As a Briton, there was a familiar feeling to last Saturday night’s Garcia-Campbell contest inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Sure, we had our new, shiny DAZN apps to play with. We also had a Stateside fight aired at a sociable hour, rather than setting our alarm clocks for 4 am. We even had conviction in the ability of “our” fighter Luke Campbell, rather than the blind faith that usually accompanies our partisan support for a countryman.
Yet, as Campbell knelt on the canvas following a destructive liver shot from the fresh-faced, talented Ryan Garcia, we were reminded, once again, of the gulf in class that has been all too recently evident when a Briton decides to make the leap over the Atlantic.
The fight itself was terrific. Campbell was vulnerable to Garcia’s attacks from the opening bell, but with digs to the body and a spiteful left hook in the second round, Campbell was able to stamp his mark on the bout for dangerous, yet limited segments.
Garcia reacted the way we wanted him to. Sure, I would have loved to have seen Campbell get the victory on Saturday, but seeing Garcia dropped, recover, and end the fight 15 minutes later was as impressive as it was rewarding. Finding out that a prospect is legit, in such a welcoming division, is a satisfying discovery on the big stage — no more smoke and mirrors, Garcia’s coming-out party was a success.
The future is bright for Garcia, as confirmed by Campbell himself. “Have to take my hat off to Ryan Garcia, well done and a massive future ahead for him,” the defeated lightweight wrote on Twitter. But what about Campbell? Like it or not, “Cool Hand” joins a long list of Britons to have unsuccessfully challenged for honours on American soil – more so over the last decade, coinciding with British boxing’s relative revival.
Since London 2012 — potentially a couple of years prior — Britain has been basking in a boxing “boom.” Definitions of this “boom” vary depending on the mouthpiece, but Carl Froch and George Groves selling out Wembley Stadium in 2014 is often earmarked as the catalyst for more money, more interest, and more opportunities flooding into the sport at a national level.
This “boom” may have translated into world champions on home soil — at one stage in 2016 there were 13 Britons that held a version of a world title — but seeing a Briton travel to the United States and come back victorious in a meaningful fight is becoming a concerning rarity.
Yes, there are the exceptional exceptions. Kell Brook vs Shawn Porter, James DeGale vs Andre Dirrell, Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz, and Tyson Fury stopping Deontay Wilder are the wins that immediately spring to mind since this British boxing revival, but all too often we are seeing our champions and contenders fed to American shows and come up worryingly short.
When comparing the sizes of the two nations it’s fine to suggest there will always be a natural gulf in class between the number of elite-level fighters, but there will be growing concerns that outside of the heavyweight division there hasn’t been this drip down of talent that we may have expected over the past five or six years.
It’s admirable to see the desire of a British fighter to travel across the pond in search of global glory, but the longer they are treated as B-side contenders the longer this narrative of the “plucky Brit” will prevail. It’s continually reinforcing the bogus thought that taking part is as important as winning.
But hey, if merely taking part can land you the big bucks, then who are we to judge?