Monday, March 20, 2023  |


Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia bring superfight energy to L.A. presser

Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia brought the heat to their L.A. press conference. Photo by Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

Perhaps Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia needed to warm up a bit before they could let their hands go and remind fans that their anticipated showdown is not only a matchup of the most popular lightweights but also a genuine rivalry – one that could capture the attention of the general public.

The kick-off press conference for their April 22 Showtime Pay-Per-View event that took place in New York City on Wednesday was rather tepid. The Twitter talking points of Showtime’s live stream consisted of Davis arriving more than an hour late, his purple fur coat, Leonard Ellerbe’s “silver fox” beard, and Garcia’s revelation that he had to agree to a 10-pound rehydration clause on top of the 136-pound catchweight to make the fight.

The Los Angeles leg of the press tour, which took place at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Thursday, brought the heat along with the California sunshine. The fighters – Ring Magazine’s Nos. 2- and 3-rated lightweights – got in each other’s faces during the customary stare-down right before the afternoon presser began. They talked s__t, they exchanged “shadow” punches, they got the media in attendance engaged and, more importantly, they got the fans watching Showtime’s YouTube stream into it.

Boxing YouTuber @iqnews tweeted this about the NYC presser: “I don’t feel the energy TBH. Feels like a spelling bee… this is dance recital energy.”

Thursday’s presser exuded superfight energy. Whether it proves to be a legitimate superfight – an event that transcends the boxing world and garners more than a one million PPV buys – remains to be seen, but the buzz created in the heart of Beverly Hills on Thursday was real.

“This is a huge event,” Garcia said during his time at the podium. “This is the biggest event of the year, probably of the next three or four years, but I know I’m coming out on top. It’s one thing to get to the moment, it’s another to conquer the moment. I’m not just happy that we’re here – I made it happen – but now, I’m focused on winning.

“It’s great that it’s a huge fight, but I’m here to win it. (Turning to face Davis) I promise you, I’ve got the heart, the determination that you’ve never seen before. You like to fight guys that don’t hit hard, but guess what? I do hit hard, and when I hit you with that left hook…”

“What else?” a seated Davis interjected.

“Yeah, what else!” Garcia continued. “Watch. When I hit you with it, you’re gonna be on the floor. Asleep. Goodnight.”

“What else?” Davis repeated again and again.

“What else, exactly. Then you gonna wake up in the hospital,” Garcia retorted.

“You only got one punch. One hook,” Davis shot back. “You’re not a complete fighter. You don’t got no IQ. You don’t got nothin’ bro.”

“You gonna see in the ring,” Garcia said. “OK, OK, OK, you’re giving me everything, I know what I got to work on. I see a lot of things I can knock you out with. So, when you get hit with the right hand, then what?”

“Your right hand ain’t s__t,” Davis said. “You only got a left hook.”

“OK, and you couldn’t knock out (Isaac) Cruz, who was smaller than small,” Garcia countered. “You couldn’t do a lot of things. You were losing to (Mario) Barrios, were you not?”

Showtime host Brian Custer gets between Davis and Garcia. Photo by Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

Davis got up from his seat to debate Garcia face to face behind the podium (answering the prayers of the photographers and content creators in attendance, as well as the executives of Showtime, PBC, Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN).

“You see how I’m not even worried about it,” Garcia said as Davis put his hand on his shoulder.

“Have you been knocked down?” Davis asked, referring to when Luke Campbell dropped Garcia.

“So why’d you weight-drain me?” Garcia asked, referring to the catchweight and rehydration clause in their contract. “Why not fight me at 140? I’m small. Look at me, I’m little, I got a little frame.”

“You got heels on,” Davis quipped.

“I got heels on, OK, and you had a purse on yesterday, shut up,” Garcia cracked back.

Remarked @iqnewz: “Ryan won the press conference. I gotta give it to him he was funny as hell.”

Davis wasn’t as quick with his wit but he was just as serious during his turn at the podium.

“Come April 22, I’m gonna walk you to the deep waters and I’m gonna drown you. They gonna have to pick you up. Bernard (Hopkins), Oscar (De La Hoya) and Joe Goossen are gonna have to pick him up, and I promise you that.”

It all sounds good to the hardcore fan. We’re starving for the top fighters to face each other and we’re finally getting the marquee matchup of the lightweight division. But will it live up to the “superfight” billing and the “energy” of Thursday’s presser?

Bernard Hopkins believes Davis-Garcia is a legitimate superfight. Photo by Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

Bernard Hopkins – who had to clean out the middleweight division (over a 10-year period), beat future hall of famer Felix Trinidad, unify three major world titles and break Carlos Monzon’s title defense record before he engaged in a superfight (as well as the first undisputed championship of the four-belt era) vs. Oscar De La Hoya – believes that Davis-Garcia will deliver.

“My fight with Tito was HBO Pay Per View but it wasn’t a superfight,” Hopkins told The Ring. “It was a middleweight tournament for hardcore fans. The fight with Oscar was a superfight, but it took beating Trinidad and three more years of defending the titles to get to the level of fighting a superstar.”

Hopkins pointed out that it took De La Hoya time to develop into a crossover attraction. Small pay-per-view events at lightweight paved the way for big fights at junior welterweight and welterweight. De La Hoya vs. Ike Quartey was a hardcore fan’s dream fight, but it “only” generated around 600,000 PPV buys. De La Hoya vs. Trinidad did 1.4 million buys (setting the non-heavyweight record at the time).

“Mexico vs. Puerto Rico is always a superfight (with fighters of) that magnitude,” said Hopkins, noting Trinidad’s popularity. “It’s a culture thing. We’re going to have that with this fight. This is definitely one of those old-school setups of culture vs. culture.

“We can’t get away from that because they are who they are.”

African American from Baltimore vs. Mexican American from Southern California is part of the recipe for a successful PPV event, just as it was when Hopkins (from Philadelphia) took on the pride of East L.A.

But Hopkins says there’s more to the Davis-Garcia fight. There are storylines.

“The bonus is that there is some legitimate bad blood between them,” he said (sounding every bit the promoter, but also making a valid point). “We have an individual in Ryan Garcia who sees something (in Davis) that we don’t see – or y’all (fans and media) don’t see – and what he sees, he don’t want nobody to expose it until (he) gets him. He wants to prove it to you. He don’t want no tuneup. He just came off his mental health hiatus and he wants to go straight to the Super Bowl.”

I asked what makes Davis-Garcia a Super Bowl. Hopkins took my iPhone and scanned the specious outdoor Wilshire Garden area of The Beverly Hilton capturing the hundreds of boxing media and insiders in attendance on video.

Garcia addresses the large turnout to the L.A. press conference for his showdown with Davis. Photo by Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy Promotions

“This makes it a damn SuperBowl! If it were five people – no, I’ll give you 50 – if only 50 were people here, that question would be legitimate.”

Point made.

“We live in a culture where a lot of bulls__t is pushed, they try to make it attractive but  no one cares,” Hopkins continued, “but when you get something that’s not bulls__t that you really don’t have to promote because the names are that big, you have something special.

“These two are bigger than belts. How long have you been covering boxing? Twenty five years? You’re outdated. I’m outdated. I don’t understand social media like they do, but they’ve gotten to the pay-per-view level without fighting all the fights that Oscar and I had to.”

Garcia gave me his two cents.

“Stars are a little different in this generation,” he said after the presser. “You have to be pretty well known on social media. That’s what defines a star now. This is the new generation of a megafight, when you’ve got two fighters that are big on social and big in the ring you capture the casual fans.

“And now the mainstream fans are gonna tune in. That’s what makes a megafight. I don’t know of two other fighters who can do this other than us.

“If this isn’t a megafight then we’ve got a lot more work to do in boxing.”