“Is this guy for real?”, that is the question I had when I saw an Instagram video of Ryan Garcia a year or more ago. There he was, in his garage (I am assuming), showing off his hand speed on a cobra bag. At the time of the video he had just one professional fight. He looked like he was 16 (he was almost 19). His speed was undeniable and he was fun to watch. I looked at more videos and viewed his Instagram profile. I was surprised as he had millions of followers.
His social media following is cited early and often, wether it is by his detractors, supporters, or writers. As of today he has around 6.6 million followers. This is surprising because, well, he hasn’t won anything. Yes, he is 20-0 (17 KOs), but he hasn’t had a marquee fight or claimed a belt. Compare this to proven champions like Anthony Joshua who has 11.3 million followers or Saul Alvarez with 6.8 million. In his early IG feed you’ll see training videos in garages and some flexing (this continues today to a degree). He was obviously testing the waters to see what was sticking, what he was comfortable with. A model pose here or there. It quickly became more flexing and posing in front of Ferraris and jets. He started hanging out with “influencers” like Jake and Logan Paul. His clout is big enough to garner interest from retired UFC champ Henry Cejudo to do a cross over fight. All of this has lead to a young boxer to name recognition on the street. Something few fighter enjoy today. However, the boxing community has taken issue with his popularity, even the way he has come into it. His opponents saw him as a fake and other trainers called him “an instagram fighter”.
It would be a mistake to ignore Garcia as fighter. He is currently ranked the #5 Lightweight by The Ring and has been on the radar of the boxing community since the beginning of his career. He was the 2017 prospect of the year according to Dan Rafael (ESPN) and Oscar De La Hoya signed him to his promotion group, Golden Boy Promotions. It seemed to be a match made in heaven. He would be training in the same gym as Canelo, and being promoted by De La Hoya – two fighters he could easily follow in their footsteps. The promise of a long lasting partnership has quickly faded.
Garcia has been very public in his criticism of De La Hoya and has felt slow played, doubted, and deserving of a bigger pay day and bigger named opponents. Garcia’s influence is hard to ignore and even De La Hoya admitted that Garcia has all the makings of the star and the “it factor”. His public feuds with his promoter have become the main talking point for the media and his next opponent is still up in the air; this is even after Garica was publicly vocal about fighting three more times in 2020.
There has always been a struggle between promoter and fighter, as alignment doesn’t often match up. De La Hoya sees what could be for Garcia, but that future is gained in a proven approach. De La Hoya is asking Garcia to be patient and work up the chain. Working up to the big fight is the traditional way. Like a climbing a steep mountain, you work up to the summit from a basecamp and reach milestones along the way. It is extremely dangerous and difficult to skip check points. Similar for a fighter, skipping ahead could set back a career. One bad loss could ruin a fighter. Nothing is worse for a fighter than a lack of confidence. A loss will more than likely set the plans back for a fighter.
Despite the experience in Garcia’s corner and this measured approach, or the Golden Boy’s way, it falls on deaf ears. Taking time doesn’t fit with Garcia’s plan. With the ambition to be out of the ring by 26, Garcia plans on fighting the toughest contenders and is trying to force De La Hoya’s hand with public outcries. With just five years to reach the top Garcia wants it all now [so millennial ;)]. So far he is holding strong to his belief that he is worth more, even rejecting fights and holding out for a bigger pay day during the pandemic. He may not be wrong in asking for the next big fight either. He has 20 professional fights; De La Hoya fought for the WBO Lightweight Title (Vasiliy Lomachenko current holder) at his 14th fight.
There will be a breaking point of some kind soon and for some reason, I think Garcia is going to get his way. He has enough fights, the following, and is loud enough to be heard. He will draw a decent audience and perhaps usher in a new way for a fighter to be more in control of his next fight. Earlier today he said he would announce his next fight on his YouTube channel via his Instagram channel (the video he posted got over a million views and over 3,000 comments in just three hours).