Striking Distance: Ryan Garcia Pivots his Potential


Striking distance: Ryan Garcia pivots his potential

Minutes after delivering a first round knockout last Thursday night, Ryan Garcia sat comfortably ringside looking the exact same way he came into the fight. His arm resting on the chair of ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, Garcia peeked at the monitor in front of him to catch a glimpse of himself on live television. One last look-see for the flashy 19-year old, who has probably already played out these post-win interviews in his mind many times already. He seems like a natural in front of a lens, but certainly has his fair share of practice considering he’s built such a big following through social media. It’s just one of the many ways he’s becoming boxing’s highest rising young talent, and truest millennial. With plenty of time to fill on an ESPN card that featured three fights combining a total of four rounds, Garcia did commentary on an entire replay of his knockout win in the night’s main event.

“My Dad said I’m gonna whoop is ass,

so I’m gonna whoop his ass”

“I called it,” were his first words after his introduction. “I spoke it into existence,” he added. Garcia proceeded to admit his nerves to start the fight, but said once he landed his first clean jab he felt good. Fernando Vargas, 32-14-3 (21), didn’t offer much of a challenge for Garcia. After measuring his distance with the jab, Garcia would fire in a quick right up the middle, and it quickly changed the pace of the fight once it first landed flush. The disparity in hand-speed was obvious, and once noticing how Vargas was starting to duck low to avoid shots, Garcia followed that right hand with a quick left hook that produced a knee buckling knockout. If the pre-ring walk interview wasn’t already an indication, Garcia, 14-0 (13), did what he was set-up to do, and delivered another knockout for his highlight reel in one take. He raised his arms to bask in the satisfied cheers of the sold out crowd that came to see him at an Indian Casino. Garcia’s ability to swiftly take out opponents has been part of the growing buzz on him in the ring, and, perhaps as an added bonus for Ryan, performances like that are certain to give him more air time after the fight.

At a media workout a week and a half before that night, Garcia seemed to have made a small pivot in his popularity with all the media attention he was receiving. During a conversation with this writer at Legendz Gym in Norwalk, Garcia proved to be the same way off camera.

Ryan Garcia

Photo: Lina Baker

“My Dad said I’m gonna whoop is ass, so I’m gonna whoop his ass,” Garcia said, when asked for his scouting report on Vargas, and cheekily adding, “His name is Fernando Vargas, also known as, Fernando Vargas, so pretty much, that’s all I know about him.”

Garcia has always been this way. He really kicked his personality into gear once signing with Golden Boy Promotions in late 2016. On that day, Oscar De La Hoya surprised Garcia with a promotional contract at an event where Ryan was giving a motivational speech, and as the confident teen would tell you, he has the talent to be on the same level as the Golden Boy.

But that wouldn’t be the only parallel shared between the two.

Just a few days before the media workout for his card, Garcia had his own meet-and-greet with fans, and as he put it, over 200 people showed up after posting the idea no more than a day earlier. Most of those people showing up to see him were young girls looking to take a selfie with their Instagram crush, and at the Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino last Thursday, there were plenty of fanatics attending their first boxing event.

“I was blown away,” said Garcia about the meet-and-greet. “That inspired me to do a tour. I’m going to Houston, then we’re gonna go to New York, then a few other places to do meet and greets. We’re worldwide baby. I have so many fans across the globe. Instagram can reach so many people so, it’s basically what it is.”

“If you were in this position, you would think it’s a good thing,”

There would have to be some serious planning for other Golden Boy prospects to get that kind of attention. A few were there to partake in the workout as undercard features supporting the teenage headliner, but were mere afterthoughts once Garcia commanded the media event with a rambunctious presence made perfect for the YouTube capitalist. Joet Gonzalez, 24, and Emilio Sanchez, 23 – two fellow Golden Boy prospects – stepped aside and let Garcia do his thing, perhaps even more comfortable being unbothered. They’re a bit further into the process of their prospective status compared to Garcia, and certainly had tougher fights ahead of them. Fighting a Filipino for a GBP prospect has been a hurdle as of late, and with both taking that small step, only Gonzalez was successful as Sanchez was knocked out in the second round. One month ago, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. – a Golden Boy prospect entering title contention – had a showcase on an ESPN main event which also took place at the same venue, but “JoJo” didn’t nearly draw the same attraction in the same spot. Diaz, 25 is much further ahead in his career. and even got the pre-ring walk interview treatment to plug his call out of the WBC featherweight title holder Gary Russell Jr. Once knocking out Victor Terrazas with a body shot in the fourth, the half empty room couldn’t help intensify the moment.

For anyone thinking this type of attention may be a bad thing for a young unproven fighter, Garcia would argue by turning the tables around; alluding to the notion that anyone not in his position is just projecting their desire to be in the same spot.

“If you were in this position, you would think it’s a good thing,” Garcia said. “It’s a good thing because it brings so much light into the sport. I can take this as far as I want to go. All I gotta do is not lose. If I don’t lose, I can take this so far. It’s the biggest blessing, I don’t know what they’re talking about. If they were in this position, they would be so happy. They would be screaming ‘thank God’ just like I am.”

Ryan Garcia Super Hero Pose

Photo: Lina Baker

Garcia grew up in Victorville, California, where most, if not all Southern Californians have at least passed through on the I-15 in their trek to Las Vegas, but there’s a good chance none have actually set foot in the high desert town. The two-hour head start Victorville has to Vegas would be the only feature seen when looking at it through a speeding window, and there, Garcia started boxing at eight years old, and trained in the garage of the house he was homeschooled in. Plenty of time to do nothing but practice his craft and get good at getting more followers.

“It keeps me so grounded,” Garcia said about still living and training at home today. “That’s the thing, people just see me, how I’m like, talking, but in my mind – really, deep down in my mind – I know how what kind of work I have to put in, and it’s not easy. Not everybody can do it. I was just crying two days ago in New York because I was pushing myself to the limit. I literally cried. It was just so hard. I worked my ass of with my strength and conditioning coach. If I’m cutting weight and pushing myself to the limit, that’s pain I can’t even describe. It’s horrible. But like Muhammad Ali said: suffer right now, and live the rest of your life-like a champion. Those are the words I live by. “

Ryan Garcia

Photo: Lina Baker

The stars are much more visible in So Cal’s high desert, and maybe that’s why Garcia has reached for the highest ones. He was not shy about saying he wanted to become boxing’s youngest world champion at 130-pounds, but he was quick to call out a young buck in the class: Gervonta Davis. Actually getting that fight is unrealistic, especially considering Golden Boy has Alberto Machado, the WBA’s 130-pound title holder, and the WBC’s Miguel Berchelt just a phone call away from partaking in another GBP card on HBO. Surely Garcia knows that, but then again, the kid knows how to play the game, and knows what will get views. Making the leap in competition so quickly will be a decision ultimately made by his promoter, who has been searching for a young star with crossover appeal for years. Golden Boy wouldn’t be much of a company without having the biggest Mexican star in the sport, but as Canelo Alvarez goes through a current PR nightmare of his own undoing, having a flash in the pan like Garcia is valuable. The question is, will they match him up patiently to get a return on ticket sales and build the hype up further? Or go for the gusto quickly, take a chance, and give Garcia the opportunity to back up the big talk?

If there’s any truth to Garcia, it’s his fast hands, a good feel for the game, and by all accounts so far, knockout power. Last December, Garcia had perhaps his best fight against Noe Martinez, in a sense that he was actually given a fight; getting hit cleanly a few times until forcing a stoppage in the eighth and final round. He has yet to face a real puncher, however, and how good he actually is can only be proven through his competition.

Ryan Garcia

Photo: Tom Hogan/HoganPhotos

In the post-fight interview last Thursday, he casually broke down his actions of the course of the opening round, and basically confirmed that he will be on the May 5th HBO pay-per-view undercard by the end. With a little more than a month to go, a big fight for Garcia is certainly not in order, but maybe a small step-up can give him good experience. Golden Boy definitely likes to match all their prospects with Nicaraguan journeyman Rene Alvarado, or maybe they put Garcia through the Filipino ringer to try and get some more clear-cut answers on his projection. No matter, it won’t be higher than Garcia’s projection of himself, and that’s part of the reason why he’s slowly becoming a polarizing character. Whether striking nerves or striking the hearts of teens online, he’s at least striking something, and seems ready and willing for Golden Boy to strike while the iron is hot. How quickly they do could be a fight to fight basis, especially if Cinco de Mayo becomes disastrous for Golden Boy as an event, somehow, maybe one thing has to do with other.

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About Albert Baker

Writer/Producer/Director of the Under the Hand Wraps documentary series and owner of Albert Baker is currently based in Fresno, California and has been covering boxing since 2014.

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