Monday, April 11, 2022

Ryan Garcia: Back In The Lightweight Mix

While not completely unheard of, it is rare when discussing an undefeated fighter to say that they are “Back In The Mix,” simply due to that term is normally reserved for fighters that are looking to bounce back from defeat. There are times however, where a fighter no matter their record or standing in the sport of Boxing can find his or herself in a position of having to re-enter the discussion/mix in their given division due to outside of the ring circumstances pulling them away from their careers. In the case of undefeated Lightweight contender Ryan Garcia, this was essentially the position he found himself in as he prepared to face top contender and former IBO Lightweight world champion Emmanuel Tagoe on April 9th in San Antonio, TX. 


Garcia was coming off a lengthy stretch of inactivity due largely to struggles with his mental health as well as an injury that sidelined him for most of 2021. This stretch of inactivity, commonly referred to as a “Layoff” throughout combat sports, came after the biggest win of Garcia’s career when he stopped former world title challenger and former Olympic Gold medalist Luke Campbell in January of last year. Despite appearing on the verge of potentially challenging for a world championship, Garcia, as this observer pointed out in previewing his bout against Tagoe, put his health first, which is something that should be applauded. 


The view of yours truly notwithstanding, it was logical to question how Garcia would look after such a lengthy absence as well as how the layoff would affect him. In addition to Garcia taking time for himself, much of the publicity surrounding his bout with Tagoe centered on his recent split from trainer Eddy Reynoso and his former stablemate and some might say mentor Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Although Garcia made a wise decision in choosing longtime trainer and broadcaster Joe Goosen to replace Reynoso, the fact that so much attention prior to the bout centered on the public split between himself and Reynoso/Alvarez and not the fight itself, fueled questions among some as to how focused Garcia might have been going into the bout, despite having one of the top trainers in the entire sport in his corner. 


While others who cover the sport may have chosen to focus their coverage on the circumstances surrounding the split between Garcia and Reynoso, yours truly has never been one to engage in the practice of gossip as I feel it does little for the sport and feel that the split between a fighter and a trainer is a private matter unless the parties choose to make it public. Even though some would say that is essentially what happened in this case, I nevertheless chose to stay away from the subject beyond obviously stating the fact in my pre-fight column that Garcia and Reynoso had parted ways. 


Instead, I focused my attention on the fight itself and it was noteworthy that Garcia did not choose what some would consider a “Soft” opponent for what would be his “Comeback Fight” in the form of former world champion Emmanuel Tagoe. Tagoe, who briefly held the International Boxing Organization (IBO) world championship in the 135lb. Lightweight division in 2018, came into the fight on a thirty-two fight winning streak. Tagoe’s lone defeat in his career prior to the encounter with Garcia came in his professional debut in 2004 when he was by a fighter named Lante Addy in June of that year. 


Despite his having previously held a world championship and having more experience than the twenty-three year old Garcia, he was not well-known particularly amongst those for whom Boxing is a casual interest. Nevertheless, Tagoe’s experience seemed as though could provide a test for Garcia. The actual fight however, would prove otherwise as the consistent pattern was Garcia pressing the action and Tagoe being very defensive. 


There was not much in the way of highlights or exchanges in this bout, beyond Garcia scoring a knockdown of Tagoe in the second round with a grazing hook to the head. Although Tagoe was not offensive throughout much of the fight beyond throwing his jab in an attempt to keep Garcia from coming forward, he was able to catch Garcia with a well-timed counter left hook to the head in the middle rounds. While Tagoe’s offense was sporadic and he seemed unwilling to engage in exchanges with Garcia, he still proved to be a difficult opponent by using his experience to extend him to the first twelve round decision of his career. A decision that Garcia would win convincingly. 


Although this fight did not see a definitive conclusion in the sense of a knockout win for Garcia, the fact that he was stretched to twelve rounds for the first time in his career will likely serve him better in the long-term than a knockout would have. Over the course of a fighter’s career that fighter will likely face a variety of styles and there are at times where opponents will not be as willing to engage in fights where knockouts might occur. There are times where a veteran like Emmanuel Tagoe will be able to make things difficult simply by not being baited into the type of fight that would be more beneficial for their opponent than it would be for them.  


Unfortunately, such scenarios do not necessarily create the environment for the most entertaining fights if you are a fan, but the main benefit for a fighter in Ryan Garcia’s position from a bout like this is the experience both in terms of going a twelve round distance, as well as having to deal with a crafty veteran that made him fight a different fight than he is used to. Simply put, while not the most entertaining fights to watch, these type of bouts are crucial in the development of fighter who may have his eyes on challenging for a world championship. 


With the immediate future of the Undisputed Lightweight world championship locked up in at least two potential bouts between champion George Kambosos and undefeated contender Devin Haney, which will likely take up the rest of 2022 providing Haney defeats Kambosos in their scheduled bout in June, the main goal for Ryan Garcia and his new trainer Joe Goosen should be to try and keep him as active as possible until an opportunity to challenge whomever the Lightweight champion of the world might be, becomes available. 


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 


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