WASHINGTON — Gervonta Davis defended his WBA world lightweight championship, beating Hector Luis Garcia by TKO early Sunday morning after eight rounds.
Davis shrugged off a slow start to improve to 28-0 with 26 KOs and hand Garcia his first professional loss in his 17th match. Garcia held in tough with Davis early but could not answer the bell for the ninth round because he lost vision in his right eye.
“A little surprised, but when I caught him, I knew he was hurt — he was hurt bad,” Davis said. “He’s a fighter, so he didn’t want to show it. I knew he was hurt, though.”
Davis, a Baltimore native fighting in his second hometown, is scheduled to face Ryan Garcia on April 15 in one of boxing’s most anticipated showdowns of the year. “No more talking,” Garcia tweeted. “Let’s get it on.”
“I’ll be ready,” Davis said. “I’m ready for the fight. He’s been training, he’s been talking and let’s see who’s really about that.”
But first, “Tank” Davis had to get through Garcia, the Dominican who he said “earned his spot” thanks to a strong 2022.
After the sellout crowd of 19,731 waited until just before 1 a.m. for the start of the main event, Davis and Garcia waited a little longer to get going, starting with a couple of low-event rounds and very few punches thrown. Davis found his groove in the fourth round, landing several jabs and bringing fans to their feet.
“I was tying to beat him mentally,” Davis said. “I was trying to trick him with my hands and with my eyes. He’s a talented fighter, so I had to bait him in.”
An altercation in the stands ringside led the referee to stop the action midway through the eighth round, as Davis and Garcia were distracted by the disturbance. The fight resumed for more than a minute, and Davis put on a show until the bell, landing enough blows to end the match.
“It was going well up until that point,” Garcia said through an interpreter. “Sometimes I would put him in a bad spot, a bad condition, and I was picking my spots against him during the fight. Until then, I thought the fight was going well.”
The fight headlined Showtime’s first major event at the building now known as Capital One Arena since Mike Tyson’s final bout in 2005 against Kevin McBride. It was in danger of being called off when Davis was arrested and charged with domestic violence in late December, before the woman who called police put out a statement on social media days later saying Davis “did not harm me or our daughter.”
Davis said he was not worried about the fight not happening, saying he just wanted to clear his name. He is already awaiting a Feb. 16 trial on hit-and-run charges in Baltimore after a judge rejected a plea agreement under which the boxer would have avoided jail time.
In the co-feature, Jaron “Boots” Ennis won the interim IBF welterweight championship by unanimous decision against Ukraine’s Karen Chukhadzhian, going the distance for the first time in his career to remain unbeaten at 30-0. The fast-rising Philadelphia native had never gone beyond six rounds before.
“I’m glad I went 12 rounds,” Ennis said. “I felt I was in the best shape. I just need to throw more punches. I should have gotten him out of here.”
On the undercard, Roiman Villa knocked down Rashidi Ellis at the bell in the 12th round and pulled off an upset by majority decision in an IBF welterweight title eliminator. Ellis lost for the first time in 25 fights and disagreed with the decision.