Ryan Garcia will have options, but what will he actually do next? | Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Ryan Garcia is officially back and still unbeaten, so what comes next?
Ryan Garcia broke a 15-month layoff with a win over Emmanuel Tagoe on Saturday in San Antonio, and now attention will turn to what comes next for the 23-year-old star fighter, one of boxing’s true main event A-sides at the moment.
Garcia (22-0, 18 KO) is getting sort of mixed reviews. He went 12 rounds for the first time against Tagoe (32-2, 15 KO), which isn’t the worst thing, but he was by most to win a lot easier — not that the fight was really difficult, as he arguably won every round against a cagey opponent who fought to survive more than win.
The victory came with some obvious rust, as it really was a long break from proper live action for “Kingry,” who was last seen in very early 2021, beating Luke Campbell in what was a career-best victory.
Many times in the past, Garcia has called out Gervonta “Tank” Davis, and Davis has at least expressed some interest in doing the fight, too. The plain reality is that as long as Davis (26-0, 24 KO) is with Mayweather Promotions and Premier Boxing Champions, and as long as Garcia is with Golden Boy, that fight is not going to happen.
When Chris Mannix asked Garcia about that again following last night’s fight, Garcia acknowledged that fact, saying he didn’t want to get fans thinking there would be a fight that very well just might not happen. He sounds like he still thinks it will come in time, but something will have to change on one side or the other.
The good news if you want to see Davis-Garcia (or Garcia-Davis, whatever) is the window appears to be a bit more open than in the past. “Tank” has Rolando Romero up next on May 28 in a Showtime main event, and that appears as though it may be his last fight with Mayweather Promotions. He’s been critical of the way they’ve promoted the bout, and there seems a greater chance than ever that he will make the move away from Floyd and Co.
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That does not necessarily mean, however, that Davis would leave Al Haymon’s PBC. Not every PBC fighter is a Mayweather fighter. But Davis, who like Garcia is a legitimate young draw with a dedicated fan base, will be offered good money elsewhere. Maybe it would be Golden Boy themselves, though they would probably be an underdog to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, which would also make Garcia-Davis doable, as both Golden Boy and Matchroom work with DAZN. Top Rank could, in theory, also make a big play for Davis, and then there’s Probellum, which is growing and might look to make a major splash.
If Davis beats Romero as he’s expected to do, he could command top dollar, because he’d be a great opponent for a lot of promoters’ stars, and if he signs, he becomes a new star for them, too. Garcia vs Davis still doesn’t seem all that likely, but it’s more likely at the moment than it ever has been before.
In-house, Golden Boy notably have Joseph Diaz Jr, aka “JoJo,” who was in the house and part of Saturday’s DAZN broadcast. Diaz and Garcia’s names crossed paths repeatedly in 2021, with JoJo replacing Garcia against Javier Fortuna, a fight he won that set up a bout with Garcia late in the year. Garcia also wound up withdrawing from that fight, and Diaz faced and lost to Devin Haney instead.
Diaz said after the fight that he would still be willing to face Garcia, but that he feels Garcia doesn’t have the heart to get in with top names at 135 lbs. Given his direct experience with Garcia, it’s hard to blame Diaz for thinking that way.
But Diaz (32-2-1, 15 KO) would still be a good opponent for Garcia, especially as the young star looks to re-legitimize himself. It’s not the big, marquee fight most people want to see Ryan take, but it would be a fight with a contender, a guy who always comes to battle, and stylistically, JoJo may have a better shot against Garcia than he did against Haney, and he wasn’t totally blown away by Haney, either.
The winner of the June 4 undisputed title fight between George Kambosos Jr and Devin Haney would be the other BIG! option that isn’t Gervonta Davis. Kambosos (20-0, 10 KO) and Haney (27-0, 15 KO) may wind up fighting twice, though, at least if Haney gets the win in Australia. If it’s Kambosos, a fight with Garcia could make a lot of sense for both, and would be a big money bout.
Another option would be revisiting a fight with Javier Fortuna (37-3-1, 26 KO), who lost to Diaz last year and recently returned in February with an easy win back home in the Dominican Republic. Fortuna is another name who wouldn’t be the most desired opponent, but would be smart management.
On that note, I have to wonder about management on the Garcia end. This is a young man whose fights are already worth money, even though he hasn’t actually “proven” much against top-level opposition. The Diaz reaction to last night and his two withdrawals in 2021 have to make you consider if maybe the Luke Campbell fight didn’t spook Garcia and his team at least a little bit. Yes, he won, and he won by stoppage, and it was a good win.
But it wasn’t flawless or without a scare. Campbell dropped Garcia in round two and had a real chance to win that fight. He was a top 10 sort of guy at the time, not top of the division but credible and skilled, and it was by far Garcia’s toughest fight to date.
Maybe the Garcia side don’t see more fights like that as worth the risk they bring. It’s not top-tier, not the best in the division, not the biggest money, but there is the chance he can lose that fight, far more than there is against someone like Tagoe or Garcia’s other opponents thus far.
It’s possible Garcia and Co. see the only real risk worth taking being one that also comes with a legitimately high reward, a big-time payday and, to a lesser extent, maybe a world title or four.
If that’s the case, maybe we just see Garcia against another Tagoe-level opponent next while he and Golden Boy wait for the chance to really make that big money either very late in 2022 or in 2023. Maybe Fortuna would fit that bill, or maybe they’d look at someone like Maxi Hughes (25-5-2, 5 KO), a fighter Eddie Hearn recently recommended as a possible summer foe for Garcia. Hughes is a solid fighter on a good run of form at the moment, but almost nobody would seem him as a legitimate threat to Garcia.
Time will tell, and unless it’s one of those “big dogs” Diaz talked about — including even Diaz himself — there will probably be some disappointed fans and pundits.