Saturday Night Fever: Ryan Garcia vs. Luke Campbell
By Robert Ecksel on January 2, 2021
“I want to break his eye. I want to break his bones. I want to break everything off of him.”
On Saturday, January 2, in a fight streamed live on DAZN from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, 22-year-old Ryan Garcia (20-0,17 KOs), the hot prospect from Los Angeles, California, meets 33-year-old Luke Campbell (20-3,16 KOs), the seasoned southpaw from Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, for the vacant WBC interim lightweight title.
The first fight of 2021 is also the first big test for the “LA poster boy,” in the words of a snarky British newspaperman. Pitting a young gun against a grizzled veteran is as old as the sport itself. But this fight is not your run-of-the-mill mismatch. Garcia is younger, faster, bigger and stronger than his opponent, a former Olympian who knows his way around the ring. But in his two previous title attempts, admittedly against elite fighters, Campbell came up short, against Jorge Linares in 2017 and Vasiliy Lomachenko last year. He’s no slouch, however. He’s never been stopped and the fight will determine if Garcia is a flash in the pan or a real deal on the cusp of a brilliant career.
“I don't know a lot about him except that he's got a huge profile on social media, a hell of a lot of followers,” Campbell told ESPN. “For me, I prefer to just live my life. I've not followed his career. I've had no reason to.”
His social media presence, with millions of followers drawn to his boyish good looks, is hard to ignore, and tonight’s fight in Big D, if all goes according to plan, will firmly establish Garcia as more than just another pretty face.
“It all looks good on video,” said Campbell, “but there's plenty of kids out there who can hit the pads quickly—but not look good in the ring. You can throw a thousand uppercuts in five seconds on the pads. But it's not real. He may look a sensation throwing hundreds of punches on YouTube but that is very different from the tough challenge I will bring to the ring. My far greater experience will count on the night. What I see in his videos is that I am going to knock him out. Just as I would have done to every one of the soft opponents he’s faced so far.”
Campbell is confident and rightfully so, but he’s not nearly as confident as Ryan Garcia.
“I'm going to be the best fighter in the world for this next era,” he said during a virtual presser promoting the fight. “This is probably how it was supposed to be written. This is how the stars are aligning. I get everybody around the whole world to watch and this is what I have always wanted to do, which is inspire the whole world. This is the perfect opportunity to do it.”
Shooting for the stars is the way to go. The worse than can happen is he plummets back to earth, which Ryan says is not in the cards.
“I feel very disrespected by Luke. All that disrespect, all that hate, and all that envy is going to blind him. I feel bad for Luke. He's just the first one of my opponents that's going to get it bad. He's just going to get his ass whooped. God said how it was supposed to be. I cannot wait to punish Luke Campbell. I want to break his eye. I want to break his bones. I want to break everything off of him.”
That’s a tall order, even in a sport where anything can happen and often does.
“He has no challenges for me,” said Garcia. “All he’s got is pitter-patter punches and amateur style punches. None of that is going to save him. I'm not even worried about Luke Campbell.”
Garcia considers Campbell less a serious challenge than an obstacle that happens to be in his way.
“My goal is to defeat Teofimo Lopez, to knock out Gervonta Davis, and to beat Devin Haney. So whatever order it is, I'm here to conquer this division and become the biggest superstar in boxing.”