A clash of stars sent its two protagonists in different directions this weekend. Gervonta Davis proved a lot of doubters wrong, outboxing Ryan Garcia from early on before securing a beautiful body shot knockout. He pretty clearly proved himself a level above, but how exactly?
There were a few ways, but one big factor was that ‘Tank’ very clearly came in with a gameplan compensating for his weaknesses and exploiting Garcia’s, whereas Garcia displayed little by way of similar preparation. Let’s dig into it.
Read our round-by-round analysis of the fight here.
Table of Contents
The Breakdown: How did Gervonta Davis defeat Ryan Garcia?
If we’re going to compare how each fighter compensated (or didn’t) for their potential issues coming into the fight, we need to summarize what they are. For Davis, the most obvious issue coming in was the big difference in his skill level between fighting on the back foot and countering (very high) and when needing to come forward (lacking setups, lunging a lot, and leaving his chin high). Against an opponent much longer than him, like Garcia, that could have become a real problem. Especially with Garcia’s own countering ability.
The younger man, though, came in with some flaws of his own. Taken broadly, he also has a problem with hanging his chin up in the air, especially when resetting after throwing. He also tends to rely on two specific attacks- his lead left hook, and a straight right hand. And he uses a very long stance, which leaves him vulnerable to angled movement and attacks. He also has a tendency to let southpaws—like Davis is—take outside foot positioning away from him. This isn’t necessarily an inherent flaw, despite common wisdom on the matter, but it’s exploitable without the right precautions. Which we’ll come to in a minute.
The first step Tank took to managing that length disadvantage started immediately; a small thing not necessarily obvious at first glance, but key to how the fight played out. The natural move for a longer fighter settling into the fight is to try to control the space and range in front of him with a jab. Garcia isn’t elite at this, but he does it pretty well.
Tank didn’t try to compete with him directly on this. Instead, he pawed at Garcia’s jab hand whenever he saw the opportunity, disrupting his timing and leaving him throwing it opportunistically rather than with a plan. Occasionally, he’d briefly pin Garcia’s lead hand in place, which didn’t just prevent that jab at all, but interfered with his overall movement as he had to maneuver around Davis’ straight arm.
In the second round, Garcia got a bit impatient with all this, and started trying to force Tank to the ropes by coming at him hard with power shots off the bat. Initially, this had some success, and Davis’ response was to grab and hold on, forcing the referee to break them. At first glance this looked bad, potentially a panic response. It became clear as the rounds went on, though, that it was completely planned. It became a way to dissuade Garcia’s pressure and push him back without risking showing the vulnerabilities he has in come-forward exchanges. Not the prettiest tool in the toolkit but an effective one here.
Garcia did continue to attack though, and this was where that big issue with predictable attacks came into play and Tank was completely ready for it. Garcia did initially have some success putting them together following the left hook with the right hand immediately after. He always did this the same way though, and at one point he tried it three times in a row. Tank stepped back from the first two, but on the third, he stuck his jab out to disguise his position, slipped the left hook, then stuck in a left of his own, landing bang on the chin of Garcia as he pitched forward to throw the right.
What’s notable here is how clearly Garcia planned that move. Watching the replays, you can see the satisfaction on his face long before either one throws a punch in that exchange. He’s already read what Garcia’s going to do, and he knows he’s going to counter it. And he does.
Garcia wasn’t badly hurt though and he recovered well. Rounds three and four saw him, for the first time in the fight, start to consider what his responses should be, rather than just using his size. Realizing Tank was targeting his jab, he started using it as bait, trying to draw responses before throwing the right hand. He didn’t land anything serious, but it did give Davis something to consider.
Then, in the fourth, he made some adjustments to his left hook. He’d been winging it high all night so far, and Garcia had slipped under almost all of them, and gotten the outside position after. This is where that issue with the foot placement, mentioned earlier, comes into play. It’s considered standard practice that, when a southpaw and orthodox fighter face off, the one who keeps his lead foot outside of the other has the advantage. Garcia has faced southpaws before, and rarely bothers trying to do this. He almost always allows his foot to be on the inside, giving the opponent a route to circle out to Garcia’s left.
This may well have been a deliberate choice. One of the reasons it’s considered an advantage to be outside is it allows you to move away from the opponent’s power hand. Garcia’s biggest shot, though, is his left. It’s very plausible that he takes the inside deliberately to tempt his opponent to move that way, and walk onto the left hook. The problem in this fight was that Davis slipped under pretty much every head shot thrown that way, and was able to step comfortably around Garcia’s long stance, nullifying his offence and forcing him to turn.
In the early-middle rounds, Garcia tried to work on this. The first and obvious adjustment was to start throwing that left hook to the body as well. This intercepted the movement and forced Davis to escape straight backwards, allowing Garcia to start building the pressure again, cautiously. He also managed, briefly, to actually get Tank to reach in with big shots and counter him.
However, the problem was that as soon as the action heated up and Garcia started to try to turn his positioning into scored points, he forgot what he’d just learned. Whereas Tank, conversely, realized immediately where his problem was and backed off the bigger leading shots. The ending was still a couple of rounds away, but that ultimately started it.
Garcia started swinging those left hooks upstairs instead of setting them up and Tank slipped under them, this time with a real focus on stepping in very close as he circled around Garcia and forced him to turn. He began circling more at range, too, moving first one way then the other and not allowing Garcia to take the corralling steps he needed to push Garcia to the ropes.
That sort of response speaks to Davis’ focus and awareness in the ring. It does also hint that, maybe, Garcia had never really drilled throwing that left hook to the body in a serious way. We can’t know this, but it’s a fairly common sign of things being considered, but still new to a fighter. They apply them when they’ve got time to think, but when things get frantic and instinctive, they go back to ingrained habits. In this case, Garcia’s ingrained habits drowned him while those that had previously seemed inherent to Tank were kept under control.
The ending was a result of the exact same problem as the first knockdown. Garcia threw the left hook, and Davis slipped it. To his credit, Garcia did try something to stop that, dropping his hand to lean on Davis’ head and cut the pivot out mid-move.
Unfortunately, Garcia then followed up by throwing the right hand anyway. Davis, who saw it coming, countered with a short sharp left to the liver. It wasn’t a particularly hard shot, but it caught Garcia right on the liver completely unguarded. It didn’t register initially—a common characteristic of body shots—but the distress in Garcia became apparent after a couple of seconds.
Garcia took a knee and failed to beat the ten count. Some in the aftermath have been harsh, calling it a quit. But that’s unfair. Those who have taken them speak frequently of the way a good liver shot hits you – it literally just becomes impossible to straighten up. Garcia only just failed to beat the count, but that’s how it is sometimes.
In conclusion, Davis’ excellent tactical performance drew out weaknesses in Garcia’s game that he was not able to cover up.
The Future: Where do Davis and Garcia go from here?
The next step for Davis should be simple: the winner of the upcoming fight between Lomachenko and Haney, for all the belts the winner will hold. Tank has a version of the WBA title that essentially makes him No. 1 contender from that organization, which theoretically places him in a prime position. Unfortunately, being a PBC fighter, boxing politics may make it hard to make a fight with those affiliated with different promoters- particularly Lomachenko, with Top Rank. Haney’s currently a free agent, so that fight should be doable.
There is though another, ugly, complication here. Davis has had frequent brushes with law enforcement for various reasons, and while various charges of assault or domestic violence have been dropped, he has recently pled guilty to involvement in a hit-and-run incident back in 2020. Sentencing is due on May 5th, and it could come with a jail term. So any plans for his career must wait till he finds out what that brings.
For Garcia, it’s time to rebuild. It’s also time to commit fully to moving up to 140lbs. That comes with its own challenges, as he has dabbled with this division before. However, if he fully commits, he’ll have to adjust to not having as much of a size advantage.
Garcia may not be ready for Regis Prograis but it’s a deep weight class with a lot of good fights that would challenge him without overwhelming him. He’s still young so time’s on his side, but he definitely has to watch this fight back with a critical eye, and take the lessons with him.
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