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Ryan Garcia is boxing’s reigning “it” guy.
A potent meld of good looks, effusive personality and prodigious social media following has made him a higher-profile commodity than his ring resume now warrants.
So it’s been working well enough so far.
But while casual fans may be forever distracted by non-combat bells and whistles, he’ll need to gain legitimate in-ring street cred to move the needle past Kardashian-style fame.
A one-sided defeat of Javier Fortuna—a former second-tier title-holder at 130 pounds—on Saturday didn’t hurt the cause, coming via sixth-round KO. Garcia spent most of the evening in Los Angeles strafing the 33-year-old Dominican with punishing shots to the body and head that yielded three knockdowns.
The performance predictably delighted the masses in his SoCal backyard, but given that the fight was at 140 pounds and Fortuna hadn’t won a truly meaningful fight in a couple of years, it wasn’t exactly the stuff that sure-fire Hall of Fame inductions are made of.
In other words, though his record is a pristine 23-0, and he’s ranked fifth by The Ring at lightweight, he’ll need more than a few new Instagram devotees to get over with the purists.
That means his next foe will need to meet a few criteria.
He’ll need to be closer to a 50/50 proposition than a 10/90. He’ll need to have scored a worthwhile win since the start of 2021. And he’ll need enough skill of his own to make Garcia finally use the tools his hype men have been gushing about.
Fortunately, there’s one man who checks all three boxes.
His name: Gervonta “Tank” Davis.
The 27-year-old Baltimore native shares space with Garcia as one of the sport’s best young talents, is slotted one place above him in The Ring’s rankings at 135 and performs with a rough-hewn ferocity while brandishing highlight-producing one-shot power.
He’s held belts of varying worth in three weight classes, starting as the full-fledged IBF/WBA champ at 130 pounds before “progressing” to bogus secondary title claims at 135 and 140.
Regardless, there’s little debate about his skill, which has yielded a 27-0 record with 25 KOs since 2013 and has him on the verge of truly elite status–as evidenced by inclusion among the “five more who could easily be here” on Boxing Scene’s pound-for-pound top 10 last month.
In other words, he’s already everything Garcia says he wants to be.
And the fight is a promoter’s dream for multiple reasons.
The style clash of a lanky 5’10” right-hander and a predatory 5’6″ southpaw is particularly intriguing, given that both men have shown fight-altering power to the head and body.
“King Ryan” got off the floor to stop veteran contender Luke Campbell with a single hook to the liver in January 2021, while Davis’ uppercut finish of triple-division champ Leo Santa Cruz three months earlier was the kind that still yields an involuntary cringe on every viewing.
The fan base clash is equally intriguing, too, with Davis having played to full houses in Baltimore, Atlanta and New York in recent fights while building on a hometown foundation that’s evolved into crowds dotted with high-profile athletes and celebrities angling for space.
Garcia, meanwhile, blends the traditional boxing fervor that stems from his Mexican-American heritage with the new-school arrivals that help comprise his 1.21 million subscribers on YouTube and 8.9 million followers on Instagram.
Ask a teenager about Julio Cesar Chavez, and you’ll get a blank stare. Ask the same teenager about Garcia, and you’ll get instant recognition.
And perhaps the best reason for the fight?
Both guys seem to want it—at least when microphones are present.
The rivalry has kept each man’s name in the other’s mouth for the last several months. Davis has suggested the match has been made in public but rejected behind the scenes, while Garcia counters by saying Davis has been protected by promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Indeed, Davis’ last five opponents have all been clients of either Mayweather Promotions or the Premier Boxing Champions stable, with which “Money’s” business is closely aligned. That has left the Golden Boy Promotions brass to suggest the Garcia match would be easier to make if Davis were to break ranks.
Such a split appeared imminent leading up to Davis’ fight with Rolando Romero in May, but neither the fighter nor Mayweather have provided much insight into the relationship since. And Golden Boy reportedly upped the ante in June by floating a “multi, multi, multi, multi-million-dollar offer” in Davis’ direction to get the fight made but received no tangible response.
As for Garcia, he repeated his “bring me Davis” mantra for DAZN’s audience on Saturday, again pining for a fight. Sirius XM host and ex-New York State Athletic Commission chairman Randy Gordon told Bleacher Report that a Davis-Garcia fight is alongside Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence atop fans’ wish lists.
It’s a continuing soap opera on social media and between business types.
But if the rivals are who they say they are, it won’t be a wish for much longer.
“I will fight Tank next,” Garcia said. “If Tank wants it, let’s get it. I have a spirit of competition in me, and you’re gonna see it when I fight Tank Davis, and I’m gonna whip his ass.”