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.