Tyson Fury is not fighting Oleksandr Usyk. Errol Spence Jr. is not fighting Terence Crawford. Dmitry Bivol is not fighting Artur Beterbiev. Such is the woeful state of boxing in most divisions, where the undefeated, top two fighters at each weight find reason after reason, excuse after excuse, to avoid one another. Except for Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia, that is.

On Saturday, April 22, the two unbeaten stars will meet in Las Vegas in a contest that many are labeling the biggest fight of the year.

The particulars are that Davis (28-0 with 26 KOs) and Garcia (23-0 with 19 KOs) will fight at a catchweight of 136 pounds, one pound over the lightweight limit. Davis insisted on this stipulation, plus a rehydration clause limiting the weight gain the day after the weigh-in and on the day of the fight to ten pounds, because Garcia has been recently fighting at super lightweight. This means that there are no alphabet soup sanctioning body titles at stake.

Gervonta Davis & Ryan Garcia don’t need titles on the line

In essence, they are saying, “We don’t need no stinkin’ belts.”

Shortly after Ryan Garcia stopped Luke Campbell with a seventh-round TKO on Jan. 2, 2021, to win an interim lightweight belt, I noted that there was a quartet of unbeaten lightweights, including also Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, and Teofimo Lopez, who were not fighting each other:

“Between them they hold numerous sanctioning body belts. Already social media is filled with calls for these budding marquee fighters to face one another. But the fact that they all have unbeaten records means that they thus far have not done so. And knowing the self-destructive structure and politics of boxing, it may be another New Year’s Eve or two until we see some progress in determining just who is the best among this group, or perhaps others moving up to lightweight in search of major fights.”

Since then, Lopez lost to George Kambosos Jr., who lost to Haney, with Lopez moving up to 140 pounds. Haney holds all four major lightweight belts and fights fading former champ Vasyl Lomachenko on May 20, also in Las Vegas. The unbeaten 25-year-old Shakur Stevenson has also recently joined the lightweight ranks. But it is Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia who have crashed right through boxing’s artificial barriers to take center stage in the sport.

Gervonta Davis fights for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and on Showtime. Garcia fights for Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, which used to work with PBC, and on DAZN, after Golden Boy left Showtime as their broadcaster. No matter. This is a joint Showtime-DAZN pay-per-view, chiefly produced by Showtime but sold on both platforms, with old business rivals realizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

At the kickoff press conference in New York, Ryan Garcia explained, “we really came together and really conquered the poison that’s been stopping boxing from having the biggest fights.”

For once, “It’s strictly business” in Vegas means something productive for all involved.

New school fighters in and old school classic

There is a definite throwback atmosphere to this fight, harkening back to the days when the top fighters regularly faced each other, without a taboo of protecting a manufactured, undefeated record. Boxing legends including Jack Johnson, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali all lost during their storied careers. That did nothing to tarnish their extraordinary and historic legacies. We would never have had the epic fights involving Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman if the risk-averse matchmaking of today was the norm back then.

At the New York kickoff press conference on March 8, Bernard Hopkins, now a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, mentioned how this fight was reminiscent of the 1980s and early 1990s, the era of the classic fights involving the “Four Kings” of Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Thomas Hearns.

Perhaps, to honor this, the networks should consider showing this fight in black-and-white. The viewers coughing up the dough to watch it ($84.99 in the U.S.), which is on pay-per-view in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, and other networks elsewhere including in some as part of the regular DAZN subscription, might object, but that would add an artful touch to this bout.

May this be a wake-up call that ends the near-stasis in so many weight classes today, most disgracefully in the heavyweight division.

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About the author
Eddie Goldman
Eddie Goldman

Eddie is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast and produces the No Holds Barred blog. He is co-producer of The WAAR Room. He has been covering the combat sports for three decades.

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