The top shelf of Golden Boy’s cupboard was left barren once Canelo Alvarez filed a lawsuit against the promotional company and DAZN and was later released from his contract.
The development was arguably the biggest in boxing during 2020.
Even after all of the fractures in their relationship had surfaced in recent years, it was a prolific knockout punch Hall of Fame fighter Oscar De La Hoya never saw coming.
De La Hoya seemingly lost a back-breaking hand once Alvarez severed their decade-long alliance and became a promotional and network free agent.
Yet, De La Hoya believes he still owns a sizable bankroll. His chips, however, are not the ones you find at casinos. It comes in human form in blue-chip prospect Ryan Garcia, the 22-year-old Victorville-bred social sensation who trains alongside Alvarez and Alvarez’s trainer Eddy Reynoso.
Garcia will look to further prove he’s not fool’s gold and help De La Hoya rebuild the coffers when he takes on 2012 Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The DAZN stream begins at 3 p.m. ET.
“After this fight, I will consider Ryan not just the face of Golden Boy Promotions, but the face of boxing,” De La Hoya told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “Not having Canelo on our roster is something that we can live with and move on from. Ryan has the opportunity to surpass whatever Canelo has accomplished.”
In a move that somewhat mirrors the WWF and WCW TV wars of the 1990s, the pound-for-pound king Alvarez will be at Garcia and Golden Boy's show Saturday and will walk out his stablemate into the ring for what many anticipate will be a star-making performance.
De La Hoya is making what could perhaps be a company-shifting bet by letting it ride with Garcia, who certainly has the skills and ceiling to develop into one of boxing’s next big budding stars.
The Golden Boy even went as far as saying Garcia is the best prospect he’s ever promoted, a label he once bestowed on Vergil Ortiz Jr.
“We’ve promoted a lot of young prospects. Ryan Garcia has that overall package. If handled correctly by the people around him, then Ryan will go very, very far,” said De La Hoya. “I knew from the beginning that he had something special.”
De La Hoya knows all too well about realizing potential, much like he did his entire career shortly after capturing Olympics gold at the 1992 Summer Games, and all the way to retirement as a six-division champion in 2008.
What he can’t seem to identify, though, is how he lost his golden touch with Alvarez, or why it unraveled.
“I still don’t know till this day what exactly I did wrong handling [Canelo’s] career,” said De La Hoya. “We build him to be the biggest star in boxing, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Alvarez and De La Hoya’s relationship went south shortly after Alvarez signed a 10-fight, $365-million deal with streaming service DAZN at the behest of the promoter in 2018. Alvarez’s contract with Golden Boy called for him to have final approval for all of his opponents. His deal with DAZN called for the OTT platform to have final say on future foes.
When Alvarez was backed into a corner to face Gennadiy Golovkin in a trilogy, he fought back and got himself out of the mess once he realized his separate contracts didn’t mesh with one another.
“Instead of trying to become the very best inside of the ring and reaching glory, the business side of boxing has messed with a fighter’s head,” said De La Hoya. “It’s polluted their head. Make the fights, and then the money will come. A lot of fighters have so many people in their ears nowadays. Everybody thinks they are an expert.”
The upstart Garcia has Alvarez and Reynoso in his ear, and he has to navigate what has suddenly become a murky love triangle between him, the gym and his boss.
Garcia has increasingly grown close to Alvarez despite a language barrier ever since he started training under the same San Diego roof with the Mexican star in 2018.
Garcia had his fair share of public and sporadic sparring sessions with De La Hoya last year on social media as well.
They smashed their misunderstandings in September 2019 and signed a lucrative contract extension that binds Garcia to Golden Boy until 2024. Peace was restored, business was usual, but Garcia has maintained that he and De La Hoya still have not had breakthroughs in their relationship.
“I don’t get into that. I just focus on my fights,” Garcia told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “I want to accomplish my dreams. I can’t be worried about what’s going on with who and who.”
The 2019 trainer of the year and power broker Reynoso is promising nothing but a harmonious and business-first relationship moving forward with De La Hoya as he transforms the still-green boxer.
“We’re all mature. We’re all professionals here,” Reynoso told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “We all understand our responsibilities, them as a promoter, me as a trainer. I’m here to put Ryan in the best condition to fight. They do their thing, and I do my thing. I’m very happy that Golden Boy opened the doors for Saul and myself. We’re open to working with all promoters.”
De La Hoya said, “I do worry, absolutely,” that the newfangled relationship dynamics could eventually create problems in the future between him and Garcia.
“Ryan knows what he wants, and we’re on the same page — it’s a matter of keeping a close relationship with him and giving him advice,” he said. “The same thing that he’s going through now, I went through as well [with my promotional contract with Bob Arum]. I had all those whispers in my ear as well. I know exactly what they’re telling him and what he’s going through.”
In addition to Garcia, the other top fighter in Golden Boy’s stable is fast-rising welterweight Ortiz Jr.; champions like Jaime Munguia and JoJo Diaz rank right after them.
De La Hoya and company will surely look to restock the cabinets once the upcoming Olympics class turns pro.
They’re also familiar with the feeling of being left on the canvas and being counted out after a massive star exodus.
As De La Hoya was in rehab battling substance abuse in 2013, and splitting with his powerful right-hand man and former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer in 2014, he lost fighters he built over the years in Deontay Wilder, Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, among many others high-profiled boxers, to Al Haymon’s PBC as part of a settlement.
“I’ve been in this position before. It doesn’t worry me whatsoever,” De La Hoya said in what Golden Boy’s vitality looks like in a post-Alvarez world.
De La Hoya is certainly making an effort to play nice with Alvarez in order to one day repair the relationship. He even took to Twitter on the night of Alvarez’s decision win over Callum Smith and wrote, “good luck tonight.”
“We have to weather the storm. We have to come back stronger and harder and make these big fights happen for Ryan,” said De La Hoya. “I love the Gervonta Davis fight next for him. This is the beginning for Ryan. If he beats Campbell, the sky's the limit.”
De La Hoya, meanwhile, isn’t limiting himself with any entities no matter how improbable it may seem.
“I have no doubt that our paths will cross and we’ll be promoting Canelo again very soon,” said De La Hoya. “My New Year’s resolution is for all promoters to work together and grow the sport.”