THERE is something about Ryan Garcia. The young American looks the part, he’s got the Instagram following (a modern prerequisite for stardom), he has handspeed, punch power and the full weight of Golden Boy Promotions behind him. He can fight too.
The 22 year old Californian has amassed a perfect 20-0 (17) record and he does land his shots with electric force. His right cross is fast and hurtful. Garcia’s lead left hook does real damage. He showcased its force in his last bout. In February Francisco Fonseca reached for Garcia with a jab that fell short, just as he readied his right to throw, Garcia intercepted with a vicious countering left hook. Accurate and powerful, Fonseca was knocked out as his back hit the boards of the ring.
That is the best win of Garcia’s career so far. Fonseca is a decent opponent who might have drawn with Alex Dilmaghani in 2019 at super-featherweight, but he went the distance with Tevin Farmer the year before and lasted eight rounds with Gervonta Davis in 2017.
But that shows too how much of a step up Garcia is taking with this fight against Luke Campbell on Saturday (January 2) at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
“I’m just going to give everything I got,” Garcia warns. “I’m going to bring everything that I’ve got so don’t blink.”
Luke Campbell might have three losses on his record but he is much more than just a solid fighter or a good all rounder. He won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 with a superb display of speed and poised counter-punching. As a professional lightweight Campbell added strength to his rangy frame. On the way up he was filling an open air stadium in his Hull hometown as he won the British title. Losing to Yvan Mendy in 2015 was a big shock, a defeat that Campbell would eventually avenge after joining trainer Shane McGuigan. The Yorkshireman has fought twice for a world title, Jorge Linares edged him out on a split decision when they fought for the WBA crown in California in 2017. In August of 2019, the last time Campbell boxed, the Englishman went 12 rounds with a brilliant Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Garcia is trained by Eddy Reynoso, the outstanding coach of Canelo Alvarez, and he is now the star of Golden Boy’s promotional stable. Neither of those backers are in the habit of making any mistakes. But taking this bout, at this point in his career, might just be a rare miscalculation.
Garcia has fought more recently, twice during Luke’s period of enforced in activity, so he won’t need to worry about shedding any ringrust. But Campbell is not only more experienced, he’s competed at the much higher level. The question is has he learned and improved from those experiences or will the defeats have dented his self-belief and caused him to plateau?
The expectation for this writer is that at 33 years old Campbell is battle-seasoned but not battle-worn. If he can withstand early aggression from Garcia, his skill, his counter- and combination-punching should see him take over the later rounds and win a decision. Even in Texas.
“I want to prove that I’m the best in the division and I believe I’m the best in the division and once I beat Ryan that’ll answer a lot of questions,” Campbell said. “He’s good, he’s fast, he’s got good skill but I just believe in myself.
“My strategy is just to win, by any means possible.”
This bout is fascinating in its own right and will launch the victor into true world title contention. Bob Arum, the influential promoter of unified WBO, WBA and IBF lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez, is already looking to match the winner of this bout with Lopez, the new leader of the division. The stakes are high. Defeat would leave Garcia condemned, unfairly but perhaps inevitably, as more style than substance and dash the high hopes and heavy investment of his promotional company. A loss for Campbell would block him off from fighting for the world title he has been so determined to win for so long. Victory would open the path to the 2020 Fighter of the Year and the true world championship.
A new star name at 135lbs and the next big rival for Teofimo Lopez can be decided in Texas on Saturday.