The anticipated showdown between Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs) and Gervonta Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) is approaching quickly. On paper, this fight is brewing to be not just a mega-fight but a star-studded event, as both fighters are two of the most recognizable figures in the sport. However, Garcia and Davis are two of boxing's most polarizing athletes. While both are highly skilled fighters, their personalities and respective fan bases couldn't be any more different. With a social media presence that has garnered him more than nine million followers, Garcia's critics often question his legitimacy as a real boxer. Despite the criticism, Ryan Garcia is undefeated and has positioned himself to square off against “Tank” Davis, arguably boxing's greatest attraction. While Garcia’s social media antics and pretty-boy image probably contributed to his popularity, we mustn’t overlook that the 24-year-old Californian had to actually fight and defeat some notable fighters on his way to face his most formidable foe in Gervonta Davis. Here is what I consider the Ryan Garcia top 3 wins:
Jayson Velez (May 4, 2018 at Stub Hub Center in Carson, CA):
In his fifteenth outing as a professional, Garcia would face Jayson Velez. Until then, Garcia rode a fourteen-fight win streak and won thirteen fights by knockout.
At their meeting, Velez, a native of Puerto Rico, was a veteran of thirty fights. Although Velez had suffered four losses before facing Garcia, he was a strong opponent with an awkward style who never visited the canvas in his career. Even though Ryan was undefeated, he still had to answer many questions about how he would fair when he went up against a fighter that could take his power shots and take him deep into a fight. Velez was going to be the interrogator to all our questions.
Velez's fighting style gave Garcia problems in the early stanzas of the battle. And although Garcia's powerful left hook was finding a home on the Puerto Rican's dome, it wasn't enough to stagnant Velez's attack.
Velez studied Garcia before their match and noticed that the Cali pretty-boy needed better footwork when moving laterally. So, Velez pursued Garcia relentlessly, and when he cornered Garcia, Velez roughed him up in the clinch. Not dominating the center of the ring was new territory for the California kid, who relied on his lead left hooks and rights to keep opponents at bay. As a result of Velez’s relentless pressure, Garcia had to start utilizing more lateral movements to create some separation between himself and the Puerto Rican bull. Heeding the advice of his corner, Garcia would settle down, establish his jab, and land combinations that would eventually cause a cut above Velez’s eye in the middle rounds. Ryan overcame Velez’s awkward bullying style and earned a unanimous decision from the judges. It was the first time Garcia had gone ten rounds answering the critics' questions about his toughness and ability to overcome adversity with an opponent who refused to lay down.
Emmanuel Tagoe (April 9, 2022 at Stub Hub Center in Carson, CA)
I know what you’re probably thinking. Emmanuel Tagoe, really?
I know Garcia beat Tagoe convincingly, and I know Tagoe was a colossal underdog. However, the win was significant for all the things Ryan had overcome outside of the ring leading up to this fight. Fifteen months prior, Garcia had earned the most critical career victory against Luke Campbell. That win elevated Ryan’s stock as a bonafide boxer, and he gained some boxing fans to go alongside his massive social media following. Things were going well for Garcia. However, suddenly it seemed like Garcia's career was crashing, and crashing fast. After the Campbell fight, Ryan was set to fight Javier Fortuna, a fight he withdrew from to treat some mental health issues he had been battling.
Then he was assigned to fight Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. and again removed himself from the fight citing that he had injured his wrist in preparation for that match. No one truly knew what was happening with Ryan Garcia, and one had to wonder if we would ever see him fight again. It started to feel like Garcia's career was over before it started.
He underwent surgery to address the wrist injury. To add insult to injury, Garcia would have a falling out with Eddy Reynoso and parted ways with the famous Mexican trainer. Ryan would then team up with legendary trainer Joe Goossen whom he had worked with during his stint in the amateurs. With a surgically repaired wrist and a new trainer, battling his mental and physical health, Ryan shook off fifteen months of ring rust and dominated Emmanuel Tagoe, knocking the Ghanaian down in the second round on his way to earning a unanimous decision.
Mental health illness is a no-joke condition often unaddressed by those suffering from it. Those touched by mental health conditions constantly battle it alone for fear of judgment or being perceived as weak. Ryan Garcia’s transparency about his mental health illness was brave and not what we often see from famous athletes. Ryan overcame many battles outside the ring before stepping into one against Tagoe. In doing so, his actions gave a voice to many people that suffer from these debilitating conditions in silence. His courage exemplified that even famous people can be affected by mental health illness and not allow it to define or defeat them. Therefore, for me, Garcia’s win over Tagoe was one of his most significant.
Luke Campbell (Jan. 2, 2021, at American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas)
Ryan's win over Luke Campbell tops my list of his most notable victories within the squared circle. Although Ryan was undefeated and knocked out all but three opponents on his way to face Luke Campbell, some critics still questioned Ryan's legitimacy as a boxer. Up to that point, he demonstrated he could punch, go the distance, and overcome awkward opponents. However, this time the questions surrounded the strength of his beard against a solid puncher like Luke Campbell. It was clear that this was Garcia's most demanding challenge at the time, and some even predicted the Brit would hand the young lad his first defeat sending him and his Instagram followers packing on boxing’s highway to nowhere. I can see why they felt that way; Luke Campbell wasn't a scrub. The British native won Olympic Gold in the 2012 games and was a two-time world title challenger before facing Garcia. However, King Ry had other plans.
In the second round, Campbell would land a sweeping left hook that would send Garcia flailing disgustingly to the canvas-this wasn't a flash knockdown either; the punch landed solidly. Although Garcia quickly got back on his feet, it was evident to the viewers that he was hurt- it showed on Garcia’s face while he was processing what had just happened. However, it would be Garcia that would have the last laugh. In the seventh round, Ryan would land a lead left hook to the Brit’s liver and send him falling like the London Bridge to the canvas. Campbell failed to beat the referee’s count and retired after that fight. Ryan silenced his naysayers and became one of boxing’s stars that night.
END NOTES: You may disagree with these wins being Ryan's best of his career. But these fights forced Ryan to develop into the fighter he is today. In each of the successes I listed, Ryan displayed his physical talents. Still, more importantly, he demonstrated that he is mentally strong to overcome adversity in and out of the ring.
Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia is undoubtedly one of boxing's biggest fights this year. Will it be Tank's devastating power that will get the better of Ryan? Or will Ryan's combination of speed and power be too much for Davis? Questions will be answered when these two face off on April 22nd.