Good, bad, worse: Ryan Garcia comes of age in spectacular fashion
Boxing Junkie 2hrs ago
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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

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Ryan Garcia answered important questions in his victory over Luke Campbell, Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy

A colleague with keen knowledge of boxing texted me after Ryan Garcia stopped Luke Campbell on Saturday: “Kid’s legit!” Yes, he is.

Garcia couldn’t have had a more productive night. He not only demonstrated that he could defeat an elite opponent – a requirement to prove that he was more than mere hype – he also overcame adversity to do it, which was a bonus in his coming of age.

When Garcia went down in the second round, courtesy of a big left hand from Campbell, my first thought was, “Well, this it. We’re going to know right here what Garcia is made of.”

That was a big shot. Garcia admitted afterward that he felt “dizzy” as a result of it, his way of saying he was hurt.

Well, he couldn’t have handled it much better. He maintained both his confidence and poise, which is what special fighters do. He fought cautiously to survive the round and then found his groove, taking the control of the fight with intelligent, effective aggression, broking down Campbell and ending the fight with a spectacular body shot in Round 7.

It was the kind of performance that he and those around him had hoped for, one that bolstered his position as a major player in the sport.

Is he the savior of boxing because of his social media following and break-through victory? Let’s cool our jets.

First, boxing doesn’t need to be saved, thank you. It’s doing fine. And, second, Garcia beat Luke Campbell, not Sugar Ray Robinson. There is a formidable level of lightweights above Campbell with which he’ll have to contend.

Garcia called out Gervonta Davis after his victory. I keep wondering what would happen if Davis – and southpaw, like Campbell – connects on the same punch with which Campbell put Garcia down. Not a pretty thought.

That isn’t meant to diminish Garcia’s accomplishment on Saturday, which was significant. Every great fighter progresses in steps. This was a big one for Garcia.

That said, “King Ryan” is only 22. He’s just getting started. Bigger challenges lie ahead.

***

BAD

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Garcia went down hard in the second round. Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy

The second-round knockdown shouldn’t be described as “bad.” Virtually every fighter hits the canvas at some point. The idea is to get up.

At the same time, the momentary setback might underscore an observation his trainer Eddy Reynoso made this past April: Garcia is talented but “he needs to learn more.”

Of course he does. He’s a work in progress.

That’s why it might be too soon to face Davis, who Garcia called out after the fight Saturday. I like his bravado and, of course, that’s a tremendous matchup from the perspective of the fans. At the same time, you don’t want to set up your young fighter to lose.

Davis, 26, is as gifted as anyone in boxing and farther along than Garcia. That fight could be suicide. I think Garcia matches up better with Devin Haney, assuming Garcia is determined to face a next-level opponent in his next fight.

Haney, also 22, is talented but at a similar stage of development to Garcia and not the puncher that Davis is.

An even better option might be someone like Jorge Linares, who Garcia was supposed to have fought last year. An opponent of that level would generate interest but allow Garcia to grow at a comfortable pace.

I have a feeling his promoter, Golden Boy, will go a conservative route. Oscar De La Hoya just lost his cash cow, Canelo Alvarez. The last thing he wants is his top young star to bite off more than he can chew in his next fight.

De La Hoya hinted after the fight that the process of selecting an opponent will be deliberate, saying, “Obviously Ryan is ready to face anybody, that’s never a doubt. But it’s gonna be on our terms.”

The fans will want Garcia to face Davis or Haney — who can blame them? —  but it might not come next, which is the smart way to go. No reason to rush things.

 ***

WORSE

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Campbell (right) came up short once again. Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy

You have to feel for Campbell.

The pride of Hull, England, became a local hero when he won his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. He seemed to have a bright future in the professional ranks, where he would surely win a world title or two.

Instead, Campbell could be remembered as the guy who consistently fell just short.

Campbell gave Jorge Linares all he could handle but lost a split decision in 2017. He pushed pound-for-pounder Vasiliy Lomachenko but lost a wide decision two years later. And he put a scare into Garcia only to get stopped for the first time.

The ability is there. Anyone who watched those fights could see that he’s a legitimate Top 10 contender, which means he’s one of the best lightweights in the world. However, he’s just not quite good enough.

He’s 33. He’s no longer the fresh-faced Olympic champion but he’s not ancient, either. If he wants to stick with it – and he probably will – there is a chance he’ll get one more opportunity to get it right against one of the top guns.

The problem is that the more you lose big fights, the less marketable you are. You become a gatekeeper. Sadly for Campbell, that’s what he is at the moment.

One gets the feeling that he’ll look back upon his career and wonder, “What if?”

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