Ryan Garcia may have more social media followers than every top-rated lightweight combined, but it’s what he doesn’t have that concerns Jorge Linares.
A matchup between the two was once upon a time rumored to be in the works, with a working date of July 11 in place for their proposed lightweight crossroads bout. The two seemed on board shortly after posting separate knockout wins on the same DAZN-streamed show this past Valentine’s Day in Anaheim, California.
Those plans along with all other shows scheduled from mid-March through present-day have since been torched in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Garcia (20-0, 17KOs) has since been mentioned as a potential candidate to headline the first show presented by Golden Boy Promotions this summer.
As for the idea of Linares remaining in the mix, the former three-division titlist no longer seems as keen to take his career in that direction.
“[Garcia] is a good prospect but, you never know in boxing, here today and gone tomorrow,” Linares said in an interview conducted by Nick Libonati and filmed by New Fly Films’ Stefan Newman. “But if he wants to fight me, he needs to first get one of these belts.
“If he truly wants to fight me, first he needs to win a world title.”
Garcia claimed the World Boxing Council (WBC) Silver lightweight title in a 1st round knockout of Philippines’ Romero Duno last November. The belt is a title only by name, not a legitimate championship but rather a placeholder in the WBC rankings. The current WBC titlist is Devin Haney, who reclaimed his throne via email earlier this year and has been granted a voluntary defense for his next fight.
Linares has won major titles at featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight, the latter ending in a 10th round stoppage at the hands of Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10KOs) who has since become a unified titlist. Two fights after his last title fight, Linares suffered a shocking 1st round stoppage loss to Pablo Cano last January but has bounced back to win two straight.
The 34-year old Venezuelan—who now lives and trains in Tokyo, Japan—is undoubtedly in the twilight of a pro career year now in its 18th year. His current place in the sport is commonplace for divisional gatekeeper status, particularly as he is co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, who fully represents the 21-year old Garcia.
While the bulk of Linares’ fame has come from his in-ring achievements, Garcia was already a known commodity even before he hit prospect status. A significant part of the back story for the rising lightweight contender from Victorville, California is his massive social media following, boasting more than 6.1 million followers on Instagram.
Linares doesn’t boast anywhere nearly that type of online appeal. Still, he took the time to remind his 286,000 followers of what he was able to achieve at a similar point in his career.
“At 21, I was crowned World Champion in Las Vegas,” notes Linares. “I beat a great World Champion boxer, Oscar Larios and after that I was World Champion 3 more times. Despite some defeats I got up again and again. You achieved a world title at 21? RG?”
In the ring is where Linares is interested in tracking Garcia’s progress.
“I’m a four-time world champion in three different weight divisions. He’s the internet champion,” insists Linares. “He’s still a long way from winning one of these. But in the event that he wins one of these belts, now we’re talking. Let’s call our promoter and we can do that fight.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox