The official coronation may take place on Saturday night, but for now, Ryan Garcia already sees himself as the king of boxing. (photo Ryan Hafey)
“Whoever wins this is on top,” said the Californian of his bout with Gervonta Davis at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “Whoever wins is the face of boxing and I truly believe that.”
Why wouldn’t he? At 24, he’s young enough to believe he rules the world. A record of 23-0 with 19 KOs has given him tangible proof that he’s pretty good at this fighting stuff, and 9.5 million Instagram followers can’t be wrong, right?
And boy, does “King Ry” know how to sell it.
“We really came together and conquered the poison that’s been stopping boxing from making the biggest fights,” said Garcia. “We found a way. If you look at boxing, it’s been hard to get prime fighters together. It usually happens too late. This is a moment that boxing has been longing for. You really can’t make a bigger fight than this.”
The thing is, for all the hype, for all the patting himself on the back for saving boxing, there is enough truth in Garcia’s words to make all of it believable. Boxing (at least the male side of it) has been poisoned by those who are more poised to be businessmen than fighters. And yes, we’ve seen too many fights “marinated” to the point where they’re spoiled by the time they happen.
So kudos to Garcia, to Davis, their teams and their networks for getting this one done. Boxing isn’t dead, but it can always use an injection of hope, of energy, of the buzz that comes along with a big fight, and this one has it. From the trash talk to the staredowns, to the obvious talent in each corner and the reality that it can all end in a split second, this is a good weekend to be a boxing fan.
“This is a huge fight for boxing,” said Garcia. “It can really change the trajectory of the sport and inspire young fighters to get it on right now. People are going to love you. They’re going to see that you went out there and you fought the best and you gave it your all. Even if you win or even if you lose, you showed them what a champion is in life. You just get right back up and you don’t let negative people that won’t even dare to do anything keep you down because you know where you’re going in life. To me, this is important to everybody that it takes courage to go after something that nobody believed you could do. That’s why I’m standing here today. To make everybody realize that if you’re in there and chase your dream like you’ve never chased anything before, and you’ll see something special happen.”
See, before Garcia even reached his mid-20s, he mastered the Art of the Sale. Some teenage kid who follows him on IG or TikTok hears a quote like that and is instantly inspired. Like. Like. Like. Share. Share. Share. Then they see the fast hands, the highlight reel knockouts, and they’re hooked for life. Just like some of us of a certain generation saw Mike Tyson wrecking people and talking about sending nose bones into the brain and signed up for life. If there was IG back in the mid to late 80s, Tyson would have owned it.
That popularity can be a negative to some, though. That Tyson generation doesn’t approve of flashy social media posts, wearing Gucci and not being Gatti, and building an enormous fan base before fighting the killers of your generation.
But here he is. Garcia is young in the game when it comes to his age and the amount of fights that he’s had, and while the talk in recent years was of the new “Four Kings” being Garcia, Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney, the only two who are about to get in the ring together are Garcia and Davis. And if word around town is to be believed, Garcia really did go above and beyond to get this fight. So maybe, just maybe, Garcia is a “real” fighter.
“This fight means a lot to me,” he said. “It means everything. It’s a moment that I’ve been envisioning for so long now. It’s the only thing I’ve wanted for so long, to defeat Gervonta Davis and to destroy him. To end everything that he’s ever worked for, because I know he’s trying to do
that to me.”
Those are words of a man unafraid of any opponent, unbothered by the prospect of messing up his million-dollar looks. And should he stumble along the way, that’s the cost of doing business in this most unforgiving of sports. Who dares wins. And Garcia is daring to be great, even if he thinks he’s already there.
“This is a fight to show everybody that I’m great,” he said. “I’m not daring to be great. I know I’m great. I know when I step in the ring, he’s going to feel something he’s never felt before. I’m going to conquer him. Everything he tries to do, I’ll have an answer for him. Gervonta Davis is not going to beat me. I promise you.”
The confidence has been evident ever since he started chasing down Baltimore’s Davis (28-0, 26 KOs), and he’s only gotten more sure of victory as the weeks and months went on. Maybe, like Max Schmeling before his first fight with Joe Louis, he sees something in his 28-year-old foe that he can exploit that no one has over the last decade. Maybe he feels that he’s invincible and can beat anyone in the sport from lightweight to heavyweight. Or is he just selling a pay-per-view event?
Garcia’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, is certainly going into overdrive to push his fighter in the days leading up to Saturday night.
“With a win, Ryan doesn’t become this generation’s Oscar De La Hoya,” said “The Golden Boy.” “He becomes this generation’s Ryan Garcia. Even before he was a superstar, I’ve always said that Ryan Garcia can become even bigger than Canelo. Even bigger than Oscar De La Hoya. Bigger than whoever.”
Perhaps De La Hoya believes his words, or maybe he’s just learned from past mistakes when it comes to getting his fighters the most bang for their buck promotionally. That wasn’t necessarily the case with two of the most marketable fighters on the Golden Boy Promotions roster, Mike Anchondo and Seniesa Estrada, who didn’t get that push. And some say his split with Canelo Alvarez could have been avoided had he approached their dispute differently. The waters haven’t always been smooth with Garcia, either, but leading up to a pivotal moment for both parties, all appears to be well. And maybe De La Hoya the fighter is letting De La Hoya the promoter do his job and allow Garcia to get his place in the sun.
He might as well, because the Garcia hype train might not be able to slow down, let alone stop, now. The kid believes, and everything that looks so bright and shiny from the outside may just be real. And that’s the beauty of boxing. When it’s only two fighters and a referee in the ring together, you can’t lie. There are no filters to hide the blemishes, no autotune to mask the fact that you can’t sing. It’s all real, and Garcia knows it. He’s been public with his battles with mental health issues, he’s been dropped in the ring, and he’s gotten up to fight.
Because he’s a fighter.
“I feel like people have lost touch with what boxing truly is about,” Garcia said. “People used to realize that you see how a champion reacts after he gets hit. That’s how you determine what a champion is. People have lost touch with that. It used to be a proud moment where you showed that you can still stay focused in the fight. You can still get back to controlling it and you can still knock somebody out after you get dropped. That should have been the testimony of how much of a champion I truly am in my heart.”
Nah. Not today. If you’re not perfect, you’re not anything. Garcia and Davis know otherwise. They know that Saturday night might be the best night of their life. Or the worst. It’s a 50-50 shot.
They’ll take that risk.
“This is a defining moment in our careers,” said Garcia. “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 believe him.