2021 starts with a real bang this weekend, as Ryan Garcia and Luke Campbell collide at 135lbs for the WBC’s interim strap. In a fight labelled “Fire meets Ice”, the flashy, inexperienced and hyped Garcia looks to extend his unbeaten start to professional life against the experienced and brave Briton, “Coolhand” Luke.
It’s a real treat to have a thinker of a fight this fresh into the new year. There’s plenty to consider as we await the first bell in Dallas, between two guys at different ends of their careers.
How to Watch Garcia vs Campbell
Youth vs experience
This is arguably the biggest factor coming into this fight. Garcia has been manoeuvred gently into life as a pro under the careful guidance of Golden Boy Promotions, unwilling to take unnecessary risks as the profile of the 22-year-old grows. Now, it seems, is the time for a necessary risk, as the charge towards a title at 135lbs begins for “Kingry”.
And Campbell is a risk. The 33-year-old oozes experience. From World Championship silver in 2011 to an Olympic gold the following year, Campbell was one of Great Britain’s stand-out amateurs. Professional life for “Coolhand” has been a mix of success, frustration and disappointment. Lessons were learnt in two world title defeats against Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko, as well as avenging a 2015 loss to Yvan Mendy.
Campbell knows what it’s like to dig deep in a fight when the whole world is against him. He fought bravely against Linares despite being dropped early and losing his father two weeks previously to cancer – a heartbreak that he kept secret until the final bell had chimed inside The Forum. He’s been the away fighter before and has risen from the canvas on four occasions.
Still, the criticism, rightly so, will surround the fact that Campbell has fallen short in his biggest tests. He’s shown us his heart on multiple occasions, but now Campbell is adamant that his skill set will prevail over the youngster.
Experience is only worthwhile if you learn from it. Campbell has had plenty of lessons in the lead up to this fight and will be looking to execute the perfect game plan. Whether Garcia has or needs a plan B is a huge unknown.
Campbell has been dropped four times as a professional by an array of punches, but has yet to be stopped. Garcia has stopped all bar three of his 20 opponents and will be looking to bring the heat to the away fighter once again this weekend and chip away at his armour.
Garcia hasn’t fought a southpaw since toppling Noe Martinez Raygoza in the final round of their contest back in 2017, and the youngster’s devastatingly flashy left hook may struggle to find a home against the seasoned Campbell.
Straight, well-timed right hands were what did the damage to Campbell in fights against Argenis Mendez, Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko (following a body assault), with Yvan Mendy the man to follow the blueprint of how to land a left hook.
Campbell’s guard should remain high with the right glove, with an importance of circling to his left a big weapon in negating the threat of Garcia’s left hook. Using feints off the left hooks, Garcia should be looking to time Campbell onto a straight right early in the fight, using his speed to beat the Briton to the punch.
Campbell’s bravery has seen him through his biggest tests, and Garcia will need to keep Campbell down if he manages to put him down. Campbell rallied late against Linares, and with Garcia never seeing the eleventh or twelfth round of a fight, he’ll be looking to survive and drag him into deeper waters.
Speed hurts, timing kills
Garcia’s speed is no secret. “Kingry” has built his reputation in the ring off of his whirlwind attacks and strong athleticism, enabling him to breeze through his last three opponents in under four rounds combined.
In a handful of Garcia’s fights to date, the youngster hasn’t needed to worry too much about timing his opponent; a flurry of punches is usually enough to force his foe to cover up, and he’s then able to pick his shots and inevitably force the stoppage.
This gung ho approach won’t work against a fighter like Campbell. Speed of punch will hurt the Briton, but timing him onto his attacks could prove lethal in stopping him for the first time. As mentioned before, the straight right from Garcia should be the money punch, working off of a feint left hook or a jab.
Golden Boy backing
In the eyes of Golden Boy Promotions, the time is now to roll the dice on Garcia.
Garcia’s potential in the sport knows no bounds, but at the moment his celebrity star is shining brighter than his boxing star. If “records are for DJs” then god knows what Twitter and Instagram followers are for, but they certainly won’t be helping “Kingry” get over the line in this biggest of career tests.
But the faith is there from his handlers. The shit-fest of a pandemic year could have easily been used by Team Garcia to string out his winning run and cherry-pick a couple more fall guys, but no, it’s Campbell and it’s for an interim world title.
How calculated is this risk is the question ahead of Saturday. With the type of following Garcia has amassed, a loss at this stage of his career could prove detrimental. But then again, if he’s more popular for what he does outside of the ring then defeat may pale into insignificance in the long run.
There are too many ifs, buts and maybes, but the decision has been made, rightly or wrongly, for a step-up now. And as boxing fans, we should be pleased.
“If someone had said to me 15 years ago you could be the most successful amateur in Great Britain history, Olympic champion and then one the best lightweights in the world, would you take it? You kidding me? Of course I’d take it,” Campbell told Don McRae earlier this year for The Guardian.
In an article that underlined his frustration with 2020, the sport of boxing and his plans for the future, Campbell spoke like a man that is looking towards the finish line in the sport.
He’s invested his earnings well throughout his career and has avoided taking any unnecessary punishment so far. Health and wealth, as they say, and Campbell has both.
This training camp away from his family over Christmas may have hit home a litter harder this year for the Briton. Will this have acted as extra motivation and an incentive to perform? Or the opposite?
Garcia’s heart and hunger are yet to be tested. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth...” etc. etc. We’ll need to see both from the youngster if he is to make waves in this deadly division.