Everyone is ready to move on from 2020 and boxing is welcoming the new year with a blockbuster transatlantic battle.
American rising star and social media hype-train Ryan Garcia takes on Britain’s Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell in Dallas on Saturday night, topping a bill which features two world championship fights earlier in the evening.
There’s no title on the line but great fights don’t need trinkets, and this is a great fight. We’re going to find out if the unbeaten Garcia, 22, is the real deal or a pretty boy with a paper record, and if Campbell’s dream of reaching the summit of the stacked lightweight division is still a possibility.
‘King Ry’ turned pro aged 17 in Mexico after a first-grade youth amateur career where he swapped wins and losses with Devin Haney, and beat Vergil Ortiz and a host of other top kids coming through the ranks.
In the paid code, Garcia has shown his finishing skills with 17 KOs in 20 wins and his mass appeal with an eight million strong Instagram following. Ryan has beaten a couple of fringe top 20 guys and he’s only been 10 rounds twice but Paddy is suitably impressed to offer big odds on a Campbell upset win.
In 2012, Campbell triumphed in the London Olympics but as a professional the man from Hull hasn’t reached the same heights. Campbell has fought for titles twice before but he was dropped and beaten by likely future Hall-of-Famers Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Garcia and Campbell have been in a similar number of fights but there’s a gulf in experience. We’ve seen both sides of the coin for young fighters in 2020: Teofimo Lopez lit up the legendary Lomachenko but Daniel Dubois looked out of his depth when Joe Joyce kept coming at him.
In this bout, I expect Garcia will take the front foot while Campbell will manoeuvre and pick shots. This is a massive step up in class for Garcia and he’s not used to facing someone almost as tall as he is, with longer reach, a southpaw stance, and the footwork of a Cuban ballerina.
‘Coolhand’ Luke is no powder-puff puncher either and his KO record is close to Ry’s, but he’s not fancied to get the early win in this one. Garcia hasn’t been in with Grade-A sluggers but his team have pitted him against boxers that can bang since he was a teenager, and they don’t seem to be worried about his chin.
You get the feeling ‘King Ry’ believes his own hype and there’s a good chance he’s overlooking a man who has lost three times. If it goes to points it’s 50:50 for me, and Paddy has left himself open for someone to land big with the value pick of Campbell on points.
In the early rounds at least, experience won’t matter much. Garcia is a sharp shooter who has KO’d 16 opponents inside five rounds, including back-to-back first-round finishes in his last two contests, while Campbell’s slow starts have seen him forced to take counts three times before the sixth session.
The California kid is known for his left hook and fast hands, and those skills will worry Campbell fans. Yvan Mendy creased Campbell with a left hook and Linares came close with that shot a few times. Garcia is bigger than Linares and Loma, and he now trains with Canelo Alvarez and his coaches – the social media sensation is quickly becoming a dangerous man.
The Brit is 33 now and he’s been inactive for 16 months – by far the longest time-out in his career – and I think Garcia has a real shot at doing a demolition job in Dallas.
Bet of the bout: Garcia in rounds 1-6.
The televised undercard on the “Netflix of sports”, DAZN, includes un-identical twins Rene and Felix Alvarado defending their world titles. Rene is set for a scrap with Roger Gutierrez (10pm) for his super featherweight strap, while Felix takes on DeeJay Kriel (9pm) in the light fly division.
Rene and Roger first fought in 2017, with Alvarado running out with a seventh-round KO victory, and I can’t see this fight going the distance either. Both boxers have improved their skill sets but both still look to batter their opponents – back Alvarado to win with a stoppage in rounds 5-8.
Felix might be even more menacing than his brother. The smaller Alvarado has stopped 10 of last 11 opponents, with nine of those coming in the first three stanzas. Kriel isn’t up to this level and I’ll be betting Alvarado gets another win in rounds 1-3.
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