Ryan Garcia took a chance and lost, but boxing is better for it

LAS VEGAS — Ryan Garcia claimed he was ordained, that the outcome was all but predetermined — a vision that came to him time and time again.

His signature left hook, delivered with blinding speed, would render Gervonta Davis senseless in their super fight on Saturday and catapult him to another level of stardom. Garcia vowed that he was underestimated — partly a product of his model looks and massive social media following — and would spring the upset.

The 24-year-old didn’t deliver on his promise after Davis ended matters with a perfectly placed liver shot in Round 7. But Garcia didn’t truly emerge a loser, either. He proved his toughness after he survived a second-round knockdown from a crushing overhand left, handled himself with grace in defeat and set an example for other star fighters who avoid tough challenges with his relentless push to land this matchup in the first place.

Garcia (23-1, 19 KOs) walked toward the fire in a fight virtually every fan and observer picked him to lose and came through with the type of megafight boxing desperately required at a time when the sport has failed to consummate such matchups between top fighters in the same division.

“This is what boxing needs,” Garcia said. “This is why I did whatever I had to do to make the fight happen.”

Garcia conceded many deal points in his quest to take part in his first marquee bout, an event he and Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) both expertly promoted with plenty of prefight histrionics and ample trash talk. And they both handled themselves with grace afterward. Garcia made no excuses and credited Davis, 28, as the better man, while “Tank” wasn’t boastful and showed Garcia respect.

They embraced following the news conference — and even took some photos together — the heated exchanges put to bed now that they settled their differences inside the ring and there’s no rematch to promote. Only Davis owned the right to an immediate encore encounter in the event he lost, which means they will both certainly move onto new challenges. Davis, a former champion at 130 pounds, will embark on a journey to become the man to beat at 135 pounds. Currently, that’s Devin Haney, who will defend his undisputed lightweight championship against Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20.

For Garcia, it’s a return to junior welterweight, where he competed in his past two fights (the bout against Davis was contested at a 136-pound catchweight.)

“I’m still a big attraction in the sport and I’m moving up to 140 [pounds],” Garcia said at the postfight news conference. “I think whoever I fight, it’s going to be big so it’s going to be exciting to see where our careers go.”

Before the finish, Garcia made a good account of himself against an elite fighter. He stunned Davis in Round 2 before the knockdown and was in the fight until the sudden finish. Garcia will be better off for the experience — both in his first major event and against his first elite opponent — and at 140 pounds, figures to be far more formidable.

“At 140, I feel strong, I feel fast,” said Garcia, who knocked out Javier Fortuna in a 140-pound fight in July.

He’s rated No. 6 by ESPN in the junior welterweight division, a star-studded weight class just like lightweight. There’s Josh Taylor, who was the undisputed champion before he relinquished three of his four titles. He meets another star, Teofimo Lopez, on June 10. One of those titles was scooped up by Regis Prograis, a charismatic power puncher from Houston. Another was claimed by Subriel Matias, a Puerto Rican volume punching machine who is one of the sport’s best action fighters.

And then there’s Jack Catterall, who dropped a controversial decision to Taylor in his last outing, along with the prospect of Haney moving up following the fight with Lomachenko.

The options for Garcia will be plentiful, though the cream of the crop might have to wait until after a confidence-building comeback fight against a contender like Jose Zepeda.

“I know a lot of guys are going to want to call me out,” Garcia said, “so bring it on.”