Next stage of Ryan Garcia’s career could come after Luke Campbell fight
Fast-rising phenom Ryan Garcia had a standout 2020, even if he last fought in February for a total of a mere 80 seconds.
The 22-year-old social media heartthrob scored a vicious first-round knockout over Francisco Fonseca on Valentine’s Day, and then immediately hopped into the fast lane and never looked back.
With a Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche sitting in his Rancho Santa Fe garage, Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) firmly positioned himself into the driver’s seat to speed toward becoming boxing’s next superstar.
Garcia’s upcoming pit stop in Dallas is a crucial one Saturday, Jan. 2, when he takes on 2012 Olympics gold medalist Luke Campbell in a lightweight fight. Coming off a competitive loss to Vasiliy Lomachenko, the 33-year-old Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) presents the prototypical crossroads clash for Garcia with his vast experience, tactical prowess and southpaw style.
The event will be a family affair, as Ryan’s younger brother Sean Garcia (5-0, 2 KOs) will begin the day on DAZN’s broadcast in a separate bout at noon Pacific time. It will mark the first time both Victorville-bred brothers fight on the same bill.
“Everything has grown so much for me during the pandemic since that amazing knockout,” Ryan Garcia said. “Now I have the chance to do something amazing with that buildup and begin the new year with a bang. The KO amplified my status and I built up my name even more, and more opportunities came.”
It’s rare for a largely unproven fighter devoid of world titles to be presented with substantial marketing offers. But that’s exactly what Garcia is experiencing due to his digital pedigree.
The charismatic Garcia boasts a near-eight million following on Instagram alone — almost double the amount since the Fonseca fight.
With boy band looks and blazing fast hands behind his hooks, Garcia has built a diverse fan base with body shot challenges, or simply by posing shirtless. The highlight reel KOs are the cherry on top that proves his potential. His in-ring acumen has allowed for him to already cross the seven-figure threshold in fight purses.
During the pandemic, Garcia parlayed the digital and pugilistic power by procuring deals with Dolce & Gabbana, 1800 Tequila and Anheuser Busch. The Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch model also launched his own eyewear collection. A Funko Pop figurine was made for him, too. He modeled for GQ Magazine, was featured on “Family Feud,” and co-starred in vignettes with Kevin Hart. He even became the first athlete to have his own YouTube Originals docuseries in the four-part show “30 Days With.”
Many have questioned if Garcia is just the latest name in boxing’s hype machine being overly admired for his beefcake profile, but he has the dossier to counter-punch the detractors. Like the former “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr. once proved, having more haters than admirers is necessary to break through, and break the bank.
Garcia has been boxing since age 7 and amassed a 215-15 amateur record with 15-time national amateur championships before turning professional in 2016. He inked a deal with promoter Oscar De La Hoya later that year.
Garcia’s crossover appeal and reach have many coronating him as the second coming of De La Hoya. Much of the Gen Z audience Garcia commands is the demographic boxing is desperately trying to reach to make sure the niche sport avoids extinction.
Add up all the elements of his rising stock, and he’s ranked as the world’s 12th-most marketable athlete, according to Nielsen.
“I’ve been training my whole life for this. This fight is a defining moment in my career,” said Garcia. “I’m not even in my prime yet.”
Ever since he made the pivotal union with Canelo Alvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso in 2018, Garcia is 4-0 with four knockouts. The fights have lasted a total of nine rounds against middling opposition. The part-time influencer knows that “doin’ it for the ‘gram” with viral KO clips is key for his continued ascent.
Campbell is the litmus test to see if Garcia can next challenge the lions at 135 pounds in Gervonta Davis, Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney and Lomachenko.
“After this fight, with a victory, I will consider Ryan the face of boxing,” De La Hoya said. “I strongly feel Ryan is ready to step up for this fight and take his career to a new level.”
Reynoso, the 2019 trainer of the year, said he believes Garcia will be on the cusp of landing legacy-defining fights once he has a bit more seasoning.
“He’s a very disciplined and intelligent fighter. He’s been improving a lot. He’s a rookie still, but I’ll have him in the right position over the next year for the big fights,” Reynoso said. “He can fight any of the big names, but it’s going to take time. We’re putting a lot of effort into his learning and improvements.”
Alvarez’s recent divorce from De La Hoya means the vitality of the Hall of Fame fighter’s promotional company largely hinges on Garcia’s success. They set aside their public feuds last year and reconciled with a lucrative contract extension that calls for an alliance till 2024.
De La Hoya insists Garcia is the best prospect he’s ever promoted. He proclaims Garcia can be groomed to be an even bigger star than Alvarez.
“It’s going to take loads of pressure for me to become a diamond in the ring,” said Garcia.
De La Hoya must build Garcia into a gem while Alvarez looms large as a mentor showing Garcia the ropes. It could perhaps become tricky over time, because Garcia has gravitated more toward his stablemate than his boss.
“I respect [Alvarez]. He has everything yet still takes time to mentor a young fighter,” said Garcia. “I hope to pass that on one day.”
Garcia is yearning for big fights and next wants to face hard-hitting Mayweather protégé Davis on Cinco de Mayo.
Garcia’s challenge of Davis won’t hold weight, and the major leap can’t be made, without another thumb-stopping victory against Campbell.
“I want to reach greatness by beating all these guys in their prime,” said Garcia. “My dream is to become one of the greatest fighters that has ever lived.”
— Manouk Akopyan is a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times, this newspaper’s sister newspaper.
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