Las Vegas: Gervonta Davis delivered a stunning body shot in the seventh round, causing Ryan Garcia to stumble back and then go to a knee, ending one of boxing's most-anticipated matches in recent history with a knockout at 1:44 in a lightweight bout on Saturday night.
Davis improved to 29-0, with all but two of his victories by knockdown. It was the first defeat for Garcia, who won 19 of his first 23 fights by KO.
Davis also sent Garcia to the mat with a roundhouse left in the second round, and spent most of the rest of the fight working the body. The strategy worked for Davis, a 28-year-old from Baltimore who put himself in position to succeed Canelo Alvarez as the face of the sport.
Garcia, a 24-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, did manage to land two sharp rights to Davis' face in the sixth round. But then Tank Davis came back in the seventh with a left that, at first, didn't appear to hurt Garcia much as he moved back. But then he went to a knee that prompted referee Thomas Taylor to call the bout.
This fight between lightweight challengers had the feel of a big-time event, attracting celebrities such as Julius Erving, Damian Lillard and Mark Walhberg, as well as former champs Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao.
What kind of lasting impact this fight will have on the sport beyond Saturday remains to be seen, but both fighters — even as they bickered all week — recognized its importance when they agreed to fight each. They are two boxers in their prime willing to take on each other rather than carefully choose other opponents to enhance their resumes.
They also are represented by rival promoters. Mayweather Promotions represents Davis, and Golden Boy Promotions handles Garcia.
Even the promoters argued before the fight, with Golden Boy's Oscar De La Hoya claiming Mayweather's Leonard Ellerbe and his camp protected Davis by insisting certain clauses be written into the contract. Ellerbe shot back that as the dominant side, they had the right to ask for certain stipulations.
Davis, at minus-250 at FanDuel Sportsbook and minus-210 at BetMGM, was a substantial betting favorite.
Davis' victory could set up a showdown with undefeated Devin Haney, who owns all four major championship belts in the division. Haney faces former champ Vasiliy Lomachenko in May, also in Las Vegas.
In the co-main event, David Morrell Jr. made quick work of Yamaguchi Falcao, knocking him out at 2:22 of the first round to retain his WBA super middleweight championship. Morrell improved to 9-0, with all but one of his fights by KO. Falcao, who remained on the canvass for about three minutes, is 24-2-1.
Morrell called this “the best moment of my career” and said he wants to take on two-time WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez.
“I don’t want any other guys at 168 pounds, just Benavidez," Morrell said. "I respect Benavidez and his team, but inside the ring, I don’t respect nothing.”