After the fight: How far will Ryan Garcia go in boxing and does it matter?

Ryan Garcia answered some questions after his knockout of Luke Campbell, but how will he continue to fare in a stacked lightweight division?

Ryan Garcia increased his star power with a powerful left hook to Luke Campbell’s body that brought their Jan. 2 main event to an end. Campbell was a nice step up in competition for Garcia, but what does his performance mean in the context of the lightweight division?

Garcia attracts a lot of attention. The 22-year-old boxer is magnetic, handsome, and talented in the ring. He also entertains on social media platforms in a multitude of ways. Garcia shares his personal life, his training, and has fun with friends and other influencers. He also demonstrates showmanship by taunting his rivals on social media.

Garcia deserves credit for utilizing his marketability, but some people have tried to use his popularity to detract from his boxing skills. The end of Garcia vs. Campbell wasn’t shocking. It was far from it.

If you haven’t been paying attention to Garcia’s boxing, then you’ve missed one heck of an impressive start of what could be a long and prosperous career.

Campbell tested Garcia’s chin in round 2 when he dropped him with a strong straight left. Garcia hit the canvas but never seemed hurt by a punch that would have damaged many other gifted boxers.

To Garcia’s credit, he tightened up his defense and fought a more patient fight. He capitalized on Campbell’s faults and openings. Garcia headhunted early but intelligently went to Campbell’s body in the final stretch, which brought the fight to a conclusion.

With his KO win over Campbell, Garcia showed his ring I.Q., which has always been there and is developing with experience. Garcia doesn’t receive enough credit for his amateur accolades. He won 15 national titles and compiled a record of 215-15, all before turning 18 years old.

Before the Campbell fight, people on social media questioned Garcia’s résumé. They shouldn’t have. Yes, Campbell was his best foe to date, but he shouldn’t have been criticized for that. Garcia came into the fight with wins over several quality boxers, including Jayson Velez, Romero Duno, and Francisco Fonseca.

People treated those names like they were nothing, and that’s not fair. You have to give young fighters time to grow and establish themselves, but people want results now. Garcia has discussed his viewpoint on public critique. He’s a very young person who has a lot of expectations and pressure on his shoulders. It’s not easy.

Ryan Garcia answered some doubts with his win over Luke Campbell, but will it be enough to satisfy his detractors?

Garcia is a real player in the lightweight division, but he should remain patient and gradually accelerate the difficulty of his opposition. He showed flaws against Campbell, and that’s not a slight on him. It’s reality and something to improve on.

People are clamoring for him to fight Devin Haney next. It’s a very intriguing bout but one that neither he nor Haney are ready for. Garcia and Haney are in the same boat in terms of their boxing careers. They’re young boxers with an abundance of talent who are still evolving.

At the same time, the top of the lightweight division is extremely youthful. Undisputed champion Teofimo Lopez is 23, and Gervonta Davis is 26. Still, Garcia and Haney deserve one or two more fights to try to make up some ground in terms of learning before they’re thrown into the fire.

Right now, Garcia is excellent, but Haney, Davis, and Lopez appear better. That could all change soon because so many variables go into a boxer’s career and development. Injuries, personal lives, and mental mindset play an enormous role in how a boxer performs. None of those elements are predictable or appear on paper.

Even if Garcia challenged and lost to one or more of the aforementioned boxers, that wouldn’t mean that Garcia is a bad boxer. All that would prove is that he is elite, and he lost to someone better.

In the U.S., we have this thing about being the “best.” We live in an ultra-competitive society where we’re constantly pushing our athletes to win at all costs. If they lose, we forget about them and praise the new champion and discard the old. It shows a lack of empathy on our part and a tendency to be short-sided.

Many of us tell our children that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you play the game, but we don’t model that with how we treat our highest caliber athletes. We treat them as “other” and hold them to unrealistic expectations. Basically, we’re hypocrites, and it’s hurting athletes’ psyches and spirit. If you don’t believe me, watch The Weight of Gold and listen to what Michael Phelps and many other athletes have to say about the matter.

Too much gets made of a boxer losing a fight. Almost every boxer loses at some point in their career because someone else was better on that day. Garcia may not prove to be better than Haney or Davis, but it doesn’t matter. He’s an elite fighter and deserves respect for what he has accomplished.

All boxers deserve respect because they put their lives on the line every time they step into the ring. It’s just a shame that so many of us are reluctant to give it to them because they don’t have a zero in the losses column. Garcia does have a flawless record, and he still has to struggle for respect, and that’s a shame.