By Manouk Akopyan
Romero Duno wore a T-shirt following his win against Ivan Delgado on Saturday that said “Ryan Garcia, Next, Stop Running.”
The message from the Filipino fighter was clear. He was growing tired of the endless back and forth chatter of perhaps fighting his touted Golden Boy Promotions stablemate.
All signs pointed in Duno’s direction as Garcia’s last-minute replacement opponent once Garcia’s fight against Avery Sparrow was scrapped Friday afternoon shortly after Sparrow was arrested by a U.S. Marshal for a gun charge shortly before the weigh-in.
Duno was fighting at the same 135-pound weight limit against Delgado and was ready to settle the score once and for all with Garcia after originally being tabled as an opponent in August for a future fight. Garcia even called out Duno on Thursday to be the co-feature to Canelo Alvarez’s fight against Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2. He was still interested in the fight.
When Golden Boy scrambled to piece the puzzle and save Garcia’s fight after Sparrow’s arrest, they offered the bout to Duno. He accepted, but Garcia and Golden Boy couldn’t get their side squared away as soon as Garcia asked for a fraction more in compensation to be tacked on to his six-figure sum.
“I said ‘yes’ in replacing Sparrow, but maybe Ryan had bigger plans for us down the line,” Duno told BoxingScene.com. “If Ryan wants to have a match with me, just sign the contract. I respect his decisions. I know he’s not scared of me, because he’s a fighter too.”
Jim Claude Manangquil, Duno’s co-promoter, told BoxingScene.com that Golden Boy even offered money for Duno to step aside and allow Garcia to fight Delgado, but Team Duno held their ground and asked for Garcia instead.
“Duno didn’t even think about it twice — and we took the Garcia fight Friday and accepted the offer,” said Manangquil. “I can only speak from our side. We accepted the offer in August, too, and waited for Garcia. We respect Team Garcia decisions. We hope the fight happens soon.”
Last week, before Sparrow was arrested, Oscar De La Hoya and Garcia met with gleaming eyes, mega-watt smiles that could light up all of Los Angeles and a bromantic hug during a press conference as they ramped up the buildup of Golden Boy’s Mexican Independence Day Weekend card.
Just last month, however, everything wasn’t peaches, and punches were being pulled as Garcia voiced displeasure on social media about how his career, matchmaking and main event status was being handled by Golden Boy.
It reared its ugly head again over the weekend, as a series of “he said, she said” statements broke out between both sides.
Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said on Twitter that Team Garcia “declined the Duno fight since the trainer believed Duno was a tough opponent to take on 24 hour notice without proper preparation.”
Garcia refuted that on Twitter and said, “My coach Eddy [Reynoso] never said that! … I will continue to get peanuts, even though I move cards. I put people in seats. Crazy how I get treated. F*** that tell the truth.”
On Thursday, De La Hoya assured to BoxingScene.com that there was no disarray between Garcia and Golden Boy, and went as far as comparing the relationship between fighter and promoter to a marriage, and how it has its ups and downs.
“In boxing, you have to earn your spot. You have to earn your world title,” De La Hoya said at the time. “But I understand where [Ryan] is coming from. It’s not always going to be peaches and cream. You’re going to have roadblocks in front of you. You just have to work through them.”
De La Hoya is all too familiar with acrimonious relationships between fighters and promoters. He sued Top Rank head Bob Arum at the turn of the century to get out of his contract, but he assured at the time his alliance with Garcia is far from fledgling.
So did Garcia on Thursday, telling BoxingScene.com, “In negotiations, things get a little hectic and heated. The respect is still there for Oscar. We’re all good, and everyone is happy… I’ve always been a big advocate of worrying about myself.”
By Friday, the twist of events forced Garcia to change his stance once again.
Garcia held an impromptu conference call Saturday with his mother, father and ad visor Guadalupe Valencia admitting that he had no idea that there was a warrant out for Sparrow’s arrest until after the news came to light, and he was dissatisfied with his promoter's behavior.
But he was still willing to play ball with Duno, for the right price.
When Garcia and his camp asked for additional pay to better equate to the risk he would be taking against Duno on such short notice, negotiations hit a wall, and discontent parties ensued from all sides.
Garcia’s fans who bought tickets were not happy that the fighter was left off of the card altogether.
On the boxing holiday weekend that De La Hoya helped make a tradition and a staple of the sport, he was jeered and met with boos and mixed results in his own backyard at the Dignity Health Sports Park when he was introduced over the public address system.
“It’s very unfortunate that [Ryan Garcia’s] not fighting. A few people came to watch him, obviously,” De La Hoya said during the DAZN broadcast on Saturday. “There’s a lot of people talking in a fighter’s ears these days. It’s very unfortunate because the ones who suffer is the fighter, ultimately … I was a fighter. Money was never an issue for me. Never. I made a lot of money, but the fight was first for me. I didn’t care. I guess fighters are not like that anymore. Something is changing. It’s kind of sad.”
Golden Boy brass and Team Garcia will meet this week to further discuss the next steps in repairing their relationship.
The coming weeks will prove if both sides can salvage their marriage.
Manouk Akopyan has been a member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011 and has written for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Guardian and Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at [email protected].