LAS VEGAS — An hour after he landed the left uppercut to the rib cage that dropped Ryan Garcia for a 10 count in the seventh round, Gervonta Davis returned to the ring at T-Mobile Arena, to put his hands on Garcia again.
In friendship, this time.
Garcia had just finished addressing the post-fight news conference, and Davis, still shirtless and wearing his boxing trunks, gave him a quick embrace before heading to his seat. Along the way, he passed the dais and, with his left hand, tapped on the microphone. It fell from the podium and landed with an amplified thud.
For Davis, the gaffe fit the evening’s theme.
He and Garcia both have hand speed, punching power and popularity that reaches beyond serious boxing fans. The lead-up to the bout on Saturday featured them trading insults at news conferences and on millennial-friendly platforms like Instagram Live, cultivating what organizers figured would be a massive audience.
And Davis delivered, knocking Garcia down in the second round and again in Round 7. A short, sharp left hand forced Garcia to a knee, where he took a 10-count from the referee.
A one-punch knockout and a mic-drop moment for the undefeated 28-year-old power puncher from Baltimore.
“He came in. He was rushing. He got caught with a shot,” said Davis, whose future partly rests on the outcome of two criminal cases against him. In May, he will be sentenced for a hit-and-run crash that injured four people and arraigned on charges that he struck a woman at his home in Parkland, Fla.
Even without titles at stake, the bout, which matched elite undefeated fighters, had a championship feel. On the Las Vegas Strip, vendors hawked commemorative T-shirts, and inside T-Mobile Arena, celebrities dotted ringside seats. Manny Pacquiao, the former world champion in eight divisions, sat two seats away from Mark Wahlberg. Several members of the Las Vegas Raiders attended, as did Mike Tyson.
Part of the appeal owed to Garcia’s popularity. By early Sunday morning his Instagram follower count had risen to nearly 10 million. His broad and loyal audience makes him attractive to sponsors, like Gatorade, and boxing power brokers looking to stage a mega event.
Davis is a proven ticket-seller — his previous bout set a gate revenue record at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. He is also a favorite among pro athletes and hip-hop stars. The day before the fight, Drake bet $1 million on Davis, and before the opening bell, Davis strutted to the ring with the rapper Chief Keef rhyming alongside him.
Throughout Round 1, Garcia, who has 19 knockouts among 23 victories, stalked the shorter Davis, who circled away with his hands high. Later, Garcia said he regretted pursuing Davis.
“I definitely messed up,” Garcia, who is now 23-1, said. “I should have made it boring. Made him miss.”
In the second round, Garcia, who stands 5-foot-10, unleashed a flurry of hard punches. Davis ducked beneath them and countered with a thunderous roundhouse left that dropped Garcia.
“He was coming on real strong ’til he got caught with that shot,” Davis said.
At the weigh-in on Friday, Garcia, a 24-year-old from Los Angeles, flexed his six-pack abdominal muscles in front of Davis, to prove that dieting down to the bout’s 136-pound weight limit had not drained him.
On Saturday, Davis made Garcia’s midsection a target. In Round 4, he speared Garcia with a straight left to the body.
As the rounds progressed, Davis supplemented those left hands with right hooks to the torso. According to CompuBox, Davis landed 18 body punches, compared with seven for Garcia, who landed his best punch — a right cross to the temple — late in Round 6. Garcia spent Round 7 as the aggressor, but then came the quick exchange ending with a lightning-fast left to the body.
The damage did not register immediately. Garcia shuffled back a few steps and extended a left jab before he collapsed in reaction to that piercing body shot.
“I was close to getting up, for sure,” Garcia said at the news conference. “I ain’t got no excuses. I just didn’t get up.”
The knockout burnished Davis’s reputation as an accurate, efficient, destructive puncher. He threw only six punches in Round 2, and landed three, including the left hand that dropped Garcia. Davis landed five of his seven punches in that final round.
The turnout solidified Davis’s reputation as a gate attraction. T-Mobile Arena’s listed capacity for boxing events is 20,000. The fight card on Saturday drew 20,842.
After his emphatic win, Davis said he would rest for a few weeks and then return to work.
“I have a bright future, and I’m staying humble through it all,” Davis said.
But unresolved court cases could imperil his plans.
If Davis avoids jail time, options should abound in the talent-rich lightweight division, where the undisputed champion, Devin Haney, will defend his belts against Vasyl Lomachenko on May 20. The undefeated former junior lightweight champion, Shakur Stevenson, has also moved up to the 135-pound lightweight division.