Boxing’s latest ‘Golden Boy’ Ryan Garcia out to prove he’s more than an Instagram celebrity against gritty Luke Campbell
Boxing's calendar for 2021 kicks off with a potential firefight between two men at very different stages of their fighting lives, but can Ryan Garcia shake off accusations of a carefully-curated career against Luke Campbell?
Garcia, 22, has been near-flawless through 20 fights to date, wracking up 17 finishes inside the distance since making his professional bow four years ago – but the young phenom earmarked by Golden Boy Promotions as the sport's next superstar has been plagued by claims that his record has been stage-managed.
And now as he stands on the verge of the WBC interim lightweight title, the other man competing for the vacant strap, England's Luke Campbell, is seen by many as not just being the most robust test of the American's career to date, but also as someone more than capable of derailing the hype train which has been rumbling down the tracks unimpeded until now.
The 33-year-old 'Coolhand' Campbell boasts a significant experience advantage. He has shared the ring with two of the sport's pound-for-pound best in Vasyl Lomachenko and Jorge Linares and while he wound up on the wrong side of a decision on those occasions, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist is convinced that he has the tools to dispatch the highly-regarded youngster.
"I've got to go in there not making any mistakes and being the best I can be. And I believe me being the best I can be will beat anyone in the lightweight division," Campbell said last month of the test which awaits him in the ring in Dallas, Texas Saturday night.
"I believe I’m coming into my prime now, and everything that’s happened in the past has all been a learning experience to get me where I am today, to perform the way I will perform on January 2nd.
"I believe I’m going to win this fight, 100%...he’s getting knocked out."
Garcia – and his legions of fans – couldn't disagree more. 'KingRy', as he is known, is trending towards becoming one of boxing's latest international stars in a sport continually looking for new box office draws.
His impressive social media following (he stands at around 7.8 million Instagram followers at last count) has been swollen by associations with YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, arguably boxing's biggest name today.
And perhaps borrowing a trick or two from the notoriously abrasive promotional skills of the Paul brothers, Garcia says that Campbell is walking into a "beatdown" in the ring in Texas.
"I feel very disrespected by Luke," he said. "But like I said, all that disrespect, all that hate and envy is gonna blind them. Luke’s just the first one - I feel bad for Luke. He’s just the first one of my opponents that’s gonna really get a bad (beatdown).
"I’m older, I’m stronger, I’m coming into myself. I already felt I was coming into myself the Fonseca fight, and I was on a roll, I was ready to take over. But God said it how it’s supposed to be and I cannot wait, I cannot wait to punish Luke Campbell. I want to break his eye, I want to break his bones. I want to break everything of him. So he’s the first one that’s gonna get this."Also on rt.com ‘I just prayed he got up’: Rising star Garcia OBLITERATES opponent with KO of the year contender (WATCH)
Southpaw Campbell has yet to be stopped in 23 fights and has displayed impressive grit even in his defeats, a factor which may prove crucial against Garcia who has never fought past the 10th round. A failure to dispatch Campbell early will increase the pressure on the Garcia, whose record shows 14 finishes inside the first two rounds, to repeat his prior whirlwind performances but that is a big ask against someone that even Lomachenko couldn't put away.
So, to some extent Garcia and Golden Boy are rolling the dice on a fighter whose celebrity is growing outside of the ring as much as it is inside of it - and they will be hoping that in Luke Campbell, they haven't bit off a bit more than they can chew.