Rising lightweight star Ryan Garcia was prepared to pack his bags and head to Luke Campbell’s turf to fight him in England this fall for the WBC’s vacant interim world title, so he was pleasantly surprised when he was informed on Wednesday that his promoter, Golden Boy, and Campbell representative Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing had come an agreement that will see the bout headline a DAZN card in the United States in November.
“I really thought I was going to England. I was like, alright, cool, let’s do this,” Garcia told BoxingScene.com. “I’m down for it. I’m super excited. It’s good for me, but honestly it really doesn’t matter -- home turf or away turf. I don’t really hear the crowd anyway and there probably won’t be a crowd anyway (due to the coronavirus pandemic).”
Not only will the fight be in the U.S. but it will likely take place at Golden Boy’s go-to site, the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, Garcia’s home state and a venue he has fought at three previous times and described as knowing “the place inside and out. I will feel at home.”
Last week, the promoters also told the WBC they had a deal principle and asked for a seven-day postponement of a scheduled purse bid in order to get the paperwork in order. But when Golden Boy received a contract that did not reflect what they thought they had agreed to, Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told Hearn they would just go to the purse bid. But shortly before it was due to take place via a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon, they made a deal with Hearn accepting an offer from Golden Boy.
On the Zoom call, Hearn told those gathered, including WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, that he and Golden Boy were on the same page this time and that the deal was made, to which Robert Diaz, Golden Boy’s representative on the video conference, concurred.
Later, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya told BoxingScene, “Ryan Garcia versus Luke Campbell is a done deal. This is a very important fight, so negotiations took some time. Nevertheless, we are really looking forward to promoting this fight. A test of this magnitude will show everyone that Ryan Garcia has what it takes to be the best lightweight in the world.
“Details are still being figured out, but we know that we will stage it on the West Coast. We will make a full announcement in the coming weeks.”
Garcia, who has had his ups and downs with Golden Boy, said he they are in a good place now and he was ecstatic the fight was on.
“Everything is good on our end,” Garcia said. “We’re all excited about this fight. It’s a big fight. I think every fight for me now is a big fight. I’m happy that it’s finally done. I just wanted the fight. I just want to get back in the ring. I was saying yes to everything. I said yes (to fighting in) the U.K. I said yes to this, to that. Couple problems kept coming up but I knew the fight was going to be made because at the end of the day I was saying yes to everything.”
Their latest issues arose when Garcia was unhappy with a $250,000 offer for a July 24 main event on DAZN and declined to fight.
“I’m definitely happy with the decision I made. I wanted a big fight. I wanted a fight that means something. After that fight with (Francisco) Fonseca I wanted an opponent people would respect,” he said of his 80-second demolition of the former world title challenger on Feb. 14.
“I wanted Jorge Linares or Luke Campbell. I felt like I was ready for those guys and I wanted a fight with meaning. So I told Golden Boy I didn’t want any type of tune-up fight. I wanted to go right into a good fight and I know Luke Campbell was the best option I had. When the WBC ordered that I was like, ‘My dreams have come true.’ (A deal to fight) Linares, for some reason, wasn’t working out.
“I know Luke Campbell wants to win this fight bad and thinks he’ll knock me out. I think we’ll be talking it up a lot. I know this guy will want to play mental games. This guy will have a lot to say and I’ll be ready.”
Although Garcia said he respects Campbell, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world title challenger, having lost a razor-close decision to then-titlist Linares in Inglewood, California, in 2017, and a hard-fought unanimous decision to Vasiliy Lomachenko in London in his most recent fight last August, he is not overly impressed by his resume.
“I think Luke Campbell is a good fighter. I’ve done my research on his fights,” Garcia said. “People say this is too big of a step but when I watch his opponents he fought before, how did he get the (title) shots that he got? Who are these guys he’s fighting? Who are they? He didn’t seem to have a hard road. But he’s still a good fighter and some people are already trying to downplay it (on social media), like, ‘Why you trying to act like Luke Campbell is a monster, blah, blah, blah.’ But it’s like, ‘Come on dude!’ This is a big fight and I want big fights. He’s an Olympic champion. My dream was to become a gold medalist but I didn’t want to wait four more years (for the 2020 Games). This is my gold medal match. If I made the decision to wait it wouldn’t have happened anyway because the Olympics were postponed.”
The 32-year-old Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) is a southpaw, which Garcia has very little experience against as a professional. But he said he actually loves fighting lefties.
“They’re my favorite opponents. It’s just a fun little chess match in the beginning but sooner or later I’m gonna be there at a better angle,” Garcia said. “I haven’t really faced many lefties in the pros, but I fought a lot of them in the amateurs. I love fighting them. My timing is really good on lefties.”
Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs), of Victorville, California, has notched four consecutive knockouts, including back-to-back devastating first-round KOs against Fonseca and Romero Duno. While Campbell has been knocked down, he has never been stopped in any of his three defeats, but Garcia said he is not necessarily aiming for a stoppage.
“I’m gonna stick to my game plan I already have in my head but, of course, when I’m fighting, if I see a shot open I take it and I throw everything I got,” he said. “If it goes 12, I’ll be conditioned to go 12. If it’s a short night it’ll be another great knockout for me.”
The winner will be awarded the interim belt, but more notably the winner will be the mandatory challenger for WBC titlist Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), a fight that interests Garcia.
“I would consider myself a real world champion,” Garcia said of how he will feel if he beats Campbell. “I’m not trying to knock Devin’s championship. He’s a great fighter. But in my heart I don’t see him as champ. But if I have to take it from him then I will do that and that will be my next step because I do want to fight the best fighters.
“I really want to fight (titleholder Gervonta) ‘Tank’ Davis. I feel like that’s the fight, but if it doesn’t happen, let’s go, me and Devin is the next one I want. I thought I was going to get Linares, I’ll end fighting Campbell. I want ‘Tank’ next but I’ll probably wind up having to fight Devin. There are so many great fights at 135. This division is hot. It’s gonna be explosive.
“Gervonta, Devin Haney, myself, we’re all explosive fighters. So is (titleholder Teofimo) Lopez, who is an all-around good fighter. I’m really excited for this. We’re going to have some great matches. So far for me, this fight (with Campbell) is my biggest fight I’ve had. This is going to show I’m at that elite level. If I destroy Luke in better fashion that Lomachenko and Linares I’ll have some stuff to say, as I should, right? It’s my time to shine. It’s a changing of the guard.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.