If we are set to learn anything from Saturday’s much-anticipated lightweight tilt in Dallas, it’s whether Ryan Garcia is merely a popular young boxer with nearly eight million Instagram followers or a 22-year-old fighter who is ready — right now — to take over the sport.
Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) will face his stiffest test to date inside American Airlines Center (3 p.m. ET on DAZN, sign up now) against 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time title challenger Luke Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) in a bout, originally scheduled for December, that was pushed back after the 33-year-old native of England tested positive for COVID-19.
With his boyhood charm and prolific social media output, Garcia has made a name for himself in recent years as a prominent self marketer and potential future star. But after joining the camp of Canelo Alvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso two years ago, Garcia has made a much more serious push toward relevancy.
Garcia has followed a disappointing 2018 majority decision win over Carlos Morales with four straight knockouts and now has added tough talk to match his lightning quick hands and sharp combinations.
“I’m going to be the best fighter in the world for this next era,” Garcia said during the teleconference to promote the fight. “This is probably how it was supposed to be written. This is how the stars are aligning. I get everybody around the whole world to watch and this is what I have always wanted to do, which is inspire the whole world. This is the perfect opportunity to do it.
“Luke Campbell, it’s inevitable for him. He’s just going to get his ass whooped. Whether it’s December or Jan. 2, his fate is the same.”
The move to a more brash persona highlighted by trash talk is something that’s new for Garcia, who has long been targeted by top names in the sport who have assumed, given his matinee idol looks, that he’s nothing by a pretty boy. But Garcia can fight and he has taken issue with the confidence that the 33-year-old Campbell has shown throughout the build to this weekend’s bout.
“I feel very disrespected by Luke,” Garcia said. “All that disrespect, all that hate, and all that envy is going to blind him. Luke is just the first one. I feel bad for Luke. He’s just the first one of my opponents that’s going to get it bad. I’m older, stronger, and coming into myself. I already felt I was coming into myself for the [Francisco] Fonseca fight. I was on a roll and ready to takeover. God said how it was supposed to be. I cannot wait to punish Luke Campbell. I want to break his eye. I want to break his bones. I want to break everything off of him.”
Despite failing to capture a world title, Campbell has come painfully close in decision losses to both Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko in which he fought tough and, in the case of a razor-thin loss to Linares, had a case for a win.
“I believe I’m coming into my prime now and everything that has happened to me in the past has prepared me for where I am today,” Campbell said. “I believe I am going to win this fight and represent.
“I’ve got to go in there and not make any mistakes and be the best I can be. I believe me being the best I can be can beat anyone in the lightweight division.”
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Campbell’s only other pro defeat in a split decision against Yvan Mendy in 2015 was avenged three years later. Garcia, for one, hasn’t been impressed. He has also been outspoken against those who believe Campbell’s experience will be too much for him.
“I don’t even know what they are talking about. What experience does he have?” Garcia said. “Every time he stepped up, he lost. He even lost to a guy we never heard of. Who is Yvan Mendy? He talks a lot of shit saying he’s going to KO me but, to be honest, anytime there was someone who shouldn’t have been in the ring with me, I got him out of there real quick.
“I’m going to prove that Luke Campbell don’t have it and it’s my time and my era. I’m ready to show the world who I am. I’m not here to play games. I’m tired of hearing all the misconceptions about me on Instagram. They don’t know the work I put him.”
Should Garcia run through Campbell with the ease in which he has knocked out Francisco Fonseca and Romero Duno in recent fights, it would certainly put the boxing world on notice about his future. Although Garcia has been established as the betting favorite, there is plenty of reason to believe Campbell will be enough to severely test Garcia, if not play spoiler to his future plans.
From Garcia’s perspective, it’s all talk. He wants to show the world he’s ready for big-name opponents such as Gervonta “Tank” Davis and believes stopping Campbell will be the first step in securing those fights.
“I’m not worried about Luke, he has no challenges for me. All he got is pitter-patter punches and amateur stye punches,” Garcia said. “None of that is going to save him. The moment he feels my shots, he’s going to start backing up. I’ll figure it out from there and I’ll start surgically beating him down. I’m going to punish him and then go on to fight ‘Tank.’ I’m not even worried about Luke Campbell.
“I want to conquer this division. I make this weight pretty easily, I’m a disciplined person. I can make this weight for as long as I want to make it. My goal is to defeat Teofimo Lopez, to knock out Gervonta Davis and to beat Devin Haney so whatever order it is, I’m here to conquer this division and become the biggest superstar in boxing.”
Saturday’s action in Dallas is a bit deeper than just the main event. A pair of title fights fill out the undercard with Rene Alvarado putting his WBA (regular) super featherweight title on the line against Roger Gutierrez and Felix Alvarado putting his IBF junior flyweight title on the line against DeeJay Kriel. The larger of the twin brothers, Rene, has won eight straight bouts since May 2017 and stopped Andrew Cancio in his most recent outing in November 2019.
Fight card, odds
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Ryan Garcia -400 vs. Luke Campbell +310 -- WBC interim lightweight title Rene Alvarado (c) vs. Roger Gutierrez -- WBA (regular) super featherweight title Felix Alvarado (c) vs. DeeJay Kriel -- IBF junior flyweight title
How to watch Garcia vs. Campbell
Date: Jan. 2 | Start Time: 3 p.m. ET (main event around 6 p.m. ET)
Location: American Airlines Center — Dallas
TV/ Stream: DAZN (sign up now for $19.99/month)
Make no mistake, this is the fight that will tell us exactly how good Garcia is. Campbell is a big lightweight, a southpaw and comes in with an extensive amateur background. His footwork is elite and his power, while not overwhelming, has the potential to hurt Garcia as the fight rolls on.
The key will be how well Campbell does to handle Garcia’s speed and whether he can counter clean enough to force “KingRy” into a posture opposite the one he will enter with — as a cocky finisher looking to walk Campbell down.
If Campbell isn’t overwhelmed by the powerful combinations, the result should be a fairly deep referendum on just how good Garcia’s toughness and adaptability truly are. These are traits he hasn’t had to show much of once he has stepped up in class, largely because he has finished his recent opponents so early.
The great unknown for Campbell is how much the tutelage of Reynoso and the mentoring of Alvarez have gone in improving Garcia’s boxing IQ. Reynoso’s reputation as a smart game planner who preaches defensive responsibility as a means to produce efficient offensive surges is a dangerous combination for Garcia opponents to tackle given his speed and explosiveness.
One could just as easily imagine Garcia forcing a surprising stoppage by steamrolling him as one could Campbell being stingy enough to suffocate Garcia’s output and push this fight into the later rounds. Yet if there’s any tell to be found in Garcia’s recent shift from cocky to alarmingly confident, there’s a fear for Campbell that maybe Garcia knows something he doesn’t.
Maybe the flashes of brilliance Garcia has shown against lesser competition will carry along with him as he steps up in class because he really is that special. It’s the reason this fight remains so intriguing and the same reason oddsmakers like Garcia to live up to the hype.