The seeds of a fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia were first planted more than two years ago. Specifically, in January 2021, Garcia appeared on a podcast with boxing legend Mike Tyson and called out the Baltimore native. Ever the instigator, Tyson proceeded to get Davis on FaceTime — leading to a heated argument between Garcia and Davis.
“You’re going to need a ladder to hit me,” Garcia shouted. “How tall are you? You 5-foot-5. You’re going to need a Stairmaster.”
“He got dropped by someone who can’t even hit,” Davis said. “Mike, if I would have hit him, you know I would have killed him.”
This weekend, a Davis-Garcia fight is finally happening.
And despite it being more than two years since that podcast appearance, the matchup couldn’t have come at a better time.
Saturday’s megafight between Davis and Garcia represents a rarity for boxing: The pay-per-view showdown features two undefeated superstars meeting in the prime of their careers. It’s a classic matchup of power versus speed, with both boxers often willing to let punches fly.
In the past, boxing has had a tendency for its biggest fights to come a few years too late. In 2015, for example, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao may have shattered records when their showdown earned more than 4 million views — but the fight was arguably at its most intriguing five years earlier when both appeared to be at their physical peaks.
Davis (28-0, 26 knockouts) and Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) aren’t the mainstream stars that Mayweather and Pacquiao were — though both have built impressive followings in their own right. Davis, 28, has sold out arenas across the country and has a devoted fan base in part because of his fight-changing power. Garcia, by contrast, is a 24-year-old who has relied on his Hollywood-like looks and effusive personality to gain more than 9 million social media followers.
The two boxers have long circled each other, but finally agreed on a tentative deal last year — an agreement that became solidified in February.
Need another example of how rare a fight like this weekend’s showdown is? The two lightweights aren’t even fighting for a title or a fringe belt — making it a true grudge match.
“Tank understands business and how it works — he understands that him and Ryan are the two biggest names in the division,” said Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions who has helped promote Davis. “When you have two guys that with that kind of star power come together, you’re going to get nothing but a mega, mega event.”
Ellerbe said the live gate for Davis-Garcia is on track to be in the top 10 of Nevada’s biggest live draws ever. Tickets also sold out, he said, within two hours. Over the past few weeks, Ellerbe said he’s had to turn away NBA stars and other A-list celebrities who call looking for tickets because of the demand.
Ellerbe, too, knows a big fight when he sees one. As someone who helped promote Mayweather, the D.C. native said he started to realize the potential of a Davis-Garcia fight when Garcia generated hype for the matchup on Tyson’s podcast. Garcia was relentless in his pursuit of Davis — to the point where Ellerbe recalled standing outside a Miami hotel in June 2021 and running into Garcia, who pressed Ellerbe on when a fight with Davis might happen.
The contrast in their personalities, he said, has helped sell Saturday’s fight. And that’s not hard to see. Garcia is young, brash and outspoken while Davis is typically more reserved in public appearances.
“I give the fighters the ultimate credit because they made the decision to come together,” Ellerbe said. “It starts with them.”
That, to be clear, doesn’t always happen. A fight between star welterweights Terence Crawford and Errol Spence, for instance, has failed to materialize because the two sides were unable to agree on a contract. Last month, a scheduled April 29 showdown between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fell apart when negotiations hit a snag.
Ellerbe said he hopes Saturday’s fight inspires other fighters to be more daring and give the bouts that fans want to see. Big fights can be complicated to make as there are several different parties involved — including various promoters, rival television networks and a myriad of sanctioning bodies. Ellerbe said Davis-Garcia was by no means an easy fight to make.
To illustrate that point, look at the networks involved in Saturday’s showdown. The fight has an unconventional setup as the pay-per-view is being distributed by Showtime (the network that Davis usually fights on) and DAZN (the streaming service that Garcia fights on). Showtime will produce the broadcast, while DAZN will “will participate with a branding presence,” according to ESPN.
But the parties found a way to make it work — and the sport is better off for it.