Monday, February 17, 2020

Should Ryan Garcia Fight For A World Championship Next?

The question going into the February 14th Lightweight bout between undefeated fast-rising contender Ryan Garcia and former world title challenger Francisco Fonseca was whether or not the veteran Fonseca would be able to provide the twenty-year old Garcia a test as he continues trying to position himself for a potential opportunity at a world championship.

In some ways, the position Garcia was in prior to this fight was not unlike many prospects turned contenders at similar stages of their respective careers. After all many fighters are able to establish a following as a look to progress up the ranks. As this process progresses, the fighter often times also deals with questions regarding both their overall skill level and/or criticism regarding their opposition. While the latter can indeed prove to be a “No-Win” scenario, all a fighter can do is face the opposition that is placed before them.

On February 14th an enthusiastic crowd packed the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA to see the next chapter in the story of the prospect turned contender Ryan Garcia. Although this observer believed based on Francisco Fonseca’s previous bouts against former world champions Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis that we would likely see at least a few rounds of action if not also seeing him put Garcia to the test, it was Garcia who had other plans. A perfectly timed short counter left hook to the chin sent Fonseca down and out cold at just 1:20 of the first round. Simply put, there is not much analysis that one can give on what was the definition of a “One Punch Knockout.”

Garcia’s knockout Fonseca however, was the latest in a string of five straight knockouts. These knockouts had not only served as a launching pad for Garcia’s rising star status, but have also been prominently featured as part of digital subscription-based streaming network DAZN’s Boxing coverage. Why would this be seen as an important component?

It is important to remember that although DAZN made a big splash in signing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez toward the end of 2018 to a massive deal reportedly worth $365 Million in a multi-fight and multi-year agreement following HBO’s decision to exit the sport after a forty-five year run, along with the deal came an agreement with Alvarez’ promoter Oscar De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions promotional company. The same promoter that promotes Ryan Garcia.

A consistent challenge for any promoter in the sport is to not only have a centerpiece “Star Fighter” for its stable, but also to consistently develop new stars in the process no matter what television platform they may be attached to. In this case, DAZN has established itself as a viable alternative to the traditional cable network and more specifically the pay-per-view model by offering its content on a subscription basis directly to the consumer as opposed to traditional cable/satellite distribution on either a monthly or annual subscription basis and in terms of Boxing content does not offer their cards on a per card basis similar to that of pay-per-view.

While this observer has long been on record in pointing out the benefits of over the top (OTT) digital distribution as a relates to Boxing and feel that it is a more consumer-friendly model that offers considerably more content than the traditional form of television, it does not mean that is without its challenges.

When it comes to any subscription-based model the challenge is to keep subscribers happy and in terms of Boxing and by extension all of combat sports that means providing the fights that a consumer wants to see on a consistent basis. Although this is what most people would consider the bottom line, network platforms like DAZN and ESPN+ do offer a great opportunity for young fighters like Garcia to become stars in whatever combat sport they compete in.

Garcia, who has a sizable social media presence has been able to capitalize on the opportunities that have been placed before him, which have included fighting on the undercards of Saul Alvarez as well as being in position of headlining cards broadcast by DAZN. The obvious question coming out of his knockout of Francisco Fonseca is, should Ryan Garcia fight for a world championship in his next fight?

While there are likely no shortage of opinions regarding this subject, I believe given not only the track record that Garcia has established, but also his being highly ranked in two of five world sanctioning organizations in the 135lb. Lightweight division that it may be time to put him in against a world champion. In terms of the current landscape of the division, there are two world champions including unified WBO/WBA/WBC world champion Vasyl Lomachenko and recently crowned undefeated IBF world champion Teofimo Lopez. It appears that both Lomachenko and Lopez on a collision course for a fight later this year that would unify the World Lightweight championship seeing as the crown of the International Boxing Organization (IBO) is currently vacant at 135lbs.

Although this would at least for the time being leave Garcia and the equation, the landscape of the sanctioning organizations involved do mandate the designation of interim/regular champion status, which in simple terms means a mandatory position to challenge a unified world champion down the line. Where this could work out to Garcia’s benefit is that he is currently rated number four in the world by the World Boxing Council (WBC) in the Lightweight division. The current number one contender who holds interim/regular champion status in those rankings is undefeated Devin Haney.

Why would this be a mutually beneficial fight for both? For one both compete on the same network platform DAZN and theoretically that would eliminate a lot of the hurdles in the business of Boxing that more often than not stand in the way of fights being made within a reasonable timeframe. Both fighters have had similar routes in their professional careers thus far and they do have history with each other. As amateurs, Garcia and Haney met twice with each man holding a decision win over the other. Even though some may not regard amateur fights between two top contending professionals very highly, it does provide a wrinkle that we have not seen either fighter face in their careers. What would happen against a fighter that they had previously faced, but this time as professionals?

Although Devin Haney is not promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, his promoter Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing promotional company are also under a long-term contract with DAZN. What makes the possibility of Garcia and Haney meeting in the near future even more of a possibility is both promoters have been willing to co-promote in order to make fights happen.

In a perfect scenario the winner of a Haney-Garcia fight would be next in line to challenge the winner of the potential fight between Lomachenko and Lopez, providing that their promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc. would be willing to make that fight happen as a co-promotion between his network partner ESPN and DAZN. While the latter may be a fight to discuss for 2021, this observer sees no reason why a fight between Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia cannot happen this year. It may be a simple as promoters De La Hoya and Hearn as well as DAZN simply sitting down at the negotiating table to finalize a deal. In the changing landscape of television where the subscription-based model has proven to be more viable than traditional platforms, all three should won this fight to happen.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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