Battle Plan: Derrick James and John David Jackson break down Davis-Garcia
They have been circling each other like two vultures looking for the same prey. Their banter has stirred waves throughout social media and outside of boxing lanes. Finally, this Saturday, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, young superstars Gervonta “Tank” Davis and “King” Ryan Garcia will go at it in the headliner of a PBC event on Showtime and DAZN pay-per-view.
Davis (28-0, 26 knockouts) and 24-year-old Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs), the most popular and explosive lightweights, agreed to a catchweight of 136 pounds. Although Devin Haney is undisputed lightweight champion, many believe the winner of Davis-Garcia will hold the key to the lightweight division. Davis, a 28-year-old southpaw, is currently The Ring’s No. 2-rated lightweight with Garcia right behind him at No. 3 (Vasiliy Lomachenko is the No. 1 contender).
This fight holds dozens of intriguing storylines.
Will this be the last time fight fans see Davis in a while? (On February 16, he pled guilty to four counts of traffic offenses, originating from a hit-and-run accident in November 2020 that left four people injured, including a pregnant woman. Davis awaits sentencing on May 5 for leaving the scene of an accident involving bodily injury, failing to notify of property damage, driving with a revoked license and running a red light.) Can Davis hurt Garcia? How does Davis get inside Garcia’s reach?
As for Garcia, who has stopped six of his last seven opponents, can he withstand Davis’ power? Will he be able to keep Davis away for prolonged periods of the fight? Does he possess the kind of power that can hurt Tank? How different will he look under International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Joe Goossen?
The Ring went to two world-renowned trainers for their valued input in the highly respected John David Jackson, who trains 2022 Ring and BWAA Female Fighter of the Year Claressa Shields, and the BWAA’s 2022 Trainer of the Year Derrick James, who trains pound-for-pound-rated Errol Spence Jr. and undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo.
They break down their battle plans for Garcia and Davis.
JOHN DAVID JACKSON, ON HOW HE WOULD TRAIN RYAN GARCIA:
“For this type of fight, I would like to have an eight- to 10-week training camp. I would have him running five days a week, breaking it down to have him run Mondays and Tuesdays, skip Wednesdays, and run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and take Sundays off. He would have two days off to rest his legs. He would run a maximum of five miles. I wouldn’t want him doing any more than that. That would go throughout the whole camp. I would not want him to burn out his legs. I would mix some old-school stuff and some new stuff, with some weight training. Ryan is a fairly big guy, so we would work on gradually losing the weight, instead of losing it all in one shot. We want him to be strong come fight time. I would want him to be strong and comfortable with his body weight. For sparring, we would start slow, going four rounds the first week, then start adding rounds. Then we would go up to six rounds, then eight, then 10, then 12. Then, we would break it back down to 10. You reach that peak, and the last few weeks, we would lower the rounds. Tank is a very unique fighter and to really find someone who fights like he does would be a challenge in this day-and-age for sparring. I would look for one decent sparring partner that could push him. I would want four sparring partners overall for Ryan. I would find one guy close to Ryan’s size, and three guys who are shorter like Tank, who would get Ryan used to punching down. He is over four inches taller than Tank. The sparring partners would all be southpaws, with one sparring partner who can switch from southpaw to conventional.
“As for the fight plan, Tank will try to get close to land his big shots, so we will have to play a distance game. Ryan has a very good jab. We would use that overtime to set up Ryan’s right hand. Ryan has a hell of a right hand, but sometimes he loops it too much. If he throws his right straight, right down the pike, it’s a devastating blow. I watched film of Ryan. If Joe can make him throw that right straighter, it could make the fight interesting.
“Ryan will have to make Tank pay a price to get inside. He is going to have to use that jab like a ramrod. I would emphasize Ryan’s defense. He tends to stand in the pocket and not move his head. He needs to move his head for better defense, and even though Tank is smaller, I would stress to Ryan to use his left hook to the body and break him down.
“The first two rounds, I would have Ryan use his jab. Let’s see how Tank reacts to it. Will Tank try to get inside gradually, or will he try and rush him? I think we could put the first three rounds in the bank if we follow that gameplan. The next two or three rounds, I would not want Ryan to dance at all. Not that I am saying he does. I would want Ryan to walk away; take his time, utilize the ring, and save his energy. We would want to walk Tank around the ring. Wherever Ryan goes, we know Tank is going to go. Tank is not going to chase Ryan, but wherever he goes, Tank will follow. If Ryan stops, Tank will stop. Let’s see if we can win these next few rounds.
“In the second half of the fight, we are going to have to dig a little bit. If we are up 6-0, Tank will get desperate and open up a little bit. If we use the jab and go to the body with the left hook, we can bring Tank’s hands down. Ryan, if you notice, sometimes throws punches off balance. We work on that in training camp. We would need to win those early rounds, and in the middle rounds, we go to the body, and get more rounds in the bank. If we are up after nine, and Tank is still there, we would start boxing the last three rounds to try and win a decision. Ryan has a great jab, and that right thrown straight, it is beautiful. He will need to stay relaxed, use the hook to the body, as good as Tank is, he has a tendency to get hit a lot. Ryan has a great shot to win if he can land his blows. His counter left hook could send Tank down. This fight will test Tank, because Ryan can punch. Make Tank pay the price for getting inside. You cannot give Tank a chance to set up. You cannot let him plant. If Ryan can do that, he will win the fight.”
DERRICK JAMES, ON HOW HE WOULD TRAIN GERVONTA DAVIS:
“I would like to have a 12-week training camp, but the first two weeks would be like mini-camps, where we would be working out so when we start training, we have the conditioning foundation in place already and devote our time to strategy. I would have Tank do road work six days a week, five miles a day at an accelerated pace. The mini camps would establish that. I would want five miles a day of road work at a 5:30 pace, six days a week. We would keep that going throughout training camp. It is why Errol Spence can throw 100 punches a round. Training camp is all about assuring yourself that you have done work. You never want your fighter second-guessing himself whether they are going to get tired or fatigued. I have my fighters push themselves, so they know that they can do the work. On Thursdays, we would do lunges and squats for reps, and plyometrics. That would go on from the first week to the ninth week, stopping that the week before the fight. For sparring, I would want four sparring partners, which would be the different variations of Ryan. There would be a speed guy; a power guy; someone who would go after Tank. I would spar three days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, going eight to 10 rounds the first two weeks. After that, we would take it up to 12, then go to 14 rounds, and some days 16 rounds. Again, it is all about letting the fighter know that he can do the work when it is for real. We would go 16 rounds some days, just to touch it. With Tank, he has a phenomenal nutritionist, so we will not have to worry about his weight. We want to practice what we plan to do in the fight. Power comes from the rotation of the body. We would want to practice good technique. I am a big believer in pad work.
“Early in the fight, Tank, as a southpaw, he is going to make sure he will need to keep his right hand up after his jab. Tank will need to keep stepping to his right. We would want to make Ryan commit, using feints, then counter punch him. It was like when Errol fought Danny Garcia. Danny had a great left hook. We had to make Danny react to the feints. I do not break fights down by rounds. I do things on a situational basis. Everything is situational, so we’ll be spontaneous to what Ryan may do. Neither of these guys can run in there, especially Ryan. The more rounds that they go, the better it will be for Tank. He can chop down Ryan with body shots, and we will continue chopping him down. When pushed, let’s see what Ryan is really made of. In the later rounds, we would pick up the pace. Tank is a far better technical fighter than people give him credit for. He is very technical; he is very skilled. Here is the thing about boxing today that most of the young guys do, they mistake boxing skills for athleticism, or athleticism for boxing skills. They see guys move quick, and they are this, or they are that, and they can mimic someone else. Boxing is about depth. When Tank fought Isaac Cruz, we all should have learned more about Tank, at least I did. I thought Tank had great boxing skills, and he is a winner. He hurt his hand and was in great pain and he still fought and won [Writer’s note: Davis’ trainer Calvin Ford revealed after the Cruz fight that Davis fought through a pre-existing injury to his left hand suffered during training camp.]
“Tank fought the far greater competition. That is the difference between Tank and everyone else. We will need to take away Ryan’s left hook. Tank’s right foot will need to stay outside of Ryan’s left foot and take that angle away. Ryan may not have great head movement, but you can make up for that with great foot movement. Tank can throw a hook, and then shoot a left uppercut afterward. Whether Ryan moves his head or not, using one punch to set up another is the key: as long as that second punch lands. Tank is a winner. It is one thing to win fights. It is another when you are in severe pain—and still win fights like Tank has. Tank has been through it. Ryan hasn’t. Ryan is dangerous. I respect him. All of these different fighters Tank has faced gives him the experience to win. If we increase the intensity in the later rounds, if we keep going at Ryan, I think Tank can stop him.”
Record: 28-0 (26 KOs)
Height: 5 feet, 5½ inches
Reach: 67½ inches
Location: Born and lives in Baltimore, Maryland
Trainer: Calvin Ford
Titles held: None
Last fight: KO 9 Hector Luis Garcia
Record: 23-0 (19 KOs)
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Reach: 70 inches
Location: Born in Victorville, California, lives in Los Angeles
Trainer: Joe Goossen
Titles held: None
Last fight: KO 6 Javier Fortuna
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.