Ryan ‘KingRy’ Garcia was carried to the ring to face Luke Campbell tonight on a throne tonight at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
The potential for schadenfreude was acute, but ultimately Garcia left the ring in triumph and in position to arguably become boxing’s mainstream king for the next decade.
The 22-year-old sensation secured victory the hard way in a showdown for the WBC ‘interim’ title, climbing off the canvas in round two after being dropped heavily by Campbell, prior to securing victory in the seventh stanza.
The tough and well-schooled Campbell won Olympic gold in 2012 and has taken rich talents Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko the distance in professional engagements, but could not beat the count after being felled by a truly vicious body shot thrown by the social media superstar from Victorville, California.
Channeling the hybrid spirit of Prince Naseem Hamed and Tyson Fury ring entrances of days long and not so long past, the throne that Garcia was carried to the ring on looked more like a pound shop reject than a lost palace treasure, but his impressive display of powerful, aggressive punching ultimately justified the theatrics.
The difference in hand speed between the two lightweights was marked from the start, as Garcia scored with swift straight rights to the face and body while the slower and more disciplined Campbell pawed and feinted with his jab.
Campbell’s strategy soon became clear – drawing Garcia’s guard down by working his body and seeking to then land big shots over the top.
It worked to perfection in round two, as the British boxer landed a right to Garcia’s torso and then a heavy left hand to the American’s jaw, dropping him heavily.
It was the first time in over 200 contests – amateur and pro – that Garcia had ever been on the canvas and he rode the storm well, covering up when needed but also refusing to go into his shell or cede centre ring to his opponent.
Garcia rallied to edge the third round, whipping in aggressive shots to head and body as Campbell continued to try and lure him on to big counters.
The fourth was a close round, punctuated by lively exchanges and Campbell probably shaded it courtesy of smart ring generalship and precise counter-punches.
In the fifth Garcia was beginning to look a little wild and ragged at times, but impressively maintained his aggressive approach. In the final seconds of the stanza he hurt Campbell with two big punches to the temple and the man from Hull, clearly hurt and confused, turned his back on the action and was fortunate to be saved by the bell.
Sensing blood in the water, the predatory Garcia went after his man at the beginning of the sixth but could not conjure the combinations to force a stoppage or seriously inconvenience Campbell, who looked to have regained his feet and his composure.
However, the end for Campbell came in round seven. Garcia struck with a perfectly timed left to the liver, and a pained, desperate grimace passed across Campbell’s face as he crumpled to the canvas in agony.
Clearly badly hurt, Campbell rose gradually and bravely but also reluctantly, painfully and too late – he was counted out and the fight was over.
Garcia fell to the canvas in a paroxysm of emotion and triumph, before sending a message to those who have dismissed him as purely a social media phenomenon or an ‘Instagram fighter’ in his post-fight interview.
“You’re not who people tell you you are, you can be who you choose to be,” he declared.
Right now – having bounced off the canvas to beat a world-ranked opponent in a thrilling brawl – Garcia is the star he has long proclaimed himself to be.
Before tonight his good looks and millions of social media followers could not be disputed – to that list of qualities we can now add a true fighting heart.
The KingRy story is going to be quite a ride.