Ryan Garcia, the young boxer known for thriving in the spotlight, was stumped by the inconvenient wave of emotions that raced through his body as he entered the ring in San Antonio for his first bout in 15 months.
Garcia had lost focus of his opponent, Emmanuel Tagoe, after allowing the crowd to take control of his mind before it wandered into a room of self-doubt. Garcia wondered whether he had given himself added pressure by promising a knockout finish.
That’s when Garcia realized it was happening again. His anxiety was on the verge of discarding a productive fight camp with new trainer Joe Goossen, but this was the moment for which Garcia had waited and prepared. Once he realized it, he overcame the brief mental hurdle before cruising to a unanimous decision over Tagoe in April.
“I can see the truth more,” Garcia said of what changed. “It’s hard to know what to do when you’re in that moment.”
Garcia’s decision to pause his fast-rising career last year for mental health reasons paid off in that unexpected moment in San Antonio. He’s now looking to build off that by retracing steps with hopes of returning to the scenic viewpoint he reached after his signature knockout victory against Luke Campbell in January 2021.
But before climbing to his next blockbuster bout – the boxing world is clamoring for a Gervonta Davis showdown – he’ll need to get past Javier Fortuna on Saturday when the lightweight contenders clash at Crypto.com Arena for a DAZN-televised main event.
Fortuna was left without an opponent a year ago after Garcia withdrew from their scheduled bout to get his mind right. Joseph “JoJo” Diaz was tabbed as the last-minute replacement and defeated Fortuna at Banc of California Stadium.
Before rescheduling with Fortuna, Garcia hoped for a step-up bout against Isaac Cruz, the rugged Mexican who pushed Davis for 12 rounds in December, but Garcia said he’s done forcing fights after the bizarre situation with boxing icon Manny Pacquiao – the “dream” matchup that quickly became a pipe dream. That’s when Garcia lost sight of the truth and decided to reset his career.
“If I’m not living in truth, then I’m gonna feel anxiety,” Garcia said. “I’m gonna get depressed from it. That’s just who I am. So that’s the things that I figured out through that time (away).”
Perhaps Garcia deserves some blame for the added pressure, but promising knockouts and being an entertainer is why the 23-year-old from Victorville is one of boxing’s brightest stars.
Garcia is expecting many friends and family to make the drive down the Cajon Pass and sit among the many celebrities scheduled to attend Saturday night, including Lakers star LeBron James and Rams star Aaron Donald. In a way, Garcia’s ringside guest list represents the emotional balance he’s striving for with a mix of comfort and pressure.
The result of his 15-month hiatus wasn’t to be less active on social media and provide dull interviews. It was to counter when anxiety or depression hit, the same way he controls opponents in the ring with nasty left hooks and fast hands.
Garcia (22-0, 18 KOs) continued to deliver click-bait soundbites while promoting the bout against Fortuna (37-3-1, 26 KOs), the savvy 32-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Garcia attempted to play it safe by saying there’s a high chance he’s going to knock out Fortuna, only to predict a stoppage within four rounds minutes later.
The TikTok star consistently adds to his massive social media following. He’s a savvy promoter, a critical and rare skill for fighters, but occasionally the aftermath of his words comes back to bite him.
Garcia had a messy breakup with Eddy Reynoso, the renowned trainer of Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Garcia said he left Reynoso for Goossen because Reynoso didn’t provide enough quality time in the gym. Team Canelo disputed that and said Garcia didn’t put enough time in the gym. The drama increased after Garcia backed Gennadiy Golovkin in September’s trilogy bout against Alvarez, drawing a reaction from his former stablemate.
“He’s a little kid,” Alvarez said last month in an interview with DAZN. “You need to understand him. He needs to learn a lot of things. My advice for him is to do your job, focus on your career, win a world championship first, then talk about other people because you’ve accomplished nothing and you start talking about fighters who’ve accomplished a lot. When I was 20-year-old, I was a world champion.”
Legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. added to the Instagram-worthy quotes by siding with Alvarez, which was also an opportunity for Davis’ promoter to marinate the potential mega-bout with Garcia.
“I don’t have anything else to say about this situation,” Garcia said. “Everybody asks me about Canelo and make it seem like I want to talk about it, but I don’t.
“I’m OK moving on. (Alvarez) has his career, I have my career. All I can do is the best I can do in my career. There’s nothing that I’m going to say or he can say to stop me from getting to where I’m at. They could all try to bring me down; Floyd, Canelo, all of them. They can try all they want, but at the end of the day, I’m in control of what I do and what my destiny is.”
Garcia, however, has no issue discussing potential future plans with Davis, the power puncher who’s also known for drawing celebrities on fight night. Garcia pitched the idea of facing Davis in December at SoFi Stadium for the first boxing event at the 70,000-plus Inglewood venue, and added that he’s not concerned about who’s the A-side fighter.
“One thing’s for certain, we both want to fight each other,” Garcia said. “He seems like a person that would be willing to get it done somehow, some way. So if me and him could come together and figure it out, do the numbers and get it all correct. I feel like we could fight in December.
“I don’t really (care), whatever the numbers say is side A. … I know what I bring to the table. I know us together, we make a huge fight. I do great ticket sales, even fighting Tagoe, Fortuna, people that majority of the fans don’t know. I sell a lot of tickets, but again, whatever the numbers say. I don’t mind if he’s 60-40 or I have 60-40. I don’t want it to be an ego thing.”
Garcia is eager again but cautious. He got burned by false promises while discussing a bout against Pacquiao and that partly led to his battle with mental health. Garcia prematurely announced the Pacquiao bout that never was less than a month after his win against Campbell. Garcia said that cost him an opportunity to fight Davis last year.
“I lost track of the truth,” Garcia said.
Garcia is sticking to the truth to land his first pay-per-view main event and title shot. But the truth will need to be paired with a victory against Fortuna on Saturday night.
#Boxing star @RyanGarcia joined us on @CompasOTB 🚨! We touched on many topics, from his Saturday fight against Fortuna, to moving on from Team Canelo to possibly fighting Gervonta Davis later this year
Here’s the full interview: https://t.co/VtsvSWRwgP pic.twitter.com/JHspj861gm
— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) July 12, 2022