Salute to ‘King Ryan’

Having won all his 21 professional fights with 18 KO’s to date Ryan Garcia is, without doubt, an exciting young prospect and talent. With his boyish good looks and charm, he is fast becoming a recognizable name both in and out of the ring. Signed by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy his career path and earning potential seem to be on a similar trajectory to his promoter; in fact, there is also a physical resemblance as well as a shared cultural heritage.

In his last fight against the seasoned, durable and game Luke Campbell Garcia proved he was the ‘real deal’. He took the fight to Campbell, fighting on the front foot, throwing fast and aggressive combinations looking to make a statement. Showing his experience and guile, however, Campbell took advantage of his low guard to floor Garcia with a powerful counter right in the second (the first time he had been down).

Alas showing the heart and character of a champion Garcia adjusted his guard and came back aggressively making a powerful statement when he TKO’d Luke Campbell with a vicious left hook to the body in the 7th leaving Campbell gasping for air. It what was a scintillating fight-perhaps a contender for fight of the year- and Garcia showed it all; aggression, speed, power, delightful combinations and of course his much-vaunted left hook (which he can throw with just as much prowess to the body as the head). He also, however, showed some vulnerabilities and technical flaws which could come back to bite, such as planting his feet and keeping his hands down at times.

After the fight, Garcia called out the best in his division; repeatedly calling for a fight with Gervonta Davis. I am not sure what happened or is happening with that potential fight but if anyone had any doubt about Garcia’s ambition or sincerity in taking on the big fights then surely those should be set aside with his accepting a fight with the legend that is Manny Pacquiao.

One does not need to say much about Pacquiao, everyone knows who he is, and he has nothing to prove in boxing. He will or at least ought to go down in history as one of the best fighters ever, having won titles in 8 divisions. He has fought the best-often in their prime- and in the main defeated them. His boxing resume reads like a who is who of the boxing world; Cotto, Shane Mosley, De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather to name but a few.

Well into his 40’s and whilst past his prime Pacquaio is still a World Class competitor as he demonstrated in his comprehensive dismantling of the then-unbeaten Keith Thurman: who was often spoken about in the P4P ranks. What Pacquaio has lost in speed and power (not too much though) he makes up for in sheer experience. He has fought all styles, all sizes, can set traps, is wily still has very decent speed and power (he floored the younger Thurman) and is still a dangerous opponent both generally and for Garcia in particular (in my view he could, for example, beat most in the welterweight division except perhaps Errol Spence; but would still give the latter a real test).

It is for these reasons that Garcia in taking on such a seasoned, accomplished and dangerous opponent deserves enormous respect. It is a defining fight for him. If he wins then superstardom awaits; he will become the Golden Boys Golden Boy. If he loses and Pacquiao schools him then it will be a huge disappointment and a career set back (although perhaps not too much as he does have the glamour). If he does lose in such a manner, a lot will depend on how he reacts, he could like his friend Canelo did when he lost to Mayweather come back a stronger and better fighter.

If he loses with dignity, i.e., in a close fight via points then this will win him many accolades in the boxing world, not derail his career (or at least not much) and set him up with both a potentially lucrative rematch and other big fights. On one level, especially if he does not care about retaining the ‘0’ this is a wise fight to take for Garcia; as long as he is not completely decimated. This matchup of old vs young, of warrior vs warrior, has all the makings of a classic. Whatever the outcome, however, to get into the ring with a legendary fighter at such a young age requires immense courage, ambition and self-belief and for that alone, I salute King Ryan.

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Faisal Khan

I am a published writer. My book 'Lord Mountbatten and the British role in the genesis of the Kashmir dispute, 1947-48' is available on Amazon.