One of the bigger fights that emerged on the Boxing schedule as the turbulent year of 2020 began its closing months was an intriguing battle in Boxing’s Lightweight division between undefeated rising contender Ryan Garcia and former two-time world title challenger and former Olympic Gold medalist Luke Campbell. Garcia, who began to surface on the radars of many with a fifth round knockout of Braulio Rodriguez on the undercard of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’ victory over Rocky Fielding in December 2018, has skyrocketed into the discussion of top contenders in the talent deep 135lb. Lightweight division. With a record of 20-0, with 17 Knockouts as well as a significant social media presence, it is not hard to see why Garcia is regarded as one of the sport’s hottest rising stars. Such status is only increased by the fact that Garcia has scored knockouts in highlight reel fashion in last four fights, three of which did not go past the third round.
While there is no doubt that Garcia’s star is on the rise, inevitably the question that is asked of all hot rising prospects turned contenders is when will they face a legitimate test on their way to a potential challenge for a world championship. For Garcia, the answer will likely come in the form of Luke Campbell as the two will clash in a highly anticipated Lightweight encounter on January 2nd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. The bout, which will be broadcast globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN, is billed as a bout that will determine interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) ratings in the Lightweight division. A bout originally scheduled for December 5th in California, the fight was postponed due to Campbell testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. With Campbell now recovered, the fight is back on.
This in the view of this observer is a classic scenario of youth versus experience. In Luke Campbell, Garcia will face a fighter that in addition to his olympic pedigree, is a former two-time world title challenger. Campbell has also never been stopped in his career. Campbell, who has won twenty of his twenty-three professional bouts, is a solid boxer/puncher who gave impressive showings in defeat in his two previous attempts at a world championship against Jorge Linares in 2017 and in his last bout in August of last year against Vasyl Lomachenko.
While there is the question regarding whether Ryan Garcia is ready for the best that the 135lb. Lightweight division has to offer after emerging on the scene so quickly, there are also questions regarding Campbell. In addition to the question regarding how Campbell will look coming off his most recent setback against Lomachenko, there is also the more important question regarding what possible effects the COVID-19 virus might have had on him in terms of the long-term. It is important to remember that even though there have been athletes throughout all sports who have had the COVID-19 virus that have made seemingly full recoveries and have returned to their normal activities and sports in a relatively short period of time, there is still much unknown about COVID-19, including, but not limited to what the potential long-term effects on one’s body might be. As such, this will be something that will remain a question for the foreseeable future for athletes like Campbell who have had to deal with the virus.
The key for Campbell in this fight in my eyes will be whether he will be able to extend Garcia into the middle and late rounds of the fight. Those periods that are often referred to as the deep waters of a fight, and to be more specific, whether he can do this while providing Garcia a difficult fight.
Although Garcia has gone the distance in three of his twenty career fights, one could argue that he has not yet been put in a situation where he has faced significant resistance in his career nor has he really been put in a position where he needs to make adjustments in the middle of a fight due to elements of his strategy perhaps not working as well as intended. It will be interesting to see if Campbell can avoid the punching power that Garcia has demonstrated thus far in his career and if he can, we will likely get some answers to those questions regarding Ryan Garcia.
In terms of what this could mean in the overall picture for the winner of this fight, the victor will likely be a candidate to face recently crowned undefeated Undisputed Lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez. While due to the depth of the Lightweight division, which is full of unbeaten contenders, veterans, and world champions who have moved into the division to seek world titles in the weight class, it is not a certainty that the winner of Garcia-Campbell will fight for the Lightweight championship of the world later in 2021, a victory specifically one that comes in impressive fashion would likely go a long way in terms of determining how soon a title shot would come.
As Boxing turns its attention to what will hopefully be a more prosperous year that would also return the sport to some semblance of normalcy, there may be no better way to get things going in a big way than to focus on one of the richest divisions in Boxing, where one rising star will meet a former world title challenger. Each fighter looking to take one step closer to a shot at a world championship. It is the kind of storyline the sport of Boxing thrives on. The only thing left is for Ryan Garcia and Luke Campbell to do battle on Saturday, January 2nd.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Garcia vs, Campbell takes place on Saturday, January 2nd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 3PM ET/12PM PT (U.S. Time.) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com. Check your local listings for start time internationally.
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