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.