Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Rebuilding Of Ryan Garcia

It may seem like a cliche for some and a subject that gets discussed in several different variations, but for most fighters, a career can be divided into chapters or stages. If the premise of the opening of this column sounds familiar, dear reader, and sounds like something this observer has said before, it's because it is probably true. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this column, the stages that we will focus on are “The Rise" and “The Rebuild."

First, “The Rise." The rise of current Jr. Welterweight contender Ryan Garcia was one that did not see him win a world championship, but did see him placed on what seemingly was a fast-track towards that eventual goal. In some ways, it was a similar rise at least in terms of the popularity Garcia was able to garner as his longtime promoter Oscar De La Hoya enjoyed during his days as a young fighter before he went on to win many world championships in multiple divisions in what became a Hall of Fame career.

Perhaps because of the differences in eras and the advent of both social media platforms and video streaming sites like YouTube, Garcia’s popularity seemingly skyrocketed to the level of near superstar status before he became a contender as a Lightweight before eventually moving up to the Jr. Welterweight division. The difference in the way Garcia built his fan base notwithstanding, he did amass an impressive and undefeated record on his rise and also showed that he could get up when knocked down as he did in his 2021 battle against  former world title challenger Luke Campbell. A fight that Garcia got up off the canvas to score a knockout win, in what to that point was a career-defining moment for him.

While it may have appeared that Garcia's rise was smooth and without bumps in the road, he saw his progress stalled shortly after his victory over Campbell as he took time away from his career to address ongoing struggles with his mental health. A subject that he has been very open about and should be commended for. Nevertheless, the time away from active competition did stall the momentum he appeared to have built for himself. After a lopsided, but less than dominant performance over former world champion Emmanuel Tagoe in his first fight in over a year following his victory over Campbell, Garcia scored a knockout win over Javier Fortuna in July of last year, which set up what was a highly anticipated bout between himself and fellow undefeated star Gervonta Davis.

When the two met in April of this year, the fight was competitive for a time, but it would be Davis who would emerge victorious, dropping Garcia with a body shot in the seventh round where Garcia,on one knee, stayed down for the ten count. The defeat signaled the first loss of Garcia's career and thus ended the stage of his career known as “The Rise."

Now, dear reader, we come to a stage almost all fighters come to at some point in their careers. “The Rebuild.”

First, before we can talk about “The Rebuild," we need to talk about “The Defeat," or to be more specific, what led to it. Was Gervonta Davis simply the better fighter on that particular evening when he and Garcia shared the ring, or was there another reason for the outcome? 

For his part, Garcia has claimed that a rehydration clause in the contract for his fight with Davis in some way hindered his performance. This observer will not waste time trying to prove or disprove that claim because ultimately, the only one who really knows is Ryan Garcia himself. What I can say is having seen the knockout, Garcia was hit with what by all accounts appeared to be a perfectly placed body shot. 

As is the case when it comes to body punches, it is not always how hard the punch lands, but the position where it lands that often determines how much damage is done. Because the body is one of the more sensitive parts of the human anatomy, often when a punch lands to the body in a perfect spot, it causes a delayed reaction from the fighter on the receiving end and simply not only saps the fighter of whatever energy they might have as well as affect their ability to breathe, but more specifically, it takes the fighter's legs away from them where more often than not, it becomes very difficult for the fighter to get up from a knockdown resulting in a scenario like the one Garcia found himself in where he watched himself be counted out.

Obviously, there have been those who have taken a more cynical viewpoint of what happened to Garcia in that fight and feel that he quit when faced with an adverse circumstance. It should be pointed out however, that Garcia did get up off the canvas to knockout Luke Campbell, ironically with a body shot similar to the one that Davis knocked him out with. Whatever the case might be, if nothing else, the way those two fights ended should serve as an illustration to all fighters on the benefits of a consistent body attack as well as the obvious dangers taking body punches presents.

While the memories of what happened to him against Davis are likely to stay with him for a time, now Garcia must focus on the task of trying to bounce back. A process that is simply known as ”The Rebuild.” Step one in that process in terms of competition will take place on December 2nd in Houston, TX at the Toyota Center when Garcia returns to the ring and the Jr. Welterweight division when he faces contender Oscar Duarte in a twelve round bout that can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN.

The question I have going into this fight centers on Garcia and whether or not he is prepared mentally. For any fighter looking to bounce back from a loss there is a mental block that the fighter has to deal with that is not always easy to overcome. In this case, Garcia is not only coming off of the first loss of his career, but also the first time he was knocked out. There are also the distractions that are a factor going into this fight. Shortly after his loss to Davis, Garcia cut his ties to trainer Joe Goosen and took on a different opponent in his promoter Oscar De La Hoya in an attempt to free himself from his promotional agreement.

Thus far, De La Hoya remains Garcia’s promoter, but the fact that there was and may still be an ongoing litigation between the two has to be at least on some level a distraction unless things have been resolved behind closed doors and simply not made public as of yet. At minimum, it suggests a less than friendly relationship between fighter and promoter. It was however, not long ago that Garcia was viewed as one of the hottest rising stars under De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions so one would think that it would be in the best interest of both to unite in an attempt to get Garcia back on track. 

In terms of his corner, Garcia will be working with his third trainer in a handful of fights by bringing in the highly regarded Derrick James, trainer of former unified Welterweight world champion Errol Spence among others. A criticism that some fighters deal with that ironically Oscar De La Hoya dealt with during his in ring career is by going to several different trainers over the course of a career, it can have a negative impact on a fighter’s style as well as strategies going into a fight. Although there was a mix of good and bad throughout De La Hoya’s career as he was guided by numerous trainers, many of whom are Hall of Famers, the counter argument is by opening yourself up to different philosophies that a new trainer/coach brings with them, it may allow a fighter to see things from a different perspective as well as improve in various areas in terms of technique. Whether or not the addition of James to his corner will be beneficial is something that remains to be seen, but it should also be noted that it is not uncommon for a fighter to switch trainers after suffering a loss.

Garcia's opponent on December 2nd in Oscar Duarte is a fighter with a respectable record of 26-1-1, with 21 Knockouts. A criticism that has surrounded this fight at least in the eyes of some is that Duarte has not defeated a notable fighter on his way to compiling that record. What Duarte does have going for him is he has been unbeaten since 2019 and his lone defeat to a fighter named Adrian Estrella was a ten round split decision loss. Since then, Duarte has run off eleven straight wins, all by knockout. While his resume might lack notable names, that is a statistic that should be viewed with a serious mindset by Garcia and those in his camp.

Garcia is coming off of a knockout loss and the fight plan for Duarte will likely center on trying to test Garcia early. It will be interesting to see if Duarte looks to establish an attack to the body of Garcia. Although sometimes all it takes is for one punch to land in a sensitive spot, the potential perception going forward could be that Garcia does not take body punches well and thus for any future opponents, the body could be an obvious target.

It would not be surprising to see Garcia approach this fight with caution and try to protect his body as much as possible, especially if it becomes clear early on in this fight that it is the intended target for Duarte. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Garcia’s claims of the knockout at the hands of Davis, which was fought at a catchweight of 136lbs., one pound over the 135lb. Lightweight limit and four pounds under the Jr. Welterweight limit where he had fought his previous two fights, was somehow attributed to the rehydration clause, which stipulated that neither fighter could not weigh more than ten pounds heavier than the 136lb. limit on the morning of the fight, is likely going to be tested here. Despite the caliber of competition going into this fight not being at the highest level, Duarte does have all the momentum in his favor and has demonstrated in previous fights that he does have power in both hands. 

While this may have the appearance of a bounce back or “Comeback Fight" for Garcia, who is currently rated number seven in the world in the Jr. Welterweight division by the World Boxing Council (WBC), this should be viewed as a dangerous fight. If he is not mentally and physically prepared, a loss in this bout could set his career back significantly, if not put his Boxing future in doubt.

“And That's The Boxing Truth." 

Garcia vs. Duarte takes place on Saturday, December 2nd at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX. The fight as well as its undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT.

(*U.S Times Only*)

(*Card and Start Time Subject To Change*)

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