Ryan Garcia hopes that the year ahead is much kinder than the one he left behind.

Plans are in place for the rising lightweight star to return to the ring in the coming months, with an opponent being finalized for a planned April 2 date. The fight will be his first in 15 months—assuming the date holds up—though it hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm to secure marquee names in his anticipated ring return and in the months to follow.

“It’s definitely a range of opponents,” Garcia teased to ES News’ Elie Sekbach of his anticipated ring return. “Obviously, I’m going for some top guys. Hopefully we can come back with a bang. If not, I’m going after anybody at this point.”

Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) has been out of the ring since an off-the-canvas, seventh-round knockout of 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and two-time title challenger Luke Campbell last January. The combination of mental health maintenance and physical rehabilitation from hand surgery leaving him with a career-long layoff, unfortunately coming at a time when his popularity and star power threatened to soar to new heights.

Instead, the forced ring absence came in line with the lack of mixing and matching at the top level of the bursting lightweight division.

The 23-year-old Garcia was tabbed as among the sport’s ‘New Four Kings’ along with WBC titlist Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs), unbeaten former junior lightweight titlist and current secondary WBA lightweight titleholder Gervonta Davis (26-0, 24KOs) and then-unbeaten, unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (16-1, 12KOs). Zero fights between the quartet came of 2021, with Lopez losing the lineal/WBA “Super”/IBF/WBO titles to Australia’s George Kambosos (20-0, 10KOs) and likely moving up to the junior welterweight division.

Haney and Davis posted two wins each, including separate victories on back-to-back nights last December. Haney defeated former three-division titlist Jorge Linares last May and former junior lightweight titleholder Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz last December 4. Davis moved up to 140 pounds where he dethroned unbeaten secondary WBA titlist Mario Barrios last June before dropping back down to lightweight where his 16-fight knockout streak came to an end in a twelve-round win over late replacement but perennial Top 10 contender Isaac Cruz last December 5 in Las Vegas.

Somehow, it was Garcia who endured the bulk of the criticism. His massive social media following and—at the time—flair for remaining in the public eye made him an easy target, more so when he passed on a July fight to instead focus on his mental health and withdrew from a planned November clash with Diaz after suffering a training camp injury to his right hand requiring immediate surgery.

His health fully restored, Garcia is once again ready to command the spotlight and silence his doubters—or at least have his say in the conversation.

“It’s going to be an exciting time,” notes Garcia. “It’s finally a time to prove… not prove but have a response to all of the things that have been said about me during this time where I really had no voice.”

Golden Boy Promotions, Garcia’s promoter hopes to finalize an opponent in the coming days for his planned April 2 DAZN headliner.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox