Ryan Garcia wouldn't have lost to Gervonta Davis in their much-hyped bout in April if he hadn't called Davis out and pushed hard to make the match happen. As it stands, that bout is the biggest of the year in terms of pay-per-view numbers, with over 1.2 million sales.
It was far from Garcia's best performance. He was stopped in the seventh round by a Davis body shot, and he was never threatening much during the fight.
It was Garcia, though, who made that event happen by calling for it. It wasn't a fight that was on anyone's radar, and no one of significance had asked for it. But Garcia called out Davis, one of the sport's top pound-for-pound fighters after a 2022 win over Javier Fortuna.
And then, Garcia insisted it happen despite attempts to go in a different direction, and it was finally made for April 22 in Las Vegas.
Maybe it was too early in Garcia's career for a fight of such significance. Maybe he hadn't done enough to ready himself for such a significant challenge after taking a year off of boxing to address mental health concerns. Maybe he's never going to be good enough to defeat a guy of Davis' caliber.
Maybe. We don't know.
But the fact that he sought the fight deserves all sorts of kudos. It's what Oscar De La Hoya, one of his promoters, did routinely during his legendary career. There are a lot of less-than-flattering things one could say about De La Hoya, but anyone who implies he ducked fighters and/or didn't seek out the greatest challenges is a liar, a fool or perhaps both.
De La Hoya's willingness to fight anyone is one of the reasons he was such a beloved fighter.
As a young boy, Garcia looked up to De La Hoya, so it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when he emulated his one-time idol and made a challenging call-out.
Garcia will return to the ring Saturday when he meets Oscar Duarte in a super lightweight bout at The Toyota Center in Houston in a match that should answer a lot of questions about him.
Garcia is a healthy -450 favorite over Duarte, who despite a 26-1-1 record and 21 knockouts is +320 at BetMGM. Those odds suggest that this is a fight Garcia should win handily. At -450, it suggests an implied win probability of 81.82% for Garcia, who is 23-1 with 19 knockouts.
One has to wonder, though, how he'll perform as it seems he's battling his promoters, particularly legendary former champion Bernard Hopkins, as the fight nears. In October during an interview with FightHype, Hopkins was asked if Garcia should fight the winner of the Dec. 9 WBC super lightweight title fight between Regis Prograis and Devin Haney. Hopkins, quite properly, said Garcia should be most concerned with beating Duarte.
If he left it there, no problem. Hopkins, though, continued and made a statement that irritated Garcia.
"I will see how he looks in this fight [against Duarte] to make my personal decision whether he should fight again," Hopkins said.
Hopkins was one of the great fighters of his era, and battled the system along the way. He made it all the way to the Hall of Fame, compiling a 55-8-2 record with 32 knockouts and two no contests. He won titles at middleweight, where he was the undisputed champion, and at light heavyweight. He became the oldest man in boxing history to win a world title bout.
Hopkins' comment about deciding whether Garcia should fight again was odd, particularly given he is Garcia's promoter and that Garcia's only loss was to one of the elite fighters in the world.
Yes, Garcia needs to be properly prepared to face Duarte. Yes, he didn't look great against Davis. But for Hopkins to say he'd make a decision on whether Garcia should ever fight again more than a month out from the fight seemed strange.
Garcia didn't shake it off and let it go. He blew up about it to Bryan Custer on Custer's "Last Stand" podcast.
“What does he mean, ‘I’ll make the decision?’” Garcia said to Custer. “He ain’t gonna make s***. He can’t make s*** about me. The crazy thing is I’m [going to] box my ass off … for a team that don’t even believe in me. But damn, they’ll collect that money that I’m making them. They collect that $6 million, though, but you don’t know if I should box again? But you made that money off that [Davis] fight, though. Yeah, shut up."
Hopkins was invited to speak during the undercard portion of the news conference Thursday, but it was obvious Garcia was on his mind.
"I talked to a few of my, I'll say, future champions, mainly about where they're going to go and what they'd like to do next. They want to one day be main event. They want to be on the top [of the] card. So why do I say that? Well, this is a moment for all of the ones who are on the undercard who want to be main event soon. One thing is for sure, and I put 28 years in this business of boxing, in the ring — 28 years in the ring — I believe I've got some credibility. But one thing about boxing, and I'll close with this, it will call your bluff."
De La Hoya is prone to saying wild, almost inexplicable, things. On Thursday, he made a post on X that he later deleted expressing concern for Garcia's mental health. Hopkins, though, isn't usually that way. But there was no doubt he was trying to make a statement. When he said, "I'll close with this," he made a turn to his right, where a stone-faced Garcia was seated, staring impassively, and said boxing "will call your bluff."
Garcia got to the podium and let Hopkins have it. He said he and his team would decide when he'd retire, not Hopkins.
Garcia attorney Darin Chavez spoke briefly to Yahoo Sports and was puzzled by the criticism Garcia has received.
"The position of the Garcia team is that we'd obviously hoped that Golden Boy was in the business of promoting their top fighter," Chavez said. "Promoting their top fighters means, obviously, getting the best matches, the best set-up possible and creating hype for the event. But it's also providing all of the confidence and resources for that fighter to be at his best and to perform at his highest level. To date, it appears that whenever Golden Boy gets an opportunity, they undermine Ryan rather than elevating Ryan."
It's a bizarre scenario because Garcia had to know with the lawsuit ongoing, things weren't going to be peachy between the sides. What Hopkins said wasn't that bad. Yeah, it would have been better had he not said it given the circumstances, but he only said he was going to give his recommendation of whether Garcia should fight on.
Garcia should have laughed it off, but didn't.
The result of Saturday's fight will tell a lot of the story. Garcia is an elite talent who not only has a lot of big fights ahead of him, but a lot of big victories in his future. Hopkins is a sage boxing mind who not only understands the X's and O's of the sport like few other in history, he understands the mental side well.
This doesn't seem designed to end well. Golden Boy executives see Garcia's talents and should be trying to help him and enable him to unlock his enormous potential. Garcia has to shrug off little slights.
They're probably both better off going their own way. But the events of the past month, particularly the past few days, are just another one of the volatile ways this relationship has gone from almost the beginning.
Unfortunately, it's not over yet.