The King’s gambit: Garcia vs Campbell kicks off 2021 on DAZN Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 1, 2021 – Ryan Garcia gets it. Despite his undefeated record and crowd-pleasing knockouts, there are plenty of boxing observers who still think he’s got to prove in the ring he’s not just a social media sensation.
Garcia of Victorville, California (20-0, 17 KOs) will get his opportunity Saturday in his toughest test so far against Olympic gold medalist Luke Campell of Great Britain (20-3, 16 KOs) for an interim WBC lightweight title. The fight card gets an early start on DAZN to accommodate British fans, starting at 3 p.m. ET/12 noon PT. Both fighters weighed in at exactly the 135 pound limit with 27,000 fans tuned into the livestream. A routine livestream weigh-in might draw 2,000 viewers.
A small audience will be in the seats at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, but nothing like the sellout crowd cheering Garcia on last Valentine’s Day in Anaheim, where he filled the seats. Fans didn’t even care they only saw Garcia in the ring for one round as he destroyed Francisco Fonseca with a counter check left hook.
“I wanted this fight after Francisco Fonseca,” said Garcia this week. “When it was offered to me for the interim title, I thought that my dream was finally coming true … With my skills and my training, I will be victorious.”
Campbell has come up short in three title fight opportunities, but they haven’t been blowouts, and he has never been stopped. Camp ell says he feels confident going in against Garcia. “From what I have seen, he is good. He is fast. He’s got good skills. But I believe in myself. My strategy is to win by any means possible, and I’m going to be the best version of myself.”
What happens to Garcia if he’s forced to go all 12 rounds with Campbell for the first time? “My fights haven’t gone long because I don’t let them. If it happens to go that way, then I’m ready for 12 rounds,” declared Garcia. “If he’s tough and he can take a shot, then I’m ready for that.
“They can say all they want about me not being able to go 12 rounds. I’ve trained to go one thousand rounds. I expect this to be a great fight. I expect this to be a great war.”
“Tune in Saturday night. I’ve come to fight,” Campbell replied. “This is going to be a fantastic fight. We are two of the best lightweights in the world.”
Garcia still fighting criticism
Garcia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya, chairman, and CEO of Golden Boy, understands the criticism of Garcia. He got the same s criticism even after winning an Olympic gold medal and turning pro from those who said he was only a star due to his good looks and charisma. But De La Hoya proved himself and believes Garcia will, too.
“I see what I’ve always seen in Ryan: an incredibly gifted, wildly charismatic fighter who never takes his foot off the gas in training or in the ring on fight night,” said De La Hoya. “I also see a fighter with an incredible appreciation of and admiration for the sport. When he’s not fighting or training, he’s watching film or going to other fights. The kid eats, sleeps and breathes boxing. At the same time, at a really young age, Ryan has an understanding of marketing that only a handful of fighters ever truly achieve.”
Credit for Garcia’s development in the ring rests with trainers Eddy and Chepo Reynoso at the Canelo Alvarez camp in San Diego. The father and son took a 15-year-old Alvarez and have turned him into the world’s top pound for pound fighter as well as a superstar attraction who puts fans in the seats. Garcia knows this and wants the same for himself. Garcia has soaked up every bit of advice from the Reynosos, and rubbing shoulders with Alvarez only sweetens the experience for the 22-year-old.
Knock Garcia’s social media appeal 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.
De La Hoya agrees. “We live in an era when fans can feel closer to their heroes than ever before through the development of social media. Ryan engages with those fans and has grown a following that is close to unrivaled in the sport. You put all these things in a package, and what you end up with is a fighter who is primed to crossover and become an international superstar.”
Prediction: Chess match, not a brawl
But you still have to produce in the ring. Alvarez does it. Teofimo Lopez Jr. does it. If Garcia does it, the critics will be made to eat their words.
Don’t be disappointed if he’s not flashy. King Ry needs to play chess with Campbell to win. Like Lopez Jr. did last year in his step-up challenge of Vasiliy Lomachenko, Garcia must be patient and box smart to roll up rounds against Campbell. Garcia is at his best when counterpunching, finding a home for the massive left hook. Not only will Campbell avoid engaging, but he’s also a southpaw, which complicates Garcia’s ability to land his money punch. There’s nothing wrong with Garcia watching for his opportunity, but he can’t let rounds get by him without taking a page from Teofimo’s book and boxing smart in the meantime. We predict under the superb guidance he’s received so far from the Reynosos, he’ll win this fight by unanimous decision.
Undercard fight lineup on DAZN
Also on the televised card:
In the co-main event, WBA Super Featherweight champion Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua (32-8, 17 KOs) defends the title he won from Andrew Cancio against Roger Guitierrez of Venezuela (24-3-1, 20 KOs). Alvarado is never in a bad fight, and this isn’t likely to go the distance.
Alvarado’s brother Felix (35-2, 30 KOs) fights for the IBF Light Flyweight title against DeeJay Kriel of South Africa (16-1-1, 8 KOs).
Middleweights Raul Curiel of Mexico (8-0, 6 KOs) and Ramses Agaton of Mexico (22-12-3, 12 KOs) fight an eight-round contest.
In the opening bout on DAZN, Sean Garcia of Victorville (5-0, 2 KOs) fights Rene Marquez of Nebraska (5-5, 2 KOs) in a four-round lightweight bout. Garcia, age 20, is the younger brother of Ryan Garcia. The pair trained together as kids with their father, Henry.
Fans should also get the opportunity to see the swing bout between cruiserweights Tristan Kalkrueth of Texas (6-0, 4 KOs) and Jorge Martinez of Guadalajara, Mexico (4-5, 1 KO). Still just 19 years old, Kalkrueth is an exciting young talent in the Golden Boy stable.
Franchon Crews-Dezurn of Baltimore (6-1, 2 KOs) vs. Ashleigh Curry of St. Joseph, Missouri (8-13-4, 1 KO) turned their eight-round super middleweight fight into a cruiserweight contest when Curry hit the scale at 176.2 pounds, up from the agreed-upon catchweight of 172 pounds. Crews-Dezurn made weight at 171.4 pounds. Titles are not on the line in this fight.
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.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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