Ryan Garcia’s Saturday in over Luke Campbell has legitimized the young American star with the huge social media platform as a serious lightweight contender, and now all questions are, as usual, about what’s next.
Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) will have his say, and there are big fights out there to make if he’s ready to go right into one. The lightweight division has terrific young names at the top, and Garcia is one of them for sure now.
So what now?
This is the fight Garcia says he wants most, and it’s the fight Oscar De La Hoya has said he wants most, but like all promoters, Oscar says a lot of things. Take the Oscar part less seriously than the Garcia part.
Davis (24-0, 23 KO) could be a nightmare for Garcia, but then maybe not? The 26-year-old “Tank” holds world titles at 130 and 135, although his 135-pound title is a secondary version of one of the three belts Teofimo Lopez holds.
Davis has some name value, he’s got a lot of skill, he’s explosive and can be really fun to watch when the opponents fight back, as we saw against Leo Santa Cruz in October. Garcia’s a lot naturally bigger than Santa Cruz; he’s naturally bigger than anyone Davis has fought to date.
Of the fights we’ll mention specifically here, Garcia vs Tank is the toughest to make. Davis is a PBC fighter, specifically a Mayweather Promotions fighter. There is no love lost between Mayweather and De La Hoya, or Golden Boy and PBC in general, and their companies don’t work together so easily. If the fighters want it, it can be made.
(By the way, that’s going to be a recurring theme of everything I say from now on about this sort of thing. Tired of pretending a bunch of guys in Casual Friday attire at weigh-ins really have the final say, it’s just that not enough fighters force the issue. They can. And if they want to, they will.)
It’s a great fight to make.
Haney (25-0, 15 KO) holds the WBC lightweight title, and that’s the belt Garcia is now mandatory challenger for with the Campbell win.
The 22-year-old Haney should be an easy fight to make. He’s promoted by Matchroom and Garcia by Golden Boy, but the two companies work together easily — Campbell, after all, is also a Matchroom fighter — and both are linked with DAZN.
Flat out: this is not a difficult fight to make. The only people who can make it so are the fighters themselves, and that counts the promoters and whatever they want to say, like Oscar De La Hoya saying all fights will happen on Garcia’s terms because he’s the biggest name at the weight (which is debatable, even with the Instagram follower count).
Haney was in attendance on Saturday, and said he “sees flaws” in Garcia, and that he’s hopeful that the fight can be made. Again, it can be, and only the fighters turning it down can stop it, and to turn it down now threatens to see someone lose status, either Haney having to give up the WBC belt or Garcia having to surrender his mandatory position.
There are flaws in Garcia, and Haney, while he’s not the favorite of many at 135, might be the kind of steady, skilled, patient, and smart fighter to make Garcia pay for the stuff he does wrong.
Haney needs a good opponent badly if he cares about his public perception, which to be fair, he might just not. Haney could be playing the long game here; he might take his licks for now from the media and fans, but if he just keeps winning, the praise and respect eventually will come. But Devin is taking some real heat for his opposition at this point, and his November win over Yuriorkis Gamboa just did not impress in any way.
It’s a great fight to make.
Lopez (16-0, 12 KO) holds the WBA, IBF, and WBO lightweight titles, he has The Ring championship, and bottom line, he is and deserves to be recognized as The Man at 135.
Lopez-Garcia isn’t so hard to make. Top Rank and Golden Boy had their Cold War years ago when when they were the top two American companies by far, but Golden Boy has taken some hits over the years, and whether Bob Arum and the Golden Boy staff get along better now for real or not, they do work together.
Lopez, 23, is coming off of his monster win over Vasiliy Lomachenko in October, and he’s got most of the pull in the division right now. Oscar will argue that Garcia’s the biggest name, and in some ways he might be, but the boxing credibility is still with Teofimo, and that does matter. Credibility is why guys like Terence Crawford and Lomachenko have been reliable TV draws and whatnot for quite a while now, and you know what else boxing fans like? Good matchups you can legitimately tell them are good. And Lopez has a bigger personality than Bud or Loma, too. He’s got real top star potential. Lopez-Garcia would qualify as a Big Fight in every way.
Could be tough to make simply because of the broadcaster issues. DAZN would probably have to drastically overpay for it to get it on their service, as Lopez is maybe the top name on the ESPN/Top Rank brand at this point. A pay-per-view through ESPN and DAZN could be doable, but DAZN would still want it available to subscribers, most likely. There are a lot of things that could be explored, really.
Anyway, it’s a great fight to make.
- Golden Boy were focused on doing Garcia against Jorge Linares in 2020, having them share a card in February with the idea that if they both won — they did — they’d meet in the spring. COVID scrapped the idea, and Linares hasn’t fought since. Garcia-Linares probably isn’t what people want now, but it’s not a bad fight, either.
- Javier Fortuna is a guy who wants a big fight. If the Golden Boy team decide not to chase one of the big three (Lopez, Tank, Haney) right away, and Linares maybe isn’t available or something, Fortuna would be acceptable.
- I mean, we can mention Vasiliy Lomachenko, but I doubt it. It’s not in-house and we really have no idea what Lomachenko is going to want to do right now.
- Look, nobody wants to see an “other” here. Garcia has expressed his ambition to do big fights. He proved he’s willing to take a chance by fighting Campbell, that he was serious that he wanted to step up. He wants to keep doing big stuff. The “big stuff” is that “big three.” There are many worse ideas than Linares or Fortuna for Garcia’s next fight, but the demand is going to be what it is.