Ryan Garcia undoubtedly has star quality, but can he get his boxing career back on track when he returns to the ring this weekend against Ghanaian Emmanuel Tagoe? Luke G. Williams previews a catchweight contest that may provide more questions than answers.
2021 was meant to be the year of Ryan Garcia. He certainly began it with a bang, rising from the canvas to blast out two-time world title challenger Luke Campbell two days into the new year with a crackerjack of a body shot in an entertaining tussle for the WBC interim lightweight title.
The hitherto oft-derided ‘KingRy’ could – it appeared – fight after all and wasn’t just a social media phenom (is that the correct lingo, I ask, like an embarrassed dad collecting his daughter from a school disco?) Yes, this kid, it appeared, could actually fight!
And so it was, with the idiotic naivety bred by the onset of a new year, that boxing breathed a collective sigh of relief that it might have uncovered a genuine new star, and much hyperbolic chatter ensured about Garcia moving on to potential showdowns with the likes of Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis and Devin Haney – these were the new ‘Four Kings’, after all. and a new glorious era was upon us!
Well, boxing being boxing, the 2021 playbook had other ideas. The drunken high of the new year soon wore off and the painful hangover ensued. Lopez was toppled by George Kambosos Jr and subsequently entered a disturbing spiral of self-delusion and paranoia; Tank Davis did Davis things by talking big and talking trash but only fighting a roster of carefully selected and determinedly in-house PBC ‘talent’; and Haney flattered to deceive (although he has now – to his credit – crossed promotional and network lines by signing to fight new lightweight king Kambosos in Australia later this year).
And Garcia? Well, he did everything but also nothing. He scheduled fights, he pulled out of fights, first with anxiety / mental health issues and then with injury and he split with trainer Eddy Reynoso. But then, all of a sudden, it was the end of the year and Garcia hadn’t fought again.
So, boxing being boxing, we forgot about him. Or at least we stopped attaching any or many hopes to him. And once again, he was back to being considered a social media phenom (still no idea if that’s the right term) – a wastrel rather than a fighter.
But now he is going to fight again, for the first time in 15 months, and he has a lot to say about it, much of it along the lines of proving haters wrong, next chapters etc etc blah blah blah…
Here’s what he told ESPN this week:
“This new chapter is obviously my chapter, right? Now it’s time for me to come into my own.There’s definitely a lot of things that were said about me, obviously, when I was on my break and the things that I had to go through.
“But I ride it. I ride it like a wave. Because when I win the fight, you’re going to see everybody creeping back in, trying to be all cool. People are going to talk. There’s going to be a lot of opinions. But I’m in control of my story by the way I perform. I’m happy to be anything people want to say I am because I know who I am. So I’m ready.”
OK, that’s what Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) had to say. How about this preview? Well, first off, his opponent in this 139lbs catchweight contest in the Alamodrome, San Antonio is probably not much cop.
Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1, 15 KOs) may be on a 32-fight winning streak, but all save one of those victories have come in his native Ghana against a motley collection of foes, with only the occasional foray into the outer fringes of what might be generously considered true class.
The best name on Tagoe’s record is probably Namibian Moses Paulus, who held a world title briefly in 2009-10 (although it was awarded by the WBA, so that’s not saying much), and went the distance with Ricky Burns and Ray Beltran in losing bids for the WBO title.
In his sole US appearance to date, Tagoe looked rangy and awkward, but little more than that, in defeating Mason Menard by majority decision (Menard had previously been iced in one by Teofimo Lopez and stopped in nine by Devin Haney).
Sure, the 33-year-old from that fine fighting city of Accra is ranked at nine in the WBC rankings, but he is not considered one the top ten at 135lbs by Boxing Social.
Nevertheless, Tagoe is promising an upset. Of course he is. “Nobody is expecting me to win this fight but mark my words; there is an upset on the cards in San Antonio this weekend,” he declared this week. “I respect Garcia’s ability but he’s accepted a challenge against one of the best fighters in the 135lbs division and, let me tell you, it’s a whole different ball game at this level. Saturday night will mark the second stage of my career and with the backing of Probellum and DiBella Entertainment, I am determined to show the world what Ghanaian fighters are all about.”
There is certainly a vulnerability about Garcia which will encourage Tagoe, who will also be aided by the cunning of trainer Javiel Centeno, who masterminded George Kambosos Jr’s toppling of Teofimo Lopez. If the Ghanaian can frustrate the Californian, keep him off balance and at distance, then perhaps he can topple him?
It’s far more likely however that Garcia will win, because that is what this fight has been designed for him to do and that’s why he’s something like a 1-20 favourite compared to the 10-1 or so you can get on Tagoe.
My hunch is that Garcia will probably secure a spectacular mid to late rounds stoppage after looking inevitably vulnerable, perhaps even suffering a flash knockdown or suchlike.
But here’s the thing – unless he loses, the fight probably won’t tell us much about Garcia that we don’t already know – namely, that he has fast hands, plenty of talent, a fair amount of heart and that he has the potential to be a star and that one day, maybe soon, or maybe not for a few more years, we might finally discover what he’s made of in pugilistic terms.
For now, though, we’ll be left waiting. And wondering.