What We Learned From Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia’s Two-City Media Tour…?

Today concluded the two-day media tour, the first of its kind that I can remember in the post COVID-19-world, for the mega-fight that is just that, a spectacle and something to bring boxing back to greatness, as Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia will fight at the T-Mobile Arena on April 22nd, live on PPV, for everyone else.

Gervonta Davis will let you know that he is the man in the sport of boxing, both with words and actions. That is how he feels, and showing up nearly two hours late to the first media event in New York City, with no consequence, apology or even excusing himself speaks to the grandiose nature Davis views himself. It appears both in and out of the sport of boxing, Davis is slowly starting to give off the impression that rules are for people who are not superstars, and given his ability to generate money, the world works differently for him.

So far this observation, I have seen about Davis, has been proven true, as no one has really publicly gotten frustrated with him, from the networks to the promoters, Davis is untouchable in terms of his power in boxing, as long as he continues to win, but if he were to lose, a lot of the ill-will he is building will burst out of the pipes, like none other.

Garcia is largely considered a fighter, who is more of an attraction than a prize fighter. Fighting very few world-rated opponents, his most notable is a knockout win over Luke Campbell, Garcia is looking like the hero in this event, as he seemingly willed this fight together along with Davis, as the fighters made this fight. Despite what angry older boxing writers will say, Garcia has a huge following, a great amateur pedigree, and is a profitable fighter. Garcia and Davis could’ve milked it for years, making solid money, but they didn’t. This needs to be a big part of the story!

After years of fights not getting made, these two worked around things we have been taught by PR and promoters, that “sides of the street”, and network politics can stop a big fight – Davis and Garcia are making it seem easy to make a marquee fight. Though the social media express was front-and-center as we got five months of chatter prior to an official announcement, that doesn’t change the fact that the fight was made.

This is a celebration, and honestly a major achievement as for roughly ten years we have been told every reason, except how these fights can happen. These two have forced the shaky and stubborn business practices to adjust to the modern world in which people have a very short attention span, and are tired of waiting.

Tank views himself as “the guy” in the sport of boxing.

“I feel as though I’m already that top guy in the sport. This fight is just about me getting over the hump,” said Davis on Thursday at the Los Angeles press conference. “He’s putting on a front for the people. That’s what I see. I see a guy who’s an act. That’s what it is.

After making the media and Ryan Garcia wait nearly two hours, Davis showed up at the New York press conference. No explanation, then when prompted by Garcia about it, mocked Garcia for showing up on time.

Davis sees himself as bigger than the sport of boxing, and someone who can do what he sees fit, not unlike great rock stars like Axl Rose. In large part, there is truth to it, but I have never seen someone who isn’t humble, not get humbled by life, and the alarming nature of Davis, who has become the biggest cash cow in the Premier Boxing Champions universe speaks to the level of entitlement that stardom can attract. The overall tenure Davis views very few current boxers as on his level and wants to remind them constantly of this.

A star is constantly getting attention, getting free stuff, and can post something stupid, and hundreds of thousands of people will respond. Whether deserved or not, this type of power is tough to not corporate someone. Millions upon millions of people are studying him daily to be in his very spot, and Davis understands it.

“I’ve been boxing since I was seven. I fought a lot coming up. I’m just happy to be a part of this moment and share the ring with a young fighter like Ryan Garcia who’s daring himself to be great. He talked his way into this fight. April 22 he’s going to have to show it,“ said Davis, at the New York press conference. “I think this is important because we’re both young. Both of us are at our peak. A lot of young fighters don’t fight each other. We both made our name coming up and the time is now. We’re both great fighters and we put it all on the line.”

Davis truly believes that he is the next great boxer. The one who will take Canelo Alvarez’s place, and this fight on April 22nd, on Showtime pay-per-view will be the bridge that takes Davis from one of the biggest stars in the sport to the biggest star in the sport.

“This guy keeps talking about how he’s gonna hit me with a hook, but he doesn’t have anything else but a hook. What else have you got? He’s not a complete fighter,” said Davis. “When you’re a complete fighter, you can do everything. You can’t just depend on one punch. What happens when that punch doesn’t work? You have to rely on something else.

That being said, Davis didn’t really sell the fight. What I heard was him tell the world he is great, his coach Calvin Ford, gave a great and sincere speech, but Davis was rather disinterested. It was the classic cool guy routine, or ‘I am too cool for school’, and though that might work at times, it also felt like Garcia came out of the L.A. press conference with a 10-8 round in terms of verbal response. Nothing about Davis seemed interested in what will probably be the biggest press event for boxing of the whole year.

“I’ve put a lot of guys to sleep and Ryan is next,” said Davis. “Didn’t Ryan get caught by Luke Campbell? Do I hit way harder than Luke Campbell? Yes or no?

Even when Davis threw a half-hearted joke punch looking away from Garcia, it was Garcia, who avoided it, and made it his moment. It seems like the superstar Gervonta Davis is becoming is similar to that of Kyrie Irving in basketball. Watch me as I perform my sport, largely disinterested in a lot of the build-up, and at times a polarizing figure in the sport, in both good and bad ways. I mean, it is an interesting space to occupy, but I am not sure if it is sustainable, and my feeling was it came off as honestly a bit troubling.

Though I am sure Davis respects Garcia as a fighter, it is clear he doesn’t view him as his equal. The same energy Davis had for Rolando Romero was not present, as Davis at most, mildly insulted Garcia.

Ryan Garcia wanted this fight

I have never been a die-hard Ryan Garcia person. I know he can fight. I know he was a good amateur, and I knew he hit freakishly hard. That said, this press tour has made him look like a whole new fighter, as he seems enthused, excited, and eager for this fight to occur. While Davis comes off as muted, and removed from the outside world, Garcia is looking surprisingly approachable and relatable something I would never have thought prior.

“This is a fight that I’ve been wanting for a very long time. To be a champion, you have to beat the best. It’s not about the titles, it’s about who you beat. It’s a testimony to the respect I have for Gervonta as a fighter,” were some of the first words muttered by Ryan Garcia at the New York press conference, that Dakota McCormick of ITRBoxing transcribed for me on Wednesday, March 8th. “I want to be the best. During this whole journey, I put boxing first and the fans first. I had to accept a lot of stipulations, but my power comes from within and from above. My strength comes from my heart.

The teen heartthrob, Garcia, who has turned into the boxing version of Zac Efron, though not as accomplished as his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, showing aspects of De La Hoya, as he is pursuing the best fights possible, now has to avoid what plagued De La Hoya, which is losing the big fights. Most prior to this fights announcement, would have believed, that it would’ve been Ryan Garcia who cause a hang-up in the politics around the fight, but not at all.

Garcia said yes to a 136 lbs. catchweight, and a ten-pound rehydration clause put into the contract, as well as if Ryan Garcia loses the fight, he can not get a rematch with Gervonta Davis, but Davis can enforce a rematch with Garcia. In short, Garcia gave up all political leverage and put his ego aside to make this happen. If you had have asked me if making this fight changed my perception of Ryan Garcia, I would shrug my shoulders, and probably not care, but guess what, after two fairly boring press conferences I am compelled by Ryan Garcia, and the level of confidence he exudes.

“I’m just going to let him think what he thinks. If he thinks all I have is the left hook, then he’s going to run into other shots and be confused. If he had watched any of my fights he’d know what else I have,” said Garcia. “He’s going to try to walk me down, but when he feels shots like this, he’s not going to want to do that. I’m going to hit him to the body and take the aggression out of him. I have a lot of ways to stop him.”

Garcia is no longer the child we saw on the L.A. Fight Club cards fighting a little after 5:30 PM PST, now he is a man, and he is looking to prove that he is a star in the sport, by facing the biggest force in boxing in his age range. This is what boxing is lacking, people calling out the bullies and the proven fighters, proving their own existence and greatness. I had a misconception that Garcia was an entitled fighter, who was selectively managing his career along with his public persona on the internet to get the maximum profit. In the world I saw Garcia in, I never saw him having to take a hard fight – yet, Garcia forced this fight and that is respectable.

“Nobody else could put together this type of event. Whoever wins this is on top. Whoever wins is the face of boxing and I truly believe that,” said Garcia as if the winner were on the cover of every major sports publication after this fight. “I’m here to win and I promise you that I have heart and determination like you’ve never seen before. ‘Tank’ likes to fight guys that don’t hit hard, but I hit hard. When I hit you with that left hook, you’re gonna be on the floor. Asleep. Good night.”

Calvin Ford is as excited as anyone

The star of the show both days was coach Calvin Ford, Gervonta Davis’ coach. What Davis might lack, Ford has more than enough to carry. In Los Angeles, Ford was serving as a coach, but also a hype-man, as you could hear the joy in his voice when he saw the fighters come face-to-face. The excitement Davis doesn’t show, I see through his coach, Ford, who has molded him into who Davis has become.

“These two are bringing boxing back. You’re going to feel this energy. These are two great fighters. Y’all made it happen,” said Ford. “This fight is about the next generation of boxing to come. I can’t wait for the night to be on this new level. After this fight, who’s going to be sitting on this throne? It’s a passing of the torch.”

While Davis looked as though this mega event was nothing new to him, Ford seemed excited at what all the hard work the duo has put forth has brought them. Even more, Ford was excited that a willing, young, and ambitious fighter like Garica would step up.

“These two guys are showing you how boxing is supposed to be. The young ones are coming and this is the start right here,“ said Ford. “Everyone knows what ‘Tank’ is gonna do because he does it for the fans. You haven’t seen the best of Gervonta Davis yet. Is Ryan ready to bring it out of him?

It is more corporate than I expected

Despite social media calling for the fighters and both fighters refusing to allow any other fight work for either party, the press conferences didn’t fell as grand as I had imagined. Part of this is probably due to the fact that I didn’t know if this fight would actually happen, so to see these two together with a media event, I was hoping for ‘break the internet’ type content.

Instead, we got a very formal, professional-ish, event, that was married by a bit of tardy behavior, but nothing about it felt like what the event really is. This event truly is ground zero for the next generation. This marks the first major fight of the 2020s, and also, in a way is a big f-you to Terence Crawford and Errol Spence, who never made their pay-per-view. The young kids have seemingly surpassed more accomplished fighters by making this happen.

The youthful rockstars who wear hip young people’s clothes have done something remarkable as young people should do, and look to do better than the prior generation. The tenure and tone I expected were of rebellion and celebration, yet from both fighters, it was rather muted.

The New York press event was as formal as any event could be, and the L.A. event was a bit more informal but felt more like Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao than it did Oscar De La Hoya versus Fernando Vargas. I came into this week with hope, and I leave with hope – but now fear. With ticket prices for floor seats being as high as $5,000 is this yet, another fight made for people who make a lot of money, and not the fight fans who love the sport, and create the dynamic atmospheres we all love? I hope not, but seeing these first two events gave me PTSD of the vanity and wealth show that was Mayweather and Pacquiao. Many in attendance wanted to wear something nice, be at the event, and broadcast it for the world to see…why? Well, simple – it was a way to show off how rich and powerful they were, and social media platform seemingly get the most engagement with this type of behavior.

I understand the fight fans don’t always have to be taken into consideration, but this mega-fight, and it truly is a mega-fight, is one that a lot of hardcore fight fans have been yearning for – yet it seems if the media events are any indicator, everything about this event will be my least favorite thing in life – ‘status’. The event is simply that an event, but the sad undertone I observed was, we lost a little bit of the humanity in both of these fighters, which could have been with the seemingly rushed natured of these media events.

It just felt weird the same way when at the press conference informal language of ‘we here’, instead ‘we are here’, is juxtaposed next to price points most people hope to use to pay off student debts.

In the end, the press event started the ripple we wanted all along in the fight game, now I can’t poo poo the fact that it didn’t embrace the modern landscape of social media as much as I hoped. Though the barriers were broken down the old guard still did business as usual as the biggest fight of the year with viral social media personalities, didn’t produce one a clip that seemingly stopped the internet in its tracks, and that shocked me. It really did.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle