Ryan Garcia: ‘I’m in line to become the face of Golden Boy Promotions’
It wasn’t supposed to play out this way, but junior lightweight contender Ryan “The Flash” Garcia will try to make good of a flustered situation this Friday night, headlining his second event within two months and on the cusp of a step-up fight in which all eyes will be on him.
“I’m just going to keep doing me,” Garcia told UCNLive.com, after a media workout last Thursday. “I’m never really worried about what Canelo (Alvarez) is doing. It’s a disappointment what happened (regarding Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez II being canceled). I wanted to fight on that card. It would’ve been the best opportunity and been seen by so many people but you know what? Everything happens for a reason. So now I’m here in the main event at the StubHub Center. That’s pretty darn good. And it’s Cinco de Mayo Weekend: I’m in line to become the face of Golden Boy (Promotions).”
Televised on ESPN (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p/m/ PT), Garcia, 14-0 (13), will take on Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds and for a couple of vacant regional knickknacks that would certainly raise Garcia’s No. 8 ranking within the WBO (whose junior lightweight title could potentially be vacated by Vasiliy Lomachenko, after the Ukrainian wonder moves up in weight to face WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares). Perhaps this was the same fight Garcia would’ve been given on the May 5 HBO Pay-Per-View undercard, had Canelo Alvarez not canceled his rematch with Gennady Golovkin one month ago but the hungry 19-year-old will gladly accept the stakes bestowed upon him.
“Well, I know he’s the biggest name I’ve fought,” Garcia said about his May 4 opponent. “I just want him to bring a pretty good fight, you know? Don’t be shy of the opportunity. I know I’m young but bring your best and let’s give the fans an amazing show.”
Velez, 26-4-1 (18), has strung along three wins since being handed all four of his losses during a losing streak from November 2015 to December 2016. Golden Boy Promotions prospects Ronny Rios and Joseph Diaz Jr. were the first to beat him in that order and then the company’s serviceable gatekeeper, Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado, gave Velez his third before Alfredo Santiago shockingly did it in his seventh pro fight. Velez, 30, would regroup by beating the unbeaten Alberto Mercado immediately afterward and, after a nice knockout of Giovanni Caro, he found himself in a domestic payday against the withered Juan Manuel Lopez, stopping him in the 12th round of an erratic yet entertaining scrap. That fight was just two months ago and Velez makes his return to the States, and on a televised Golden Boy card, since being upset by Alvarado.
To say Garcia is hungry can also be taken literally. During the interview, a nutritionist handed him a portioned cup of fruit, after working out for the media at the Legendz Boxing Gym in Norwalk, California. “Needed it. It’s going great. I feel amazing. You seen how fast I was today,” Garcia mentioned. It’s the first time he’s ever had a nutritionist in his young career and another first was a hulking security guard looming over his shoulder. The group that accompanied him was getting bigger and maybe it signifies the growth of his following but there is no doubt the teenager is still growing physically. Standing 5-feet-10, Garcia has a proportioned frame that towers over most 130-pounders and the confidence he exudes keeps his chin high and makes him seem that much more taller. This especially after delivering a highlight reel, first round knockout on March 22, during his first headlining spot on ESPN.
“Couldn’t have gone any better,” Garcia said about his destruction of the nameless version of Fernando Vargas. Taking place in Indio, California, it wasn’t far from his hometown of Victorville and the event sold out the small arena at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. “It was just amazing how everything fell right into place. I seen it, delivered it and he got knocked out. It kinda felt like a dream. I was like, man, I didn’t even know this happened. It’s crazy.”
The knockout was so quick, Garcia received more air time on the ESPN telecast when he sat down with the commentators ringside to watch his fight again. He didn’t seem so nervous with the headset on and giving a play-by-play but casually mentioned he was before the fight and that may be a natural thing for him, let alone having a camera in his face.
“I probably always will be nervous,” Garcia said. “A little bit – a tad bit nervous – because if you’re not nervous, something is wrong with you. I mean, you’re about to fight in front of so many people and it’s a real fight. People are punching you. Even Mike Tyson was nervous. He said so, ‘If I’m not nervous, then I’ll be kind of afraid.'”
Through the power of social media, Garcia has popularized himself within the boxing community and within the fantasies of all teenage millennials who follow him. His presumptuous personality and boy band looks make him a polarizing figure within the boxing circle, making his hype similar to that of the “Golden Boy” himself, Oscar De La Hoya. Garcia isn’t as popular as De La Hoya was when he started his pro career off the heels of a Olympic Gold medal win but it’s not often you find teenage girls screaming their heads off at a boxing event. Everything has been going right for Garcia so far but, on the precipice of this step-up fight, Garcia was asked to reveal what he wants to improve upon in the ring.
“What am I trying to get better at?” he asked. “Probably…No, I pretty much been through it all. I’m just gonna fight.” Of course, that isn’t necessarily true in the pro ranks and, upon having offered that rebuttal, he insisted, “No. I have in the amateurs. They’ve been putting pros with me since I was 14 years old and I’ve gotten beat up. Bad. It was this Olympian; I forgot his name honestly but he beat my ass and he kept beating me up. He had no mercy on me. The first three rounds, I lit him up. I didn’t know how to pace myself back then and he whooped my ass. He did not take it easy on me. Busted my nose and all that. Ever since then, I learned, took my time when I have to, and now, I’m just trying to execute all that I’ve learned. Honestly when you’re in a real fight, then that’s when you make your adjustments and everything. That’s where you learn to get better. Before the fight, you don’t know until you’re up there how that guy is gonna react.”
Garcia is expected to beat Velez but how he does it will be the barometer that backs up his confident talk. One thing’s for sure, should he continue to ride this growing wave he’s built so far this year, Garcia could very well get the world title shot he seeks by its end and, on the weekend when Golden Boy’s biggest star’s most significant blunder looms, the synergy between the company and its teenage contender are a need for one and destiny for the other.
“Yeah, main event or bust,” said Garcia about his future fights going forward. “I’m happy that I got this opportunity and, you know me, I will not disappoint. And I will do everything I have in my power to get the knockout because fans want to see the knockout. So I’m going to get the knockout. If I have to barrage (Velez) with punches, I will. If it’s a single shot, it’s a single shot.”
Richard “The Kansas Kid” Acevedo, a 21-year-old welterweight going into his second pro fight, will be anxiously waiting backstage on Friday night in Carson, California, certainly hoping for a quick outing by Garcia or one by Gary O’Sullivan, who takes on Berlin Abreu in the ESPN co-feature. Acevedo, 1-0 (1), is slated for the televised swing bout for the card and getting back into the mix since his pro debut isn’t the only thing that has been something long-awaited.
“In my debut, I hadn’t stepped in the ring since the amateurs and that was about three-and-a-half years,” Acevedo told UCNLive.com before talking about his debut that took place a year ago. “I was training for like six months. I took it as a learning experience and I was kind of nervous, all kinds of feelings. The good thing is I had my cornermen motivate me and telling me what to do. Like my coach said, I could’ve got the knockout in the first round if I wanted to but all the emotions and everything – the nervousness – so, in the fourth round, I went in there and had to knock this guy out. I went out there and did it.”
The first round of Acevedo’s career was marred by a cut that leaked the whole fight, required four stitches afterward, and was an occurence that never even happened in the amateurs.
“Yeah, it was in the first round due to a headbutt,” he remembered. “I got the win but, at the same time, everything happens for a reason. I got an experience right off the bat. It didn’t faze me – I was just into the fight. My cornerman did a good job closing it up, so I didn’t really have a problem with it.”
Acevedo was born and raised in Garden City, Kansas, a small town of around 27,000, but well-known in the boxing community as the home of Brandon Rios and Victor Ortiz.
“We looked up to them and went to the gym with them growing up,” he said proudly, even agreeing that he has the same fighting desire as the two but brought up a big difference, “I’m a little bit different. I’m taller and have a longer reach. People compare me to Tommy Hearns. I have a different style. Even my past trainer from back home – Brandon Rios’ dad Manuel – he’s the one that trained us through our boxing career in the amateurs.”
Acevedo started boxing at the age of eight with his older brother but, at 17, he had to set aside any type of boxing career to support a newborn daughter. “Yeah, life happened. Exactly,” he agreed. Acevedo became an electrician to fulfill his fatherly duties, which explained his three-year absence from any competitive boxing before his pro debut. On Friday night, he faces the winless Edward Aceves, 0-3, but has taken a big step in his career by moving to Los Angeles to train with the Saucedo Brothers at the Westside Boxing Club.
“It’s been over a year since my last (fight) and I’m just ready to get back in there and showcase,” Acevedo said. “We had a tough camp, so I feel strong mentally and physically. My team has been there; my brother has been there to push me and motivate me, so I’m ready.”
Seniesa “Superbad” Estrada will also be featured on the Golden Boy Promotions card Friday night, and will be part of the live stream on the watchESPN app (9:00 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT). It’s a stay busy fight for the female flyweight contender, one that was given last-minute, but in her conversation with UCNLive.com, the 25-year-old wasn’t worried.
“It’s been good,” Estrada said about her preparation. “I stay in the gym, so that helps. I’m getting a last-minute notice that I’m fighting. I still don’t know who my opponent is but I just continue training like I always do and a good thing about my style is that I’m able to adjust to my opponent’s easily. That’ll be an advantage for me.” On how quick she can figure an opponent out, Seniesa said, “Honestly I would say like a round. Sometimes I can go into a fight and, within seconds, I can figure something out.”
Estrada, 12-0 (2), is used to not really knowing her opponents, something all female fighters are forced to deal with, given the lack of depth in their ranks. Since her signing with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year, Estrada does have a big fight to look forward to against a bitter rival, Marlen Esparza, who was the first female fighter the company signed. A month ago, Estrada sat ringside at Esparza’s last fight and got to see her in action for the first time live.
“I don’t know. She went in there and did what she’s supposed to do against an opponent like that,” Estrada responded when asked to give an assessment of Esparza’s third round stoppage win over Laetizia Campana last month. There was no formal meeting between the two afterward, however, but Estrada did get an interview on the Estrella TV telecast that night.
“It is a good thing. It’s going to be a big fight for women’s boxing,” Estrada said about her eventual clash with Esparza. “A big fight for both of us. It will be on a big stage. probably the biggest money that both of us will be fighting for and, yeah, it is good. I just don’t want to go back and forth about it because it’s not like we’re fighting each other a couple months from now.”
It’s not often female fighters have a fight to look forward to but shedding light on the bitterness of their feud, when asked if she thinks she and Esparza would thank each other one day, Estrada responded, “Um, no.”