HomeNewsRyan Garcia v Gervonta Davis: American rivals set for Las Vegas super-fight

Ryan Garcia v Gervonta Davis: American rivals set for Las Vegas super-fight

“I may feel sad that I lost but I dared to be great. I chose to go down this hard road.”

Protecting an undefeated record can be sacred to a fighter, but for American star Ryan Garcia there is more to life than losing a bout.

Garcia, 24, will face compatriot Gervonta Davis in a non-title 136lb catchweight fight at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Saturday in one of the most anticipated bouts of the year.

Garcia, who turned professional aged 17, has previously spoken about his past struggles with anxiety and panic attacks.

In April 2021 he withdrew from a scheduled fight against Javier Fortuna because of mental health issues – and he says the break was fundamental to his recovery and a new, healthier, outlook on the sport.

“You learn a lot about yourself and the truth about things. And the impact life can truly have on you,” he tells BBC Sport.

“A loss wouldn’t kill me now because I’m daring to do something the majority of people aren’t willing to do.”

Garcia, a huge social media star with more than nine million Instagram followers, last fought in July 2022, beating Fortuna to improve his record to 23-0 with 19 knockouts.

Davis, 28, defended his WBA ‘regular’ title against Hector Luis Garcia in January and boasts 26 knockouts in 28 unbeaten fights.

Despite a more balanced outlook on his career, Garcia is not contemplating defeat against the knockout specialist nicknamed ‘Tank’.

“You’re going to see I will defeat you, I will beat you, nothing you can do can win,” a wide-eyed Garcia said in a message to his foe.

“Hype yourself up, look at all your knockouts over and over again, keep practising your shots. I don’t care if you train a million times, you won’t defeat me.

“This is destined to be and it is what it is. I’m sorry.”

Boxing delivers rare super-fight

Gervonta Davis throws a right hand against Hector Luis Garcia in January 2023
Davis (right) is a former unified super-featherweight champion

Boxing’s credibility has suffered in recent times with some of the sport’s biggest bouts – such as the undisputed heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk – not being delivered for a passionate fanbase.

But Garcia-Davis is an exception to the rule, an example of how obstacles caused by egos, purse splits, promotional politics or opposing TV broadcasters can be overcome.

Davis is promoted by Premier Boxing Champions and tied to US broadcaster Showtime, while Garcia is with Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and signed to streaming service DAZN.

Garcia v Davis will be live on both platforms, as a pay-per-view.

“For the first time in a long time you see two prime fighters going at it that are young enough to still be explosive and to have everything that makes them great,” Garcia says.

“It’s the most exciting fight. We have the fanbases that exceed boxing in itself. This has the potential to be the biggest fight out there and I’m glad it’s here.”

The rivalry between Garcia and Davis – who both usually operate at lightweight – has intensified through several social media spats over the years.

In September, they were reportedly separated by security after an altercation at a nightclub.

“Bad blood may not be the word but I definitely have a lot of differences with Gervonta,” Garcia says.

He references a now deleted tweet from Davis which reportedly mentioned Garcia’s parents, adding: “I thought there was no point in bringing up family but that was a long time ago.

“I chose to make this fight happen because this is the fight that’s going to really solidify myself in being the champion I really want to be.

“For me, I’ve always said it’s not about the belt but who I beat. At this point Gervonta is a great fighter and probably the most dangerous fighter. “

Attracting traditional fans & new generation

Ryan Garcia connects with a jab against Luke Campbell in January 2021
Garcia (left) survived a second-round knockdown to come back and stop Briton Luke Campbell in the seventh in January 2021

With such a huge following, Garcia is one of the most marketable fighters in the sport.

Scroll through his social channels and you will find him posing with supercars, on luxury yachts in lavish destinations or pictured alongside ‘A’ list celebrity friends such as actor Jamie Foxx or basketball legend LeBron James.

You will also see numerous videos of Garcia showing off his rapid hand speed. Those clips often go viral, shared among his millions of young fans.

While he admits platforms such as Instagram have been integral to his career and brand, Garcia describes social media as a “place full of trolls” and says many consider him to be “an easy target”.

“It’s the tale as old as time, you judge a book by its cover,” he says.

“Because I don’t look like the toughest guy in the room they perceive me as corny or my words aren’t as serious.

“Teddy Roosevelt said it’s easy to judge the man in the arena but when you’re in there that’s more courage than anyone else ever has.”

Over the last five years there has been a phenomenal rise in ‘YouTuber’ boxing, with social media influencers taking up the art of pugilism.

In terms of revenue and global interest, February’s contest between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury – two huge social media stars but novice boxers – will be one of the biggest of 2023.

Taking his celebrity status into account, Garcia feels his upcoming contest with Davis uniquely crosses between elite-level boxing and appealing to a new generation of fight fans.

“The hardcore casual boxing fans will tune in but you’ve also got the Jake Paul or Tommy Fury-type of fans sprinkled in,” he says.

“That’s why this fight captures so many people. It’s mainstream but it’s also [for] hardcore boxing fans. That’s a recipe for a huge fight.”

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