By Cliff Rold
He has more than 27,000 YouTube subscribers…
…150,000 twitter followers…
…and a staggering 2.3 million followers on Instagram.
That’s almost double the followers the best fighter in his division, Vasyl Lomachenko, has. Of course, Instagram isn’t the boxing ring and watching Saturday night on DAZN (7:30 PM EST), a lot of boxing fans will be asking the same question they’ve been asking for awhile.
Is 20-year old lightweight Ryan Garcia (17-0, 14 KO) of Los Angeles, California really any good?
More significantly, will he be when it counts most?
And perhaps most importantly for now: does it really matter?
Being honest, to these eyes, Ryan Garcia has yet to be overly impressive. There are tools there, some pop, but he doesn’t jump off the screen as a special talent. It would be good for business if he proved to be and time is well on his side.
Eight years ago, it looked like Canelo Alvarez was a punch away from being stopped by Miguel Cotto’s brother. He faced a lot of the same skepticism and, yes, animosity for the fame he acquired before his resume seemed commensurate to it.
It turned out his handlers knew what they were doing. Some of those same handlers surround Garcia now.
Fighters get better and young fighters who have the work ethic can a long way if they’re developed properly. So far, Garcia looks like he’s being fostered well and probably could continue developing for another 2-3 years before really looking for contenders.
For now, it’s been hard not to watch him fight and wonder what the big deal is?
Again, does it really matter?
Generation gaps in entertainment are nothing new, and boxing is ultimately an entertainment vehicle for those on the outside. Boxing fan opinions of the talent and upside of Garcia will vary and he brings out the cynics in rare form. As Garcia brings in a bunch of new fans, even if just as his fans, then for now it’s basically a tale as old as the first gentleman watering his lawn after work and telling the neighborhood kids not to step on it.
In entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish what amongst the new will be enduring versus disposable. The world still knows the name Elvis; most of his contemporaries are names only grandparents recognize on box CD sets sold on PBS.
Garcia found a way to generate a fan base while still honing his skills as a prospect. Sure, a lot of those fans appear to be teenagers…
…but teenagers pay for things.
Things like subscriptions to DAZN.
They’ll buy posters, t-shirts, mugs, commemorative magazines, and if a fight show is close enough, they’ll buy tickets too.
The people around him know it; that’s why Garcia is already being well positioned to expand his star with higher profile spots on cards. It doesn’t matter who he fights. He’s being groomed as a main event. This Saturday, that means headlining against 25-year old Jose Lopez (20-3-1, 14 KO).
Lopez was stopped in his last outing and has lost two of his last three. He also has a win over former title challenger Orlando Cruz. It’s a good development step contest.
Other fighters know what Garcia already brings to the table as well. Garcia’s is already a name other fighters throw out in challenges because, if nothing else, a challenge of Garcia might mean they get more mentions on social media or through press content.
inevitbaly, all of that will translate to the boxing ring. His opponents are slowly improving and that means he’ll have to as well. Maybe he’ll be a world champion. Maybe he’ll be someone cynical fight fans enjoy seeing defeated, ‘exposed,’ along the way instead.
Whether we’re talking those who have fully embraced the Ryan Garcia phenomenon, or those who barely realize there is one, eventually everyone’s answers will come from the same place.
Super middleweight Lorenzo Simpson’s knockdown of Jaime Meza got lots of looks on social media but pay attention to more than the clip. Simpson is a talented kid and there will be more on him in another piece later this week…Also, kudos to Meza for getting up and fighting his ass off there. He looked like the kind of guy who was taking a fight between shifts at his real job but he fought like a guy who meant to win and showed real guts out there…The Shazam movie really is as good as the early reviews. And no, it’s not Big with super powers (though there are moments of homage). Check the history. Big was Shazam without…The banter between the three top heavyweights is already really stale…One more tip of the cap to Lamont Peterson. That was one hell of a career and let’s hope he resists the urge to come back one time too many.
Cliff Rod is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]