Gervonta “Tank” Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) successfully defended his WBA (Regular) World Lightweight title on Saturday night at the Capital One Arena (Washington, DC) by punishing Héctor Luis García (16-1, 10 KOs) in the 7th and 8th rounds of their tilt, which led to a Team García corner stoppage entering the 9th round. But while Davis’ thumping of García — some of which reportedly caused vision problems for García in his right eye — undoubtedly drove many of the eyeballs and clicks to print and social media covering the fight, there were 3 not-so-subtle takeaways from the Davis vs. García pay-per-view card that shouldn’t be overlooked:
1. Boxing skills alone won’t cut it versus Davis, you’ll need more in your toolbelt. Héctor Luis García was an undefeated, reigning world champ with over 300 amateur fights going into Davis vs. García. And at 31 years old, the former Olympian was far from over the hill. In other words, García wasn’t washed, but rather a prime and skillful southpaw, with ample stamina and experience, who was capable of causing Davis fits from a stylistic standpoint. Nevertheless, despite some early success from García in attacking Davis’ body, and using the shoulder roll defense to effectively deflect Davis’ shots, Davis was able to crack García’s code by the 4th round.
As Davis put it post-fight, “I was trying to beat him mentally. I was trying to trick him with my hands and my eyes . . . because [García]’s a tough fighter. I had to bait him.”
Of course, Davis’ game-changing power is no secret. But his ability to out-think García, a calculated-puncher who is responsible defensively, suggests that the Baltimore native is quietly taking his mental game to the next level to complement his power. From the trap he walked Rolly Romero into in their bout, to the subtle mental warfare he imposed on García in the pre-fight presser (when Davis grabbed García) and inside the ropes, Davis continues to show that he’s more than an one-dimensional fighter with disruptive power. Instead, he’s developing into a high-level processor, capable of out-thinking and beating opposing boxers and punchers, just as easily as he can knock them out.
More important, Davis is proving that boxing skills alone are insufficient to beat him. There must be more. Attributes like speed, a solid beard, defensive proficiency, and having enough power to earn Davis’ respect are undoubtedly part of the equation. And, fortunately, many of the vanguard at lightweight possesses these many of these attributes, including Devin Haney, Shakur Stevenson, and Ryan Garcia. Hopefully 2023 is the year we get to see just how well Davis fares against his fellow lightweight elites.
2. Let’s pump the brakes on the Ennis vs. Spence Jr. and Crawford talk — for now. Is Jaron “Boots” Ennis (30-0, 27 KOs) über talented? Yes. Is he highly skilled? Yup. But, is he ready for Errol Spence Jr. (28-0, 22 KOs) and Terence Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) based on his performance against Karen Chukhadzhian (21-2, 11 KOs)? Nyet.
I’ve been bullish on “Boots” for some time, and remain so despite his lackluster ‘W’ over Chukhadzhian. Make no mistake: Ennis won virtually every second of every round on Saturday night to rightfully claim an Interim IBF Welterweight Title. And, of course, it takes two to tango, and Chukhadzhian was anything but a willing dance partner. In fact, Chukhadzhian appeared to be more interested in getting his 10,000 steps in than trying to add an ‘L’ to Ennis’ ledger.
Nevertheless, Ennis’ shutout win wasn’t flawless. For instance, “Boots” was visibly frustrated with Chukhadzhian’s constant “movement”. Perhaps, more troubling, the Ukrainian appeared to catch Ennis several times with clean left-hand headshots, despite clear height and hand-speed disparities between Ennis and Chukhadzhian. Fighters the caliber of Spence and Crawford, both gifted southpaws, would likely salivate Pavlovian-style at such openings versus Ennis.
And while I still believe the sky is the limit for “Boots”, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the ring with Keith Thurman, Vergil Ortiz Jr., or Yordenis Ugás in the near term, before rolling the dice versus Spence or Crawford thereafter.
3. Villa is far better than advertised. In the fight of the night on the Davis vs. García card, Roiman Villa (26-1, 24 KOs) stole the show by pulling off an early candidate for Upset of the Year and Comeback of the Year by coming from behind on the scorecards to earn a 12-round decision over rising welterweight contender, Rashidi Ellis (24-1, 15 KOs).
Throughout the bout, Villa fought as if he was cloned from Marcos Maidana’s DNA, using a strategy similar what the Argentinian slugger used to breakdown Adrien Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs) back in 2013. Villa’s mix of unrelenting pressure and concussive power, coupled with a fierce body attack in the early stanzas, created openings down the stretch for the Colombian that he was able to capitalize on, BIG TIME. Villa also punctuated his come-from-behind win with a masterful final round, where he knocked Ellis down twice to seal the win.
Photo © Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions
Villa’s fan-friendly style is must-see TV. And, as a boxing fan, I want to see more of him in the ring. ■
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not reflect the official positions or policies of his various affiliations.
About the Author:
Paul R. Jones! is a longtime writer and ringside photographer for Boxing News 24. His articles, photographs, and commentary have appeared in EAST SIDE BOXING, Round by Round Boxing, Boxing Insider, Medium.com, and more.
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