Brynn Anderson / AP, file
Thursday, April 20, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Cynical longtime boxing fans surely thought discussions for a fight between young superstars Gervonta “Tank” Davis and “King” Ryan Garcia would go nowhere when they began last year.
Many of the same hurdles that have tripped up countless potential blockbuster bouts in the past stood in the way of Davis vs. Garcia. There were legal issues (with Davis), competing network and streaming-service interests (Davis fights on Showtime, while Garcia is partnered with DAZN) and major contract disputes (headlined by a disagreement on a rematch clause).
• When: April 22, preliminary card, 3 p.m., pay-per-view 5 p.m. main event expected around 7:30 p.m.
• Where: T-Mobile Arena
• Tickets: Sold out but available through secondary and resale ticket sites
• Pay-per-view: $85 on Showtime, or $60 on DAZN for existing subscribers
But somehow, the camps for Garcia, who’s represented by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, and Davis, who’s associated with longtime boxing power broker Al Haymon and his Premier Boxing Champions brand, navigated through them all. The two undefeated boxers are set to face off on April 22 at T-Mobile Arena in one of the biggest fights the sport could currently put together.
“This is the fight to save boxing,” De La Hoya said at Garcia’s media workout in LA 10 days before fight night. “The reason why is, you have two young guys, two undefeated guys who are the best of the best, willing to fight each other. You can see and feel the anticipation.”
Any lingering skeptics of the appeal of Davis vs. Garcia—the first boxing match of the year at the 20,000-seat venue on the Strip —had to admit defeat when tickets went on sale. The bout sold out in under five minutes.
Ticket prices on resale websites have yet to dip under $500, with ringside seats fetching as much as $30,000. De La Hoya, who can be prone to overexaggeration, predicts more than 2 million buys for the pay-per-view.
The sheer numbers accumulating before the fight might be throwing off boxing purists because of the way the 28-year-old Davis and the 24-year-old Garcia have reached the pinnacle of the sport. It hasn’t been through the traditional method of racking up the most prestigious titles and cleaning out all other viable contenders.
Neither Davis nor Garcia in fact hold any major championship belts going into their 136-pound catchweight showdown. They have both proven themselves with a number of dominant, vicious knockout victories, but their popularity has skyrocketed more via social-media clips and presence than through trophy cases.
Garcia has 9.5 million Instagram followers; Davis has 4.6 million. Instead of trying to preserve their auras of invincibility and letting the wide-ranging political pressures of boxing get in the way, they used their influence to demand a fight between the two.
“If the fans reward this type of event, where two young fighters put it all on the line and they’re both superstars and they’re making money regardless without each other, it will inspire other fighters,” Garcia told Mike Tyson on the former heavyweight champion’s Hotboxin’ podcast. “This will show other fighters this is how you do it. This is where it’s going. This is the trend.”
That philosophy breaks from generations of fighters who have preceding Davis and Garcia. Most famously in the past couple of decades, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao could never reach a deal to fight one another in their primes, despite being the top two ranked pound-for-pound fighters at around the same weight.
By the time they finally met in 2015, both were in their late 30s, with Mayweather’s unanimous-decision win remembered as a letdown and a failure for boxing to fully capitalize on its best-selling fight of all-time (4.6 million pay-per-view buys).
In this fight, Garcia would have to be considered the Pacquiao to Davis’ Mayweather. The former has a slightly flashier style, relying on hand speed and freakish punching power. Davis, on the other hand, is more skilled in defense and overall technique, clearly taking some cues from Mayweather, his former promoter and mentor.
Even the betting odds are close to the same; Mayweather was mostly around a -225 (i.e. risking $225 to win $100) favorite, with Pacquiao coming back at roughly +185 (i.e. risking $100 to win $185). Davis is most commonly a -260 favorite, with Garcia offered at +220.
Mayweather’s victory over Pacquiao eight years ago secured his place as the preeminent boxer of his era. Although Davis vs. Garcia won’t quite reach such commercial heights, the stakes are similar, with the fight being billed as a chance to determine the current “face of boxing”—at least in the United States.
The superfight might not be as long-awaited as its predecessors, but it shapes up as every bit as significant. “This one fight means more than the thousand fights I’ve been in,” Davis said. “He’s a star. I’m a star. I needed a dance partner. We want to see who’s the best, really.”
This story originally appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.