for talent and DAZN has the platform and the bandwidth to expand its boxing offerings. Hopefully, it's a good match for both parties, and for boxing fans. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Davis-Garcia

Even though Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Ryan Garcia entered Saturday's matchup with a similar number of fights – 28 for Tank and 23 for Garcia – it became obvious that there was a master-student dynamic in the ring. In the two most pivotal moments of the fight, Tank's knockdown in the second round and his KO in the seventh, Tank, like a wise old sage, exploited Garcia's reckless aggression in short order, sending the pupil to the canvas twice. 

Both instances followed periods of success for Garcia. And as Ryan landed more shots, he pressed what he perceived as an advantage, but ultimately, the master punished his student for overconfidence. 

Davis landing a straight left
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

In the second round Garcia landed a series of cuffing right hands in close range. He continued to go on attack and overshot a wild left hook. The shot left him wildly out of position. Tank adeptly pivoted and countered with a blistering short left to the head that dropped Garcia.

That knockdown spooked Garcia. He was chastened. He was unwilling to take chances or let his hands go in a meaningful way during the third, fourth and fifth.  

But by the sixth round, Garcia had regathered himself and felt comfortable going on the offensive again. He landed several hard right hands to the head. As the seventh started, Garcia continued his aggressive forays, attacking Tank with power shots. And as he lunged forward with a combination, Tank snuck in a perfectly placed left to the body as Garcia's arms were extended and his body unprotected. Garcia actually landed his right hand as the final punch of the exchange, but the pain from Tank's left started to circulate throughout his body. He took a step back. He dropped to a knee. He couldn't beat Thomas Taylor's ten-count.  

Tank-Garcia will not be remembered for its round-by-round entertainment value. Although the fight was intriguing on strategic and technical levels, the punch volume from both was meager. There were prolonged periods of inaction, where both fighters were unwilling to throw punches. But the fight did provide a vital, conclusive ending. It also crystalized important points about two of the most significant American boxing attractions. 

First, Tank confirmed his status as a master counterpuncher. He exploited split-second opportunities that demonstrated superior technical skills, self-confidence and clear mental processing. Many fighters would have immediately retreated into a defensive shell when Garcia unfurled his menacing left hook, but Tank stood his ground, slipped the punch, and executed his counter left with ruthless proficiency.  

Similarly, when Garcia charged forward in the seventh after having sustained success in the previous round, many fighters would have gone into self-protection mode to take the steam off Ryan's combination. But Tank instinctively recognized an opportunity; he fired the perfect short counter in a tight window. The punch was so precise and sneaky that a replay was needed to grasp its perfection. These were masterful boxing moves.  

As for Garcia, he admitted after the fight that he had tried to force the action too much. Even though his trainer Joe Goossen had wanted Ryan to fight more responsibly, Ryan ignored that advice and went after Tank, to his own detriment. Garcia lacked the emotional maturity to understand the risks involved in the fight. He was too overeager to impress, to put his signature stamp on the fight, to be the alpha dog.  

In theory Saturday's result could be a great learning opportunity for Garcia. He should now realize that his technical flaws can jeopardize his career. He paid massively for overcommitting, for falling out of position and for running into traps.  

However, until he understands that he must be more adaptable in his fighting style, it's very likely that we will see similar outcomes against top opponents. He has to be able to win fights in different ways. Who's to say what would have happened if Garcia decided to box Davis at range all fight? Yes, the bout might have been boring and maybe Tank would have eventually gotten to him, but Ryan wouldn't have been hitting the canvas in the second round and rendered ineffective until the sixth. Goossen thought that Ryan needed to be more contained to have success, but Ryan had other ideas. 

Garcia has to learn that momentary mistakes can have massive consequences. And not all of these mistakes are technical in nature. Some of them involve his decision-making process: when to engage and when to bide time. 

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Meanwhile, Tank's knockout show marches on. With an almost inconceivable 27 knockouts in 29 fights, Davis is one of the true killers in the sport. I do look at his punch stat numbers with some concern though. As he faces better competition, it's likely that more of his fights will go the distance. And in 12-round fights, Tank's punch volume can be problematic for winning rounds. Judges just aren't going to give a guy a lot of credit when he throws under ten punches a round. Ten punches a round is a punch every 18 seconds. That's a long time! 

Tank's lack of activity explains why none of the judges awarded him a 10-8 round in the second even though he scored a knockdown. He only threw six punches the entire round. That's one punch every 30 seconds! He just wasn’t doing enough.  

At boxing's highest level, it's fine margins that can make the difference. Garcia found out the hard way what happens when he lunges in with shots and ignores the advice of a seasoned trainer. And perhaps Davis will realize one day that every point matters. Imagine if a fight goes to the scorecards and he loses or draws because he didn't get a 10-8 round where he scores a knockdown. Winning rounds matters and Tank must find a way to be busier, to make it harder for judges to give rounds to his opponents. 

But all of that is for another day. 

In facing one of the toughest tests of his career, Tank passed with flying colors and demonstrated that he belongs at the graduate level; Garcia still needs to repeat his current grade. Ultimately, if a fighter makes a mistake, Tank will punish him. That's his calling card. He exploits weaknesses. He takes out lesser talents and exposes their flaws. Davis only needs a couple moments, a brief, fleeting opportunity to cause maximum damage.  

It's going to take a special talent to beat Tank: one who can stay within himself, fight intelligently, not get too caught up in the moment, offer punch volume while minimizing return risk. There aren't many of those boxers in the sport. And that's the central problem when facing Davis. A fighter will have to be close to perfect to beat him, and perfection is seldom seen in the ring. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Davis-Garcia: Preview and Prediction

In an electrifying matchup on Saturday between two of boxing's rising stars, Gervonta Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) faces Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Although no major belts will be on the line, the winner of Saturday's fight will be rightfully viewed as one of the faces of U.S. and international boxing moving forward. 

Davis at 28 and Garcia at 24 are both in their athletic primes and feature knockout ratios above 80%. The fight will be contested at a catchweight of 136 lbs., one of two deal points that on paper could help Davis (the other being a punitive 10-lb. maximum rehydration clause, which in theory could hurt Garcia, who is perceived as being the bigger boxer in terms of his best fighting weight). 

In analyzing this matchup, the most important aspect to me is power. Both possess it. Both haven't faced much of it. Who can utilize it better? Who can take it better? Although Davis has faced taller orthodox fighters such as Mario Barrios and Leo Santa Cruz and Garcia has fought several southpaws, including Javier Fortuna and Luke Campbell, neither has fought a guy with the power profile that his opponent will be bringing into the ring. To this point we've yet to see Davis seriously hurt in a fight while Garcia has been dropped by a Luke Campbell straight left. But let's dive deeper.  

Ryan Garcia has one of the best left hooks in boxing. It may be one of the few A-plus punches in the sport. The trick to it is the tremendous amount of torque he gets on the shot. He literally whips the punch to his desired location. It's lightning quick, powerful and he can place it beautifully. Despite the number of technical errors that Garcia can make in the ring (more on this later), he does a tremendous job of disguising his hook. He can look right at an opponent's eyes and go down to the body with it. He can take a step back and throw it as a counter. He can lead with it from distance. 

"Tank" Davis has never faced such a punch in his professional career. And like another blessed left hooker, Nonito Donaire, Garcia has the power to end any fight with his best hook.  

Davis (left) and Garcia at the introductory presser
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hafey

Davis is a far more well-rounded puncher. He features several knockout weapons, including his straight left, an overhand left, uppercuts with either hand and his right hook. He's also a gifted combination puncher and often catches opponents with shots that they don't see.  

Both fighters believe in their power and probably have fallen in love with it a little too much. Garcia can get frustrated if he's not landing his left hook. Although he does have a jab and a serviceable right hand, he can get flustered when the knockout doesn't come quickly.  

Davis is not a guy who goes into fights trying to win rounds (one day this really could become a major issue). Especially when he perceives a threat, Davis will reduce his punch volume at the beginning of a fight as he acclimates to his opponent and attempts to identify potential weaknesses. 

But while he can fall behind in the punch volume game, he does have an improvisational genius in figuring out what can work in the ring against a given opponent. He will often use his opponents' strengths against them. More than once he has folded an overly aggressive opponent with a perfectly placed counter.  

The two main issues for the fight that I see are Ryan Garcia's defense and what happens if Tank can't land the home run punch. These two things are related, of course. Ryan's chin is a major issue. Yes, he's been down before, but in this context I'm not referring to his ability to take a punch. I'm talking literally; his chin is easy to find. He only features sporadic head movement and often stands far too upright leaving his chin exposed. Additionally, when he shoots his punches he will often lunge in with his body before throwing the shot, making his chin even more vulnerable to incoming fire. An unprotected chin is not a recipe for long-term success in boxing. 

However, let's also consider that Ryan has one of the best trainers in the business in Joe Goossen and I'm sure that Joe is well aware of Garcia's chin placement issues. I have no doubt that he’s worked with Ryan to address these flaws. This doesn't mean that Ryan will suddenly become impenetrable, but perhaps he won't lunge in as much. And maybe his body won't be over his front foot as it has been in the past. If Ryan is able to fix these issues, then he can be much more difficult to hit cleanly.

And this is what leads to the central conundrum for Tank in the fight: What happens if the knockout doesn't come?

I expect him to be cautious in the early going as he tries to adjust to Garcia's hand speed and defend the left hook. But what happens if he can't crack Garcia's chin with his best shot? What if the fight gets to the second half and Tank is down significantly on the scorecards? I have no doubt that Garcia will be attempting to put rounds in the bank. What happens if he builds up an early lead and tries to play keep away in the second half?  

In the Barrios fight Tank showed an impressive ability to turn on the gas when needed, and he might be in a similar predicament during Saturday's fight. But let's face it: Garcia is far more of a threat than Barrios. Tank may not be able to just simply turn on a switch. The other guy is bringing a lot of thunder to the dance as well.    


I'm not expecting Davis-Garcia to be a wall-to-wall action fight. I think it will be a cagey affair between two young fighters who have a tremendous amount of respect for the other. But I believe that the more versatile one, the one who has the higher Ring IQ will be the one with his hand raised in victory. 

After some rough early moments, I think that Davis will work his way into the fight and gradually unfurl his arsenal. Davis' creative punch selection will keep Garcia guessing. And Garcia's inability to recognize punch sequences or take away weapons will lead to his undoing.  

I think that the fight will turn on Tank's superior ring craft. His ability to feint and set up shots will benefit him the longer the fight goes. Garcia will be respecting Tank's power and that will allow Tank to create openings with feints, traps and misdirection. I think that Tank's overhand left will be a key weapon. And he can throw it as a lead, at the end of a combination or after feinting with the jab to the body. 

I don't think this will be an easy fight for Tank, but eventually I believe that he will get the job done. I have no doubt that he will have some choppy moments and will be forced to think his way through the fight to get to Garcia. But the longer the fight goes the more success I see him having. In the second half of the fight I think that he will start to open up Garcia with a variety of power punches and combinations. Ultimately, I see an overhand left finishing the job around the eighth round.    

Gervonta Davis KO 8 Ryan Garcia.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.