Looking ahead to an April matchup against lightweight star Ryan Garcia would be an easy enough mistake for Gervonta Davis. That’s why the Baltimore boxer, who is scheduled to fight Hector Luis Garcia (no relation to Ryan) in the District next month before a proposed showdown with Ryan Garcia later in the spring, says he‘s focused on the task at hand.
In a battle of undefeated fighters, Davis (27-0, 25 knockouts) is set to square off Jan. 7 against Hector Garcia (16-0, 10 KOs) at Capital One Arena.
The bout, the main event of a pay-per-view card presented by Showtime, will be the 28-year-old Davis’ first in the District in more than six years. But the WBA lightweight champion now returns to the city as one of the sport’s top attractions, drawing seven-figure gates in cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York in part because of his eye-popping power.
Garcia doesn’t figure to be a pushover. The Dominican-born 2016 Olympian, 31, is coming off the biggest year of his career as he scored a big-time upset over previously undefeated prospect Chris Colbert and a workman-like win over WBA super featherweight champion Roger Gutierrez.
Those involved with the promotion insist there were easier fights that Davis could have taken to stay ready for Ryan Garcia. And, for once, that doesn’t seem to be your usual pre-fight bluster.
“We’re not sleeping on this guy,” said Davis, whose nickname is Tank. “I know we have two fights lined up, but I’m only focused on this one. I’m ready to go through everybody that’s in my way.”
Davis’ second fight is the one that will draw the most attention. Like Davis, the 24-year-old Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) is a star — one, in this case, who has built his fan base through his millions of social media followers. After years of circling each other — the two regularly have exchanged trash talk — Davis and Ryan Garcia finally reached an agreement last month for a fight in April. That deal, however, is contingent on both fighters winning bouts in the interim. (Ryan Garcia is reportedly nearing a deal to face Mercito Gesta in late January.)
But boxing has a cruel history of twisting the knife when it comes to long-awaited fights. Just earlier this year, the excitement for Canelo Alvarez’s rubber match with Gennady Golovkin was dampened when the Mexican superstar unexpectedly lost to light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol months before the September showdown. Alvarez still went ahead with the trilogy, though the third fight reportedly only had between 550,000 to 575,000 pay-per-view buys in the U.S. — significantly fewer than the first two meetings years earlier.
Sometimes, an unexpected loss can completely kill a bout’s chance of happening at all. In the early 2010s, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wanted a potential showdown between undefeated featherweights Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa to “marinate” as long as possible to cash in. But that strategy backfired: Lopez suffered a shocking defeat to journeyman Orlando Salido. And a once-anticipated Lopez-Gamboa fight lost so much luster it never materialized.
“It’s a very real risk that Hector Luis Garcia will upend some very carefully outlaid plans,” Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza told The Washington Times. “That is the danger, but at the same time Tank said, ‘I don’t want easy fights.’”
The original plan for Davis was to fight Ryan Garcia on Jan. 7, Espinoza said. But with that negotiation taking longer than anticipated, Espinoza said the decision was made to move the fight back to give the parties more time to promote it. In the meantime, Davis still wanted to fight — leading him to Hector Luis Garcia.
“A lot of fighters would have said, ‘OK, just give me someone who can go three or four rounds so I won’t get too rusty,’” Espinoza said. “That’s not what this is at all.”
Hector Luis Garcia is moving up from 130 to 135 pounds to face Davis, though the 31-year-old is three inches taller at 5-foot-9. At Monday’s press conference, Garcia was dressed in a sharp gray suit, sported a diamond necklace around his black turtleneck and wore a pair of aviators to cover his eyes for most of the session. Calmly, the boxer vowed in Spanish that he was coming to battle. “I’m fully confident I have what it takes to win,” he said.
Davis, though, is still the odds-on favorite. And he has a history of taking care of business. Davis has won titles in three divisions across 130, 135 and 140 pounds. His last two fights have come at lightweight, including last May’s sixth-round stoppage of Roland Romero.
Against Romero, Davis ended the fight with a vicious overhand left that crumpled his opponent to the floor.
“I’m just ready to shut everyone up,” Davis said. “All the talking that’s going around, I just want to go in the ring and shut them all up.”