Ryan Garcia: Popular and polarizing
Last Wednesday, at Legendz Boxing in Norwalk, California, a media day was staged by Golden Boy Promotions that featured the participants of this Thursday night’s card from the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, in Indio, televised on ESPN2.
But there’s no doubt who was the main focus of this gathering – undefeated junior lightweight prospect Ryan Garcia, who headlines this edition of “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” against Fernando “Not El Feroz” Vargas.
While many of the other young boxers on this card milled around in relative anonymity or were a bit camera-shy, the precocious Garcia had no reservations about hamming it up for the various members of the media who came out to this function. The other boxers there were very modest, humble and generally soft-spoken. On the other hand, as you talk to Garcia, there is a level of confidence and brashness that is as admirable as it is alarming.
“I will become a world champion; that’s my goal. A world champion at 19 years old,” he stated without hesitation, when UCNLive.com asked him what he hoped to achieve in 2018.
So has he mentioned this to the Golden Boy brass?
“They see and they believe. I don’t have to say anything. They see my passion; they see my hunger. They know what I want. I’ve been very outspoken about it,” he said, while a gaggle of press surrounded him, while he got his hands wrapped, “so I don’t want to tell them directly. There’s no point. They hear me and they know that I can do it. So they will do it – they will make it happen.”
Well, considering that “Kingry” just entered the WBA rankings (at No. 15), it’s not clear if that’s feasible (for the record, the WBA 130-pound title is held by Puerto Rican Alberto Machado, who is also promoted by GBP). There’s no doubting the passion of the bubbly Garcia. While some young boxers and their management have to be pushed into taking tough fights, here, it’s a case of perhaps having to be held back.
Robert Diaz, the matchmaker for GBP, says, “(Garcia)’s going 100 miles-per-hour and, so far, it’s been great. He’s passing everybody but you also want to make sure that he doesn’t get into a crash into a wall. A lot of people don’t realize he’s only 19 because he’s so advanced; that’s the thing. At points there’s going to be times that, fight after fight, we’re going to have to say, ‘OK yeah, keep going 100 miles-per-hour,’ or, ‘Let’s step it up a little bit,’ or, ‘Pull back; let some cars pass.'”
If he should come out victorious and relatively unscathed, in Thursday’s assignment versus the rugged Mexican journeyman, a veteran of 48 professional bouts (32-13-3, 21 KOs), the plan is for him to get one of the coveted spots on the May 5 pay-per-view undercard that features the rematch between unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas.
“Absolutely,” confirmed Diaz, last Friday. “Of course it all depends on next week. Vargas is experienced. He’s been training here in L.A., training hard. But if things go the way I think they’re going to go – which could be quick – then yes, I think yes: May is without a doubt the spot.”
Garcia says of that looming opportunity, “That will be when I submit myself into legacy mode. That will make me some sort of iconic figure because I’ve spoke it into existence and became the youngest active world champion.”
Yeah, as many of you read these comments you’re probably grinding your teeth at the sheer hubris displayed by this kid, who, in all reality, hasn’t had a “real” fight. Sure, he’s 13-0 with 12 knockouts but really those are bouts designed and executed not so much for stiff competition but for developmental purposes.
However this guy is already thinking about what legacy he might leave behind one day. When asked how he’d like to be remembered when his boxing career comes to an end, he said, “Ryan brought a positive change to the world through boxing because he spoke up on things that needed to be spoken about. He was a champion outside of life for kids, for people just across the globe. I’m just trying to spread peace, love and positivity through my dance videos – whatever you want to call my videos. I just want to inspire people and make sure to let people know you can make it, no matter what situation you’re in.”
Yeah, about those videos, Garcia (who has over 38,000 followers on Twitter and over 561,000 on Instagram) creates quite a stir with his postings. He’s not shy about exhibiting his hand speed and reflexes (he admits he is heavily influenced by Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr.). We’ll soon find out if this is more sizzle than steak, as his competition increases but it’s clear he does have some physical gifts with which few are blessed. The question is, will he be fundamentally sound enough to thrive against grown men at the world-class level?
But what really causes a social media stir are his postings that oftentimes have nothing to do with boxing. Yeah, women (and – let’s be honest – some guys) swoon for him, while there is growing resentment and derision from the hardcore fans. One veteran writer dubbed Kingry, “CringY.”
He’s as popular as he is polarizing.
It’s a dynamic that is very similar to that of the man who now promotes him, Oscar De La Hoya. The unprecedented popularity of the “Golden Boy” with the ladies and support and respect from other factions (including Mexican fans) was hard-earned and begrudging. Regardless, whether you love or loathe this young man, he illicits a reaction, one way or the other.
“I just laugh at how these grown men hate on dancing. Why? I have no clue why you hate on my dancing but y’ know what? You love boxing, so all the power to you. I love you,” said Garcia, defiantly. And yes, he’s cognizant of the reaction his social media presence causes. “I’m just very aware now. I’m aware that everything I say will be talked about and people will have an opinion. But that’s what it is – an opinion. And everybody has one and I respect it, man.
“If you say what you want, if you don’t like me, then OK, you don’t like me. If you do, I love you. I actually love the people that don’t like me too.”
So which one are you?
FANTASY SPRINGS FLURRIES
HBO and Golden Boy announced on Monday that newly-minted WBO 154-pound beltholder Sadam Ali will face Liam Smith on May 12, at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in (My-yi-yi-yi-yi-WHOO! Muh-muh-muh-my) Verona, New York…WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has suffered a hand injury, so his defense against Martin Murray has been pushed back to June 23…Julian Willams-Nate Gallimore has been added to the April 7 Showtime broadcast…So Yuriorkis Gamboa asked for his release from Golden Boy (who gave him four fights in 2017)? Was their crime keeping him too active or something?…Can’t wait for the second season of “The Chi” and I’m counting down the days of the newest season of “Billions” on Showtime…So did Ty Lue have “The Big One” from Lebron related stress?…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.