Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia echo superstars from the past by agreeing to fight each other at their peaks
Calvin Ford, the trainer of unbeaten Gervonta "Tank" Davis, didn't have much to say at Wednesday's kickoff news conference in New York designed to promote Davis' super lightweight fight April 22 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against Ryan Garcia, but what he said captured the moment perfectly.
Davis and Garcia have wanted to fight each other for some time, but Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza noted that there were people who tried to convince both boxers to fight someone else. Davis and Garcia were steadfast, and more than two months after the bout was first announced, it was finalized.
Ford has led Davis to a 28-0 record with 26 knockouts and world championships at 130 and 135 pounds. If there has been one criticism of Davis, though, it's that his competition hasn't been the best. In taking on Garcia, he's facing the best opponent of his career, a guy who is 23-0 with 19 knockouts, extremely fast hands and rare power.
"These two are bringing boxing back," Ford said. "You're going to feel this energy. These are two great fighters. Y'all made this happen."
That last sentence — "Y'all made this happen." — was the money line.
This fight is happening because Davis and Garcia insisted upon it. They wanted to fight each other and didn't want any more tune-ups or interim fights or stay-busy fights, which is often a nice way of saying they're tired of facing tomato cans who have no hope of beating them. They wanted to walk to the ring knowing they could lose if they weren't at their best. That energy is why Sugar Ray Leonard was able to rally late to come back and defeat Thomas Hearns in their first fight in 1981. It's why the first fight between Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor is remembered so fondly. They didn't need to fight each other, but they did, and each fought like a maniac in an effort to win.
For the record, Pryor won, but nobody lost that night. Boxing won, as did its fans, by the mere fact that those two great athletes took a risk neither needed to take and fought with the heart, soul and passion that defined them as superstars for the next four decades and into eternity.
A fighter's greatness is drawn out by facing the best. Look at the greatest who have ever done it, guys such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Leonard, and the one common theme among them is their opposition levels: They fought the best of their eras when those fighters were in their primes, often multiple times.
We live in an era when boxing managers and promoters want to coddle their fighters, spoon-feed them C-level opponents, build up questionable if not bogus records and not take a risk until it's absolutely imperative.
That idea is what has so far prevented welterweights Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford from fighting for the undisputed title and has thus far kept heavyweights Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk from facing each other.
The negotiations for big fights are tedious and often ridiculous, and they bore fight fans to tears. But it's what has become the norm in this era. Thankfully, Davis and Garcia saw past that.
"This is a defining moment in our careers," Garcia said. "This is about legacy. This is about who really wants the crown. Tank has the image of a devastating puncher. He’s a great fighter. I’ll know within myself what type of fighter I am after this fight. This is what I’ve always wanted.
“I just didn’t want to take the risk of an interim fight before this one. There are a lot of little things that can happen. I didn’t wait this long to mess it up at the finish line."
After wiping out Javier Fortuna in July, Garcia called out Davis. He made the media rounds to emphasize that point and kept it up on social media. He literally wouldn't be denied.
The fact that Davis hasn't had the greatest opposition to this point in his career certainly can't be pegged on him. As soon as he became aware of Garcia's interest in fighting him, he said yes. And when the negotiations started to go sideways, Davis, too, ordered his team to keep plugging to make the Garcia bout a reality.
Davis is a fierce competitor, and he understood the moment. He proved himself a champion by accepting Garcia's challenge and refusing to let anyone sidetrack the bout.
“This fight is definitely going to be tough," Davis said. "But this is what we came to do. We want the big fights. I’ve been boxing since I was 7. 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.
“ ... 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."
It takes a lot of people in the modern era to put a fight of this magnitude together. But it never happens if the fighters don't insist upon it.
Davis and Garcia each had numerous opportunities to walk away and fight somebody else, someone who was less of a threat to his perfect record. Neither would agree to that.
Now, there is finally a classic battle set for boxing fans to anticipate. Regardless of whose arm is raised late in the evening April 22, it'll be important to remember that because of the persistence of both Davis and Garcia, there will be no loser on that night.