On Ryan Garcia’s Past, His Present Love Triangle, and His Future
Two and a half years ago, Ryan Garcia fought a grueling 10 round fight against the grizzled Jayson Velez who physically punked him around for much of the fight. Back then, “The Flash” as he was then known, had a comparatively measly 800,000 followers on Instagram. But even then, it was clear that Ryan Garcia had the incredible opportunity to transcend boxing’s seedy underground to achieve stardom in mainstream America. Apparently cognizant of what was at stake, the judges gifted Ryan an easy unanimous decision that night. Indeed, a quick glimpse at historical records will tell you that May 4, 2018 was a walk in the park for the now-christened “King Ry”.
The Velez fight was a wake up call for the then 19-year-old. Pinches Tacos in Culver City, California opened their store at 2 AM to host the Velez afterparty and the mood was, of course, festive. But there was a genuine look of concern on young Ryan’s face that night. The talk around boxing circles was that Ryan needed to ditch his father who had trained him out of their garage since the beginning. Ryan sported a stellar record in the amateurs, but the word on the street was always that he lacked the technical ability to reach the pinnacle of such an unforgiving sport. To his credit, he was ready to accept the criticism that night, including from yours truly. And lucky for him, Instagram carried him through those early days when his fights felt more like a Jonas Brothers concert than a legally sanctioned assault.
After another scare in his next fight against the unheralded Carlos Morales, Ryan Garcia finally made the switch. He enlisted Eddy Reynoso, the man in Canelo Alvarez’s corner, to lead him to glory. On paper, the move was supposed to bring a lot of synergy. On the business side of things, Canelo had just inked a $365 million deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, who also happened to be promoting Ryan Garcia. The Canelo-Ryan bromance was marketing gold for Oscar, and in the ring, Ryan finally had a world class trainer with whom he could master his craft.
The initial results with Eddy Reynoso were telling: 4 knockouts from 4 fights. But those fights didn’t tell the whole story. Those four victories were against lesser talents, and everyone knew it. But the time was ripe, at least for Oscar De La Hoya, to throw the 22-year-old into the lions den. The Ryan-Oscar-Reynoso-Canelo partnership that had looked so good was thrown into serious peril when Canelo and Reynoso refused to even speak with Oscar. That marriage ended in a lawsuit that released Canelo from the grips of Golden Boy, who couldn’t cash that $365 million check.
Desperate to stay relevant in the sport that gave him everything, Oscar De La Hoya needed Ryan Garcia to step it up and arranged a matchup against the former Olympic gold medalist, Luke Campbell. Boxing insiders know that despite having the credentials, Luke Campbell is not an elite level talent. Having been dominated on home soil to the Ukrainian Vasyli Lomachenko, the betting markets reflected as much: a $1,350 bet on Ryan would only net $350. Still, Campbell represented the best fighter Ryan had ever faced, and all Ryan needed to do was to not get knocked out and the judges would surely award him the victory.
Of course, the fight did not go to plan. Ryan, who had never been known for his technical abilities, breached some of the most basic of boxing fundamentals. Momentarily losing focus, he dropped his hands and failed to protect himself. Never one to move his head, Ryan presented his chin on a silver platter and was laid out on his ass by a brutal left hook from Campbell. Beating the standing 8 count, King Ry was in dire straits. One more of those shots in the immediate aftermath would have ended the fight, the dream, and the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, a trip to the ER was looming. But as they say, styles make fights, and Campbell’s even keeled, never-be-the-aggressor approach played well into the younger, stronger, and more aggressive Garcia’s hands. Choosing not to go for the kill when he had the chance, Campbell let Garcia back into the fight, eventually succumbing to a crippling shot to the liver. Ryan Garcia had overcome the biggest test of his life.
If Saturday afternoon felt like a momentous occasion, it’s because it was. Ryan’s win captured the attention of the entire world, with the likes of Lebron James, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Michael B. Jordan offering their congratulations. The narrative of the fight is easy to understand. In the biggest moment of his life, Ryan Garcia, on the brink of getting knocked out, overcame immense adversity to knock his opponent out. But when the joy of winning fades, this fight with Luke Campbell will have exposed more flaws in Ryan’s already flawed game. When in the history of boxing has a boxer who doesn’t move his head, remains flat footed, and has a tendency to drop his hands ever reached the peak?
Then there is the question of the Oscar-Ryan-Canelo love triangle. Both Oscar and Canelo were at the fight to support their cash cow, but you will be hard pressed to find a picture of all three of them together. Also, there isn’t enough money to go around. Either Oscar or Canelo will need to be cut out. How will Ryan manage that situation? Canelo will speak of how Oscar cheated him out of literally hundreds of millions of dollars. But at the same time, Oscar De La Hoya’s career presents a tried and true roadmap to superstardom. There is also the question between Ryan Garcia and his trainer Eddy Reynoso. Clearly Reynoso has improved Ryan’s game, but it is also painfully obvious that it might not be enough. If Luke Campbell has you on the ropes in round 2, what will it be like to face Devin Haney, Vasyli Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, or Tank Davis? And if you dump Eddy, what does that do to your relationship with Canelo who is basically Eddy’s son?
Of course the drama outside of the ring is reason enough to love the sport. It is also possible that Ryan Garcia’s lack of technical ability does not even matter at this point. For everything that went wrong in the fight, nobody can deny the fact that it was an incredibly entertaining fight to watch. Floyd Mayweather often invites criticism because he fights too perfectly, nullifying his opponents into a malaise that makes you wish you were watching paint dry. Then, there is Oscar De La Hoya’s career, which closely reflects that of Ryan’s projected career trajectory. As boxing’s face throughout the late 90s and early 00s, Oscar De La Hoya’s star captured the imagination of everybody from the Backstreet Boys crowd to the tamale vendor in East LA. Let us also remember this: Oscar also lost every big fight that he was in, and yet here we are.
Welcome to King Ry’s world. Consider yourself lucky to be in it.
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