Boxing always needs stars.
It might need stars more than it needs great fighters.
Stars put butts in the seats, generate press, and drive the most important question in boxing: what’s next? When fans are asking that question, when they care, especially the kind of fans who can only name a handful of boxers at any given time, boxing has someone to build on.
Is it better when stars are great fighters? Absolutely. It’s not a prerequisite.
The jury is still out on whether or not Ryan Garcia will be a great fighter. He’s certainly very good. Guys with his speed, length, and power don’t grow on trees. His public spats with his promoters are good copy but they happen in part because he has talent worth investing in.
There are reasons for concern though, apparent in his loss to Gervonta Davis and again in his win last weekend over Oscar Duarte. In both fights, Garcia had moments where his trainers were giving one bit of advice and he didn’t seem to listen. Versus Davis, Garcia failed to follow the game plan after a successful first round, got himself dropped, and never really got back in the fight.
Saturday, after building a nice lead with his jab and quick counters, Garcia started using a shoulder roll and pet on ever after the corner told him to abandon it. Heading into the Davis-Garcia fight, this corner compared the build and nature of the match to Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney.
It played out sort of like that fight with the matinee-idol hopeful exposed as not really ready for prime time. After Holmes-Cooney, Cooney remained a star, enough so that he went on to make pay-per-view showdowns with Michael Spinks and George Foreman. While he lost, those fights helped set the table for Tyson-Spinks and Holyfield-Foreman.
Garcia ultimately was too good, and too big, for a game Duarte. Duarte won a few rounds and gave a great effort but, even fighting a technically inconsistent fight, Garcia’s toolbox and explosiveness was too much.
Garcia confirmed what was already known: he can handle solid pros and contenders.
We still don’t know about the next level.
Futures: Garcia might not have to find out about that next level anytime soon. Junior welterweight titlist Rolly Romero, last seen getting gifted a stoppage win in a fight he was losing badly to Ismael Barroso, has come out and said he doesn’t think Garcia deserves a fight with him.
In boxing, deserve has nothing to do with it so those sound like fighting words.
Garcia and Tank Davis have shown drawing power the rest of the field around them at lightweight and junior welterweight don’t have right now. Everyone wants to fight them when the price is right and Davis has already seen Romero. Romero is the easiest path to a belt there is around Garcia’s weights, an even more flawed, less talented fighter who will help put an ass every six inches. The fight makes perfect sense for both guys.
Garcia is far from done developing. He may one day hand losses to Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez, or even Davis in a rematch. If he doesn’t, he’ll be well compensated when those fights come around again and help their stars shine brighter.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
One has to assume the career of Michael Conlan is done. Consecutive knockout losses, and three in his last five fights, isn’t a sign of positive potential. Conlan had high hopes in some corners out of the Olympics but he’s hit his ceiling and the ceiling hit back…Teofimo Lopez wants Terence Crawford? Or does he just want some attention? Some fighters like to generate headlines and Lopez is good at it. Kevin Lele Sadjo is worth following. He’s older as far as fresh faces go but he can crack…Condolences to heavyweight great Lennox Lewis on the passing of his mother. Lewis has always been a class act. It speaks highly of who he came from.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.