Ryan Garcia: ‘Luke Campbell Will Understand Me When I’m Beating The S**t Out Of Him’
"I'm not going to be in there taking pictures for IG or doing a video, I'm going to be beating the s**t out of him," says Ryan Garcia, staring dead-eyed at SPORTbible via Zoom.
From the outside, the 22-year-old American lightweight is the total package: unbeaten, flashy skills, good looks and 7.8 million Instagram followers - a stat which might be as important as his 20-0 pro record.
But this is boxing. So for everyone who praises 'KingRy' for building his audience, there's several more people knocking him as a social media hype job or warning that "his following won't help him in the ring".
The words of Luke Campbell: Britain's Olympic gold medallist, tried and tested at the highest level - and Garcia's opponent in a sizzling crossroads lightweight fight live on January 2nd on DAZN.
January 2nd watch as the reign begins :crown: and you can watch from anywhere on dazn :earth_americas: pic.twitter.com/ls7pvXNrex
- Ryan Garcia (@KingRyanG) December 2, 2020
"Can I ask you a question: how does that make any damn sense?" says Garcia, parrying SPORTbible's opening jab as we quote Campbell's words to him.
"Of course I can't take my fans in the ring. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out. But what Luke Campbell does not know, what he's underestimating, is how much work I put in every single day. He's going to understand real soon that I'm not here to play. He'll understand that when I'm beating the s**t out of him."
Garcia is - in theory - the man to one day replace his stablemate Canelo Alvarez as boxing's next mega-draw in the US and Mexico. But more people might know him right now for his 'body shot challenge' - videos where he tests the punch resistance of YouTubers and celebrities - than for his last fight: a spectacular, first-round KO of the usually durable Francisco Fonseca.
I just prayed he got up :pray: 20-0 pic.twitter.com/bOmGQbmAuF
- Ryan Garcia (@KingRyanG) February 15, 2020
Beating southpaw Campbell, who went 12 rounds with Vasyl Lomachenko in 2019, will change all that. If Garcia can find a way to win...
On paper, Campbell is a big set-up in your career. Is that how you see it?
"It's a good challenge, I like challenges, but I'm a level above. Campbell is just an obstacle in my way. I see him is like a boulder in front of me... not even a boulder, he's more like a pebble. So I'm going to move that little pebble, then I'm gonna throw him away."
He's not the first person in boxing to have a dig at your social media profile - does that come with the territory?
"You're just adding more fuel to the fire. You're just burning me up even more - and let me tell you this: not only did I build that social media, I'm working my ass off every day. So I'm doing two things. So I'm sorry you couldn't do that too; it sucks to be you.
"But I'm here to be in a war, if he pushes me. If he doesn't, I'm gonna just comfortably beat the s**t out of him. But if he does, then I'm in it. You're gonna have to kill me in order to beat me, come January 2nd, because this is my chance and I'm not letting it go. This is all I ever worked for. Campbell: I feel bad that you're in my way, but it is what it is."
How did you first find yourself in a boxing ring?
"I was just a kid from Victorville, California, pretty much ordinary, playing baseball. But once I started playing sports competitively, I felt this fire build up and I knew whatever I was going to do in life, it was going to be something competitive, something athletic. But it definitely wasn't going to be a team sport, because I couldn't take the fact that I will give 100%, but I can't say that for everybody else.
"So once I got into boxing, it put this other passion in me. I've been addicted to boxing ever since I was eight years old. I've never taken a break, this is all I ever wanted to do. And you see it with my timing, my speed - that takes a lot of work. You don't wake up and just have that."
You don't exactly look like a typical fighter...
"You know what's crazy? I've been getting that since I was a young kid. I'd go to tournaments or sparring matches and I heard a girl one time say to her boyfriend before I was going to fight him: 'Look at him, look how short his shorts are - he can't fight, you're gonna beat him down.'
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And I'm like: 'What the...? You must not know who I am.' And I ended up knocking him out in front of her. So you don't want to do that to me. You should just try to keep me calm, because the moment you start pushing me, that's when a real animal comes out."
You showed power in your last fight with that huge left-hook finish. When did you first realise you could punch?
"My left hook is devastating and I've always known that. Because every time I've hit a guy - even as a kid - his eyes would open up like: 'What just hit me?' I've just been blessed with an amazing left hook. I can torque it from any angle, it's like a slingshot. And if it lands, it's a struggle for people to stay up."
Speaking of punch power: your body shot challenge - how hard are you really hitting these poor people?
"You know what's weird? You meet celebrities or public figures and the first thing they say is: 'Punch me in the stomach.' I'm like: dude, this is not what you really want! It's not just a baby tap, I promise you that... Sometimes I go 30-40%, depending on the size of the guy. If he's bigger, I'll hit him pretty hard."
Has anyone surprised you with how well they've taken it?
"I mean, if you're looking at [UFC heavyweight] Francis Ngannou, who's over 200lb - if you think I'm gonna hurt him, you're crazy! So of course I'm not surprised that he can take it. But there's some tough guys out there that take a good punch.
"One guy, this YouTuber, Tanner Fox, he couldn't take it at all. I barely tapped him - and his mom was like: 'No, we're not doing this!' I love the guy, but he really couldn't take a punch. It was hilarious. Jake Paul? He's obviously a pretty big guy - he took it well."
What do make of YouTubers like Jake Paul getting pro licences and boxing?
"Will he become a real prizefighter? I think it's too late for him. But if you're looking at: can he throw blows with Conor McGregor and Dillon Danis? I don't see why not. I mean... Conor, I'm gonna keep it real with you, 100% is not a good boxer.
"I know he fought Floyd Mayweather, I know that Floyd was the best boxer in the world - but he [Conor] couldn't even punch. If you watched him fight, there's no real torque on those punches. So, unless he's improved, then I think him vs Jake Paul is more competitive than Mayweather-McGregor, I'm sorry to say.
"Because I know boxing. And just looking at the eye test: Conor is not a good boxer. Like, I don't see anything good... but if Conor is smart, he's going to tell Jake: I'm the bigger star, come to my world and fight in MMA. He'll destroy Jake in one round in MMA."
Back to actual boxers and your 135lb division has four exciting, undefeated US talents: Teofimo Lopez, Tank Davis, Devin Haney and yourself. How do you rank that four?
"I feel like we're all good fighters - but my goal is to beat everyone and to come out on top of all those guys. Every day, I have that in my mind. I know none of those guys work harder than me. I don't care what anybody says: I work every day like it's my last. So when it comes to show it, I will be the king of that division and the king of this sport one day.
"But what I will say is my next fight after this one, I either want Teofimo Lopez or Gervonta Davis; whoever wants it."
Where are you if we're doing this interview in four or five years' time?
"I plan on asserting my dominance for 10 years straight - and leaving this sport as the last greatest fighter of all time. You understand what I'm saying? Like, I'm gonna be that last fighter where there's no comparison.
"And, you know, Muhammad Ali was the first greatest fighter of all time - that's why I'm saying 'the last greatest fighter of all time', there is no more, it's done. You can't get better than this... I mean; hate it if you want. But I have that dream."
Lastly, tell us how the Campbell fight actually plays out in the ring.
"I really want to show everyone what I can do. Because it's only lasted one round in my last two fights, back to back. Now if it happens three times, it's going to really be sad for everybody... But this is the man to push me, right?
"Luke Campbell has a lot of heart, he likes to box a lot and he has a good chin. But what he's going to notice is that I'm not normal. I'm super fast. I'm super strong. He's going to know that this kid really has it all.
"So this is the fight. No matter if I'm bleeding, I'm cut, I'm bruised, I'm knocked down. Just know I'm getting up and coming at you. You're gonna see that dog come out of me, you're gonna see that passion, that fire. You guys are going to get a lot out of me."
Watch Ryan Garcia vs Luke Campbell live on DAZN on 2 January
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