ANAHEIM, Calif., February 13, 2020 – Ever since he burst onto the boxing scene four years ago in 2016 as a teenage prodigy, Ryan Garcia of Victorville, California has drawn a lot of attention. Despite his undefeated record and crowd-pleasing knockouts, the attention hasn’t always been positive.
Golden Boy Boxing’s most well-known prospect, Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) has consistently delivered the performances needed. But “King Ry” has taken heat for everything and nothing to do specifically with boxing. His flashy good looks. His appeal to female fans. His massive social media following, including nearly five million followers on Instagram. Garcia’s critics claim his fame in the ring isn’t about his skills. They pounced when Garcia had a public dispute with promoter Oscar De La Hoya last year when he was accused of ducking a replacement.
But Garcia and De La Hoya have kissed and made up, with Garcia signing a long-term contract. Perfect timing for Garcia’s role in the main event at a fitting Valentine’s Day fight card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The four televised fights on the card air on DAZN starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Start of a new boxing tradition?
De La Hoya said the notion of staging the event on Valentine’s Day was Garcia’s idea, and everyone involved is feeling the love. “Ryan Garcia has been amazing promoting this event. All his fans are going to come out and have a nice date … We feel that Valentines’ Day can be a tradition, every single year now, instead of doing the normal … You can come out and watch the fights, and then you can go to dinner and enjoy a nice evening. We have to give credit to Ryan whose idea it was. ‘Hey, why not fight on Valentine’s Day and get everyone out here?’” said De La Hoya.
Garcia keeps getting tested and passing those tests. In November, Garcia took out his ‘ducked’ opponent Romero Duno with an impressive knockout in less than two minutes. After the bout, Garcia said, “I want to show people this kid can fight, and I’m for real.”
So what will it take? Another win on Friday against solid opponent Francisco Fonseca of Nicaragua (25-2-2, 19 KOs). Fonseca’s only losses came to Gervonta Davis, and more recently Tevin Farmer, no shame in either result. “I’m going to come prepared to give a great show and God willing come away with the win,” said Fonseca.
“Every single fight, we keep saying, well is this the next test? Is this the guy who’s going to give him the next challenge? He blew out Duno with one single punch. And yet people are still going to be skeptical of this young man’s talents and what he really possesses,” said De La Hoya.
Garcia is well aware of his critics. “2020 man, this is the year to show everybody I’ve got the skills, I’ve got the talent, and I’ve got the mentality to become a world champion,” said Garcia.
“Fonseca is a tough fighter, he’s been in there with a lot of good fighters and gave them a lof of good work This gives everybody a chance to see how good I am. This guy’s going to bring it so I’m not taking nothing lightly. I’m not looking past this guy right here. Let’s show everybody why boxing’s here to stay,” said Garcia.
DAZN USA Executive VP Joe Markowski said the narrative around this fight is pretty straightforward. “Is Ryan Garcia a social media phenomenon or is he a future world champion? 2020 will reveal a lot on that front. Can Ryan put on a big show on Valentine’s Day? Can he take on a big challenge later in the summer? Can he raise a belt above his head before the year’s end?”
Friday night will test Garcia’s ability to fill the seats at the Honda Center as the main event A-side fighter. Knock Garcia’s social media fame all you want, but it’s a critically important component of promotion when boxing vies for the entertainment dollar of the fans, who have a lot of choices in boxing and beyond. Athletes who marry their financial draw with talent have more value and earn more opportunities, it’s that simple.
Since joining the San Diego based stable of Eddy and Chepo Reynoso at the Canelo Alvarez camp, Garcia is better balancing sport and social media. It is also a product of maturity and years on the planet. Garcia is still just 21 years old. Consider the choices you made working your way up from a teenager to an adult given the pink slip on your life.
Jorge Linares making one last title run
Should Garcia prevail as expected, his next opponent is being teed up in the co-main event. Veteran Jorge Linares (46-5, 28 KOs) returns for one last run at a title against Carlos Morales of Mexico (19-4-4, 8 KOs). The 34-year-old Linares lost a shocker to Pablo Cesar Cano one year ago.
“Carlos Morales is very tough and strong. I know him very well,” said Linares. “Though I have a lot of experience, I have to be very careful and cautious when the bell rings. Right now, I’m focused on the opponent I will have in front of me this Friday. After that, we’ll see what opportunities we have. Who knows? Maybe I fight in May or June? Boxing is like that. You never know.”
The three-division world champion has held multiple titles, and while his skills are no longer formidable, his pedigree is impeccable and would put a decent test up for Garcia, assuming he wins on Friday night.
Family affair in Anaheim for Alexis Rocha
Also on the televised main card, Alexis “Lex” Rocha of Santa Ana (15-0, 10 KOs) has a hometown fight against Brad Solomon of Douglasville, Georgia (28-2, 9 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title. The 22-year-old Rocha is making a steady rise in the division. Solomon is making a quick return to the ring after his knockout loss to Golden Boy’s rising welterweight star, Vergil Ortiz Jr. It’s a solid match for Rocha. He’ll be motivated to deliver, especially in front of a large crowd of family and friends.
No love lost between Blair Cobbs and Samuel Kotey
Opening the DAZN broadcast, welterweights Blair “The Flair” Cobbs of Las Vegas (13-0-1, 9 KOs) and Samuel Kotey of Baltimore via Ghana (23-2, 16 KOs) have anything but a love connection. The flashy Cobbs is coming off a big 2019 where his eye-popping outfits and brash attitude in the manner of wrestling star Ric Flair has captured the heart of boxing fans.
But not Kotey, who vows he’s going to knock the the “Wooooo” out of Cobbs. Kotey had at Cobbs at the final news conference earlier in the week. At the weigh-in, Cobbs borrowed a page from “The Bachelor” and presented a rose to Kotey, who didn’t accept it.
Cobbs is rough around the edges with a wild offensive style, and he sometimes forgets to defend himself in his zeal. But you can’t take your eyes off him. Kotey has had just one fight since his 2016 loss to Anthony Peterson, but he does have power and Cobbs can’t get too crazy. It might be the bad blind date at the next table you can’t help watching.
Also appearing on the preliminary DAZN broadcast starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, Bektemir “The Bully” Melikuziev of Uzbekistan (4-0, 3 KOs) faces Oscar Cortez of Guadalajara, Mexico in a 10-round super middleweight fight with the WBC Continental Americas title at stake. Melikuziev is part of the Uzbek stable trained by Joel Diaz in Indio, California. His pal Murodjon Akhmadaliev is already a unified world champion, and Israil Madrimov is also undefeated.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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