Fire Melts Ice – Garcia too hot for Cool Hand Luke

  • Brawl Boxing
  • Luke Campbell
  • Ryan Garcia
By ptully23 January 4, 2021 0 Comment
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Exuberance Versus Experience

On Saturday night we welcomed our first major boxing bill of the new year from Dallas, Texas. 6,000 socially distanced fans dispersed around the American Airlines Center were treated to an entertaining undercard. However, the vast majority were there to see the rising star with the big social media following, Ryan Garcia. Most of us observing from further afield pondered whether the 22- year-old “pretty boy” was more style than substance. His 33 year- old opponent, Britain’s Olympic Gold medallist, Luke Campbell, marked a significant step- up in challenge for the young Californian. Physically, these two are well-matched with identical reach, and Garcia only one inch taller. As you would expect, given their respective ages, Campbell looked to have a slight edge in muscularity. However, this is prizefighting, not bodybuilding, and so the real question was whether Garcia’s lightning-quick hands contained the power to trouble Campbell.

Pretender to the Throne

In stark contrast to Campbell’s no-nonsense, low- key entrance, “KingRy” had himself carried to the ring on a throne, wearing a crown. One quick-witted observer on-line commented that “it looked like what you might get if you ordered a Tyson Fury ring walk off the Wish Shopping App!” Some complained that this was all a tad pompous from a young prospect who, hitherto, had achieved little of note in the pro ranks. However, Garcia has seemingly got one of those polarizing personalities that draw in the crowds. The “casuals” and the die-hard aficionados will tune-in, albeit with differing motivations, and this gives Garcia a huge “cross-over” appeal. This is only too familiar to Garcia’s promoter, Oscar de la Hoya, who also had that lucrative notoriety. Campbell comes across as very humble, respectful, and unassuming. However, uncharacteristically, he did claim that he was going to knock Garcia out.

Pride Before the Fall

Campbell started the first round trying to establish some distance via solid jabs to the body. Garcia, the aggressor, was using feints to try to time his left hooks. Garcia, who claimed he liked fighting south-paws, seemed to be having trouble setting his feet. Additionally, at times, he stood on Campbell’s lead foot and, more dangerously, stepped inside it to bring him closer to Campbell’s back left- hand counter. Garcia anticipated a left to the body and tried to parry it with a straight arm. Campbell crashed a long, left hook onto Garcia’s chin. However, if Garcia kept his own lead left foot outside of Campbell’s right, he may have evaded the overhand left that floored him in the second round. After the fight, Garcia told DAZN Boxing, “He caught me with a good shot. I was a little dizzy, I’m not gonna lie”.

Down but by No Means Out

Garcia answered a key question though. He quickly rose to his feet. His eyes looked clear. He regained his composure and he survived the remainder of the round. Should Campbell have been more aggressive and thrown everything he had at Garcia to try and get him out of there? Maybe, but Garcia did not look like he was on unsteady legs and, to his credit, he was still throwing back. Campbell was perhaps wary of being caught by Garcia’s freakishly fast hands as he was unloading. He followed the advice of his corner to take his time. Garcia’s self-belief was evidently still intact as both men traded power shots in the third and fourth rounds.

Style and Substance

The fifth round was action-packed. Whatever your opinion of Garcia, his style makes it unlikely he will be involved in many 12- round snooze-fests. Campbell caught Garcia flush with a short, sharp, check hook before he replied with a straight left. Garcia started to throw combinations at speed.  Although Campbell had managed to block and parry some of these shots, he got into trouble towards the end of the round. Garcia stung Campbell with a short left hook to the temple before following up with a right uppercut. Campbell was hurt. He instinctively turned his back and reached for the ropes. As luck would have it, Campbell was relieved to hear the bell. Campbell’s trainer, Shane McGuigan, urged his fighter to regain his composure and move his feet. Garcia was growing in confidence and sensed a stoppage was nearing.

Turning up the Heat

Garcia started the sixth round as a man possessed. However, Campbell weathered the storm. He tried to circle away from his opponent and pick jabs to the body. Campbell managed to land a right- cross. Garcia seemed unfazed and kept walking his man down. Round seven was going the same way until, with just over a minute left in the round, Garcia sprung a deadly surprise.

In a rare example of fast feet, Garcia shuffled forward, as if to throw yet another left hook to the head. Campbell, remembering that shot at the end of the fifth, moved his right hand up the protect the side of his head. Garcia twisted his torso and shifted the shot downstairs. The punch landed right on the liver area and, after a momentary delay, Campbell took a knee. Once he was on all fours, struggling for breath, we knew Campbell wouldn’t beat the count.

A Work in Progress

Garcia had managed to do to Campbell what none of his previous opponents could do. Mendy, Linares, and Lomachenko had won on the scorecards after 12 rounds. Garcia had bettered that by taking out the English man. So just how good is he then? Garcia paid the price in round two for not paying enough attention to his foot placement. Moreover, moving back in a straight line with his chin in the air led to him being dropped for the first time. Against bigger punching opponents like “Tank” Davis or Lopez, that could prove a fatal flaw. However, he is only 22 years old. He has a great trainer, Eddy Reynoso. His stable-mate, Canelo Alvarez, is teaching him those deadly hooks to the body and head. If they can get Garcia’s head movement and footwork to improve, then we truly have another top contender in the stacked lightweight division.

How Bright is this Star’s Future?

Well, that win now makes Garcia the mandatory challenger for Devin Haney’s WBC ‘regular’ lightweight title. After the fight, Garcia went over and spoke to Haney in the crowd. Later, a tweet from Haney seemed to confirm he fancies his chances against the young challenger. Personally, I would advise against making that Garcia’s next fight. I believe he needs one or two “tick-overs” to work on some of his short-comings. Likely, “Tank” and Lopez are perhaps just too strong and powerful for Garcia in the foreseeable future. Like him or loathe him, Garcia is sure to bring more eyeballs on to the sport of boxing, and that can only be a good thing.

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Boxing writer for The Brawl Network based in Belfast, N. Ireland.


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