To his credit, Ryan Garcia knew after a pair of tougher-than-expected challenges in 2018 that changes were needed in his still-growing career.
What he still can’t quite wrap his head around, though, is why the rest of the industry still hasn’t caught on to the drastic change.
The 21-year old Los Angeles native has long proven to be more than just another pretty face, emerging as a top prospect and now a rising lightweight contender. The next step on his journey comes in the form of a showdown with former two-time title challenger Francisco Fonsea (25-2-2, 19KOs) atop a February 14 DAZN show at The Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It will mark his fourth fight with Eddy Reynoso, joining forces with the 2019 Trainer of the Year prior to his Dec. 2018 knockout win over Braulio Rodriguez.
“I feel way different,” Garcia (19-0, 16KOs) insisted during a recent open media workout in Los Angeles. “Back in the day, I was very fragile. Not in my punching power - if I crack you, you will feel it.
“But now I'm just physically stronger. Guys who are 150-160 in training camp, they try to lay on me and they feel it. I'm a different type of fighter, I'm a different type of dog. So they try to lay on me, I just lay on them and keep cracking them.”
It was a deliberate adjustment made after going 10 hard rounds in back-to-back wins over Jayson Velez and Carlos Morales in 2018. The fight with Velez—a former title challenger and still crafty ring veteran from Puerto Rico—saw Garcia struggle at times but otherwise win handily, whereas his majority decision win over Morales—a tough-as-nails Mexican slugger who has never been stopped—saw the unbeaten lightweight have to work much harder to have his hand raised.
Since then have come three straight knockouts, none more explosive than his 1st round stoppage of Philippines’ Romero Duno. Their clash took place on the undercard of stablemate and mentor Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s light heavyweight title-winning knockout of Sergey Kovalev last November, with Garcia making a splash of his own in the evening’s chief support.
It was a matchup which the public demanded, and which saw the wildly popular L.A. attraction rise to the occasion in a way that many still have yet to expect.
“I actually fight better coming forward. Not a lot of people see me coming forward,” notes Garcia. “They see the Velez fight. I was young and plus I was going through a lot. I didn't really train for that fight. I didn't have that conditioning.
“Now, if you try to do the same thing... that's why people keep getting knocked out. Jose Lopez thought he would rough me up, he got knocked out. Duno, same thing.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox