THE promotion for the ‘superfight’ between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia kicked off in earnest last week with a couple of press conferences in New York and Los Angeles. And this is a superfight, despite the fact neither man has a truly career-defining win yet. That’s testament to their exciting styles and marketability. But these press conferences lacked that true big fight feel, something Garcia himself noted – the 24-year-old highlighted how the promotion is “rushed” in order to accommodate Davis’ “personal issues.”
What he’s referring to are the four counts to which Davis recently pleaded guilty, and the sentencing hearing he will have on May 5 as a result of the judge presiding over the case rejecting a plea deal.
Garcia’s vague reference was the only mention of this dark cloud hanging over Davis during the two moderated press conferences. The collected media were not allowed to ask about it and you can bet that everyone on that top table were also told not to directly mention it.
This is a continuation of a disturbing trend of cover-ups seen far too often in boxing. Guardian writer Bryan Armen Graham wrote a terrific piece about this very issue this past weekend, highlighting how the power structures within boxing allow fighters – who operate as private contractors – to act disgracefully and even break the law with little to no impact on their career.
As Graham notes, this is because effective discipline would need to come from promoters and broadcasters. Athletic commissions and governing bodies can hand down punishments, but there’s nothing stopping a fighter or their team from simply going elsewhere. Just look at what’s happening with Conor Benn.
Referring to networks, Graham writes: “They are a publicly traded company answerable to their shareholders. They want to be responsible, but they also want to remain in business.” When a fighter captivates audiences and drives revenue, such as Davis, there is no incentive for networks and promoters to drop them. Financially, it wouldn’t make sense.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t just a boxing problem, though. The UFC – the world’s premier MMA promotion – also has a knack for looking the other way when a prominent fighter breaks the rules or indeed the law. Jon Jones was recently welcomed back with open arms and returned to the top of the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings despite his storied history of domestic abuse and run-ins with the law. Conor McGregor remains the UFC’s biggest star even after numerous transgressions outside the octagon. The UFC is a business, and ditching assets like Jones and McGregor would be very bad for business.
So, instead of focusing on the very real prospect of Davis facing jail time, we in the boxing media – and indeed fans as well – honed in on the rehydration clause Davis and his team demanded Garcia adhere to. There will be a check weigh-in on the day of the fight, and Garcia cannot weigh above 146lbs – 10lbs above the agreed limit for the official weigh-in the day prior.
Much of the criticism levelled at Davis centres around the fact that he is already the more proven fighter and will enter the contest a betting favourite – the argument then being that he is unfairly hampering Garcia’s ability to perform at his best on fight night. This sentiment was downplayed by the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, who work with Garcia.
Davis himself didn’t have much to say in defence of the clause, except that he would be “stupid” not to have included it in the contracts, which all but confirms he was leveraging his position as the ‘A-side’ fighter. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last, though that just makes it even more disappointing.
After some concerning reports that the monster heavyweight clash between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk was looking less and less likely to happen, it now appears the two sides have come to an agreement. At least that’s what they told the WBA anyway.
As is now the trend in boxing, Fury took to social media to make some demands of Usyk, stating that the Ukrainian must agree to a 70/30 purse split in favour of Fury. Usyk handled this quite brilliantly. In a video response on his own social channels, Usyk agreed to the 70/30 split on the condition that Fury donates £1 million of his purse to Ukraine to aid in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Usyk’s commitment to his country during these desperately hard times has never been in question, but his response was another reminder of just how much he wants to help and for others to do the same.
The main takeaway is that there does appear to be some sort of agreement in place now. Just how iron-clad that deal currently is remains to be seen – they may have just been buying time with the WBA after all – but if the proposed April 29 date is going to be stuck to, time is not something they have much of.
The George Groves Boxing Club, hosted by the former super-middleweight titlist and journalist Declan Taylor, has been a welcome addition to the podcast space since it launched back in August of last year. In a recent episode the pair spoke to Robert Smith, General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, who stated that in light of the situation with Conor Benn, the Board may alter its anti-doping regulations.
Benn and his team have made their feelings clear about how the issue has been handled by both the Board and anti-doping agencies Vada and UKAD. He admitted that, once the case with Benn is settled, they may need to “tweak” their current policies.
He wouldn’t go into detail, but it’s a positive sentiment. His bottom line was that, when there’s a positive test result, something must be done.
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