A critical look at the past week in boxing
BIGGEST WINNER – Gervonta Davis
Davis couldn’t have performed much better than he did on a memorable Saturday night in Las Vegas. Skills? Davis defused virtually everything Garcia tried to do, outboxing and outfoxing him from the second round on. Most notably “Tank” gave Garcia precious few openings to land his vaunted left hook, which gave the underdog next to no chance of winning the fight. Davis might be the best technician in the sport. Power? Well, with Davis, that’s a given. He was under attack in Round 2 when he connected on a short left that put Garcia down and set the tone for the rest of the fight. Then, in Round 7, a straight left to the gut forced Garcia to take a knee and he couldn’t continue. Davis didn’t punish Garcia, as his trainer suggested he would. However, he outclassed him, put him down twice and scored a highlight reel knockout while taking almost no punishment himself. It was a hell of a night for one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars.
BIGGEST MISTAKE? Overreacting to Davis’ victory
Davis’ performance was impressive but let’s not get carried away with the significance of his victory. Garcia is talented, powerful and popular but he’s no better – certainly no more accomplished – than some of Davis’ previous victims. We won’t know for sure how good Tank is until he takes down at least one of the top 135-pounders, undisputed champion Devin Haney, Shakur Stevenson or Vasiliy Lomachenko. He’s deserving of pound-for-pound status now, with victories over the likes of Jose Pedraza, Leo Santa Cruz, Isaac Cruz, Rolando Romero, Hector Luis Garcia and now Ryan Garcia. However, that’s not enough to lift him into the Top 5 and ultimately No. 1, where many believe he’ll ultimately land. How would he do against Haney, Lomachenko or Stevenson, all of whom are much better boxers than Garcia? Probably well. Probably. A victory over one or more of the above would be required to remove any doubt about Davis’ apparent greatness.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR DAVIS – Shakur Stevenson
Davis vs. Stevenson is the ultimate lightweight fight. Haney is a big 135-pounder with big talent, which is why he’s the undisputed champion at the moment. Lomachenko will have a chance to prove he still has it at 35 when he challenges Haney on May 20. They’re both more serious threats to Davis than Garcia was. The fighter who could give Davis the most trouble is Stevenson, however. The 25-year-old from New Jersey might be the best pure boxer in the game, as he has demonstrated in victories over Jamel Herring, Oscar Valdez and other top 130-pounders before moving up to 135. He’s almost impossible to hit cleanly. He doesn’t have the power of Davis (or Garcia) but his skillset could be a puzzle that Davis would find difficult to solve. The same could be said of the Haney-Lomachenko winner but there’s something magic about Stevenson.
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT – "Tank" Davis
The debate is interesting: Who’s the best fighter in the top heavy 135-pound division? The Haney-Lomachenko winner, Stevenson and Davis are the obvious candidates for the reasons stated above: Their skill sets are off the charts and roughly equal to one another. One thing sets Davis apart from the rest, however: His punching power. Haney, Lomachenko and Stevenson will outclass you; Davis will outclass you and then remove your head from your body. That weapon can’t be underestimated because it provides him a path to victory the others don’t have. Haney, Lomachenko and Stevenson could confound Davis with their technical ability for a while but if they can’t hurt him (and they probably can’t) it will be difficult to discourage him. And, of course, he can change the course of any fight with one punch. The jury is still out but the eye test tells us that Davis is the man to beat at 135 pounds.
BIGGEST LOSER – Ryan Garcia
Garcia was what Davis suggested he was, a limited boxer who relied too much on his left hook. And when he couldn’t land his signature shot, he was lost. The setback certainly isn’t catastrophic for him, though He dared to think big, agreeing to take on one of the sport’s most intimidating boogeymen. Things didn’t work out but he should be applauded for his gumption. And if anyone can bounce back, it’s him. He’s only 24, a year older than Canelo Alvarez was when he was outclassed by Floyd Mayweather. Alvarez did just fine afterward. Garcia is talented, just not as talented as Davis. And while he was overmatched in the end, he didn’t take the kind of beating that can take years off your career. He was outboxed and dropped twice but he was perfectly fine after the fact. He’ll now move back up to 140 pounds, where he’s more comfortable. And don’t be surprised if he claims a place among the best of that division.
Super middleweight contender David Morrell (9-0, 8 KOs) looked scary against late-replacement opponent Yamaguchi Falcao (24-2-1, 10 KOs) on the Davis-Garcia show, scoring a brutal first-round knockout. Morrell doesn’t need a feel-out process. The opening bell is his signal to begin inflicting serious pain, which Falcao found out the hard way. He hurt the Brazilian with an uppercut and then went in for the kill, which came 2:22 into the fight. Falcao took the fight on 10 days’ notice but I doubt a full camp would’ve changed anything. Morrell is good, he’s vicious and he has heavy hands. I don’t know whether he can beat Alvarez or David Benavidez but the Cuban is looking more and more like a threat to anyone.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR TYSON FURY?
Heavyweight titleholder Tyson Fury reportedly will defend against either Andy Ruiz Jr. or Zhilei Zhang in July. He would be fighting fellow beltholder Oleksandr Usyk in an ideal world but either Ruiz or Zhang is a nice consolation prize. I would prefer Zhang. That matchup somehow is intriguing after Zhang stopped Joe Joyce on March 15. However, Ruiz also is a good option. He has proven ability and a good back story, most notably his monumental upset of another Briton, Anthony Joshua. Meanwhile, Usyk could end up defending against Daniel Dubois. Let’s hope Fury and Usyk get back to the negotiating table for a showdown late in the year, assuming they win their interim fights.