Ryan Garcia’s potential and divisive personality in the spotlight again

Few fighters in latest reminiscence have been as hotly debated as Ryan Garcia, the light-weight prospect/celebrity in the Golden Boy secure, who returns to motion after an extended layoff on Saturday night time.

To some, he’s an annoying child, somebody who has used social media to make himself a much bigger identify than his in-ring achievements have earned. With stardom — that’s, the potential to promote tickets and command cash from broadcast platforms — comes massive paydays. Garcia has feuded with Golden Boy greater than as soon as over his pay and the manner he thought he was being handled by the firm, one thing that has additionally been divisive amongst critics and followers. Some consider Garcia is completely proper to ask for what he thinks he’s value, particularly since he’s value extra than simply about anybody together with his degree of opposition to date as an expert. Some consider he doesn’t need to earn it the old school manner. Each concepts have some advantage.

As soon as considered one of boxing’s elite promotional corporations, Golden Boy has been left hanging on thanks to some good, younger names, mainly Garcia, middleweight Jaime Munguia, and welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. Canelo Alvarez had saved the firm stronger than its depth for some time, however when he had his personal harsh cut up with Golden Boy again in 2020, it left the agency in a good spot. Not with out future, and not with out prospects, however missing a celebrity. It’s an organization that has been constructed on anchoring itself to celebrity fighters since Oscar De La Hoya left Bob Arum and Prime Rank behind over 15 years in the past.

Garcia appeared the most certainly to develop into the subsequent man up, or not less than the most certainly to get there rapidly. In contrast to the quieter Munguia and Ortiz, Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) calls for consideration. It’s what has gotten him to the place he’s, when his solely win of true notice is Luke Campbell, an Olympic gold medalist whose professional profession by no means bought to the very high, however he was a reputable contender and an excellent fighter.

Earlier than most boxing followers had an concept of who Ryan Garcia was, he’d already attained giant followings on social media. It’s a brand new age, and let’s be trustworthy, boxing promoters are actually not good at maintaining with the occasions. To not make you groan at yet one more comparability, nevertheless it’s one thing that UFC did extraordinarily effectively as they broke by way of in recognition. They embraced the trendy media tradition, first the web, then every little thing that got here with it. Boxing languished a decade behind the curve for an extended, very long time, and have solely in the final 5 years or so actually began to catch up.

That goes for the fan base, too, in many instances. However that’s additionally to not say that a few of the criticism of Garcia is fully with out advantage. The competitors has by no means actually challenged him, apart from Campbell placing him down in the second spherical. And when he roared again to cease the Brit in the seventh spherical on Jan. 2, 2021, there have been not less than some individuals who converted to giving him credit score. “Yes,” they stated. “Ryan Garcia can fight.”

However nearly as rapidly as that new “respect” got here his manner, it evaporated amongst his headlines from the the rest of 2021. First, he handed on imposing a compulsory shot at Devin Haney’s WBC light-weight title, after beating Campbell for the interim belt. Then, he canceled a July date with Javier Fortuna, citing psychological well being causes. As somebody who lives with bipolar dysfunction, I had no questions on his choice. Boxing is a tricky, harmful sport even if you’re there one hundred pc bodily and mentally. If both is missing, and it forward of time, higher to handle it and come again if you’re prepared.

Then there was a cancellation for hand surgical procedure earlier than a deliberate November battle with Joseph Diaz Jr. After which there was the very public cut up with coach Eddy Reynoso and the Canelo group. It was a tough skilled yr for Garcia after day two, and by the time a return was deliberate, he had a brand new coach in Joe Goossen and the light-weight division appeared a hell of lots completely different, with George Kambosos Jr the high canine.

His opponent on Saturday is Ghanaian underdog Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1, 15 KO). The 32-year-old Tagoe has performed his finest to undertaking confidence and attempt to get into Garcia’s head this week, which Garcia famous on Thursday felt like Tagoe giving himself further strain.

“He’s put a lot of pressure on himself,” Garcia said. “He said if he loses, he’s retiring. He said it’s gonna be easy, this, that. That’s a lot of words to live up to in that ring, when one thing’s for sure, it will not be easy. So we shall see what he brings out.”

He’d stated at the media exercise earlier in the week that he thinks Tagoe will do his finest to outlive and merely not get knocked out, and added, “If he can take a shot, it will be a good fight. If he can’t, he will be out of there very quick.”

Ryan Garcia v Luke Campbell

Photograph by Tim Warner/Getty Photos

Tagoe’s makes an attempt to worm his manner into Garcia’s head don’t actually appear to be working, however then, why would they? By DraftKings Sportsbook’s traces, Garcia is a -1600 favourite, with Tagoe a +850 underdog, and all odds are someplace in that neighborhood. On paper, in the event you look previous Tagoe’s win-loss document — or deeper into it than what number of wins in opposition to what number of losses — this seems to be like nothing way more severe than previous Garcia fights in opposition to the likes of Romero Duno or Francisco Fonseca, and these two guys mixed lasted 2 minutes, 58 seconds, not even a single full spherical.

That stated, you must determine Garcia feels some strain, too. He’s been out of the ring some time. He heard the backlash in 2021, which got here rapidly after receiving not less than some respect that he could have believed overdue. In a manner, it feels now as if he hit the reset button on his profession final spring. He’d fought to a spot for an ordered, necessary world title battle, and he didn’t take it. Then, he didn’t take two extra fights that have been deliberate.

I don’t know that he takes the outsider critics too severely, however even when he doesn’t, there shall be the strain to show he’s made the proper decisions — to take break day, to vary trainers, to hit that reset button for a yr. Even when it’s extra about proving it to himself than anybody else, that’s nonetheless strain, possibly even harder than caring what anybody else thinks.

Personally, I’m of the perception that Ryan Garcia is not less than near the expertise he’s been bought to be, by which I imply I feel he’s fairly rattling good with the potential to be genuinely nice. However I perceive the questions on him. About his dedication to “being great” in the sport, about how a lot he needs and even wants a harmful job like boxing. About how severe he’s about combating the others thought of high tier names in his division.

Garcia’s bought the potential. He’s bought the star high quality. And he’s now at a degree the place he’s been headlining lengthy sufficient that individuals count on extra. Saturday received’t be the check. However will probably be a return, and hopefully, a primary step towards going through somebody larger. Perhaps the Kambosos-Haney winner. Perhaps Tank Davis, whose Mayweather Promotions deal shall be up quickly, which may doubtlessly free him up for lots of fights individuals have wished to see.

As Garcia says, we will see.

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