WASHINGTON – Hector Luis Garcia gave Gervonta Davis a difficult fight Saturday night until the southpaw’s power changed Garcia’s mind about continuing in the ninth round.
Baltimore’s Davis drilled Garcia with a left hand that hurt the previously unbeaten 130-pound champion badly late in the eighth round. Still buzzed by the impact of that punch and unable to see clearly, Garcia shook his head as he sat on his stool and informed trainer Bob Santos that he didn’t want to continue.
Referee Earl Brown officially stopped their 12-round, 135-pound championship match 15 seconds into the ninth round, which sent the capacity crowd of 19,731 at Capital One Arena into a frenzy.
“I knew when I caught him he was hurt,” Davis told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring following his victory. “He was hurt bad. He’s a fighter. He didn’t wanna show it.”
Judges Steve Rodas (79-73), Wayne Smith (79-73) and Dave Moretti (78-74) all had Davis in front by large margins through eight rounds.
Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) retained the WBA’s secondary lightweight title in the main event of a Showtime Pay-Per-View telecast. The Dominican Republic’s Garcia (16-1, 10 KOs, 3 NC), who moved up to the lightweight limit for this huge opportunity, still owns the WBA 130-pound championship.
This victory by Baltimore’s Davis also secured his place in a higher-profile showdown with rival Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs), which is expected to take place at some point this spring. Davis told Gray he would take a week off and get back into the gym to train for the Ryan Garcia fight.
The 28-year-old Davis, who was arrested December 27 due to an allegation the mother of his younger daughter later recanted, demonstrated that the well-documented incident didn’t impact his preparation for Hector Luis Garcia. He had trouble with the experienced southpaw’s style at times, but as is often the case, Davis’ power emerged as the ultimate equalizer.
“I wasn’t throwing a lot of shots [in the beginning of the fight] because I was trying to beat him mentally,” Davis said. “I was trying to trick him with my hands and my eyes, and things like that, because he’s a tough fighter. I had to bait him.
“His southpaw style bothered me a little bit because I don’t fight a lot of southpaws, but it’s OK. It’s part of the game.”
Davis’ victory ended a career-changing 10-month run for Garcia, who was largely unknown among American boxing fans at this time a year ago.
Garcia fought his way into position to challenge Davis when he upset 130-pound contender Chris Colbert (16-1, 6 KOs) by unanimous decision last February 26 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The 2016 Olympian became a world champion in his following fight, in which he out-boxed Venezuela’s Roger Gutierrez (26-4-1, 20 KOs) to win another unanimous decision and the WBA super featherweight title August 20 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The scorecards notwithstanding, Garcia’s fight versus Davis appeared very competitive entering the eighth round.
Garcia’s straight left landed flush early in the eighth round. Soon thereafter, a fight broke out at ringside, which caused Brown to call for a break in the action with 2:08 to go in it and send boxers to neutral corners.
Security escorted a group of fans from ringside and the action resumed.
Davis drilled Garcia with a straight left with about 40 seconds on the clock in the eighth round. Toward the end of the eighth round, a picture-perfect left hand by Davis buzzed Garcia.
Garcia seemed disoriented when he went back to his corner. That’s when he determined he didn’t want to continue.
Following an uneventful sixth round, Garcia continued throwing rights to Davis’ body during the seventh round. Garcia countered Davis with a left hand that landed with just over 1:45 to go in the seventh round.
Davis opened up with power punches in the final minute of the seventh round, but Garcia didn’t budge.
Davis and Garcia mostly missed with various punches during the fifth round, though Davis drilled Garcia with an overhand left, the most effective shot of that round.
Garcia’s left hand connected in an exchange 1:10 into the fourth round. Davis landed multiple left hands and a right hook later in the fourth round, which excited the crowd.
Garcia caught Davis with a left after Davis’ successful flurry, though, which kept Davis mindful of his opponent’s capabilities.
With just under a minute remaining in the third round, Garcia connected with an overhand left. Garcia previously landed a straight left hand 1:05 into the third round. Davis shook his head to indicate that punch didn’t affect him.
Brown warned Garcia for hitting Davis low with just under 1:10 on the clock in the second round. After another round in which not many punches were thrown, Davis connected with a left hand to the side of Garcia’s head just before the bell rang to end the second round.
Neither Davis nor Garcia committed to throwing punches during an actionless first round in which they essentially stared at one another for three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.