In a star-studded lightweight division, it’s easy to get caught up in thoughts of all the great fights there are to be made. However, even in a boxing landscape that has seen more and more bouts for unified and undisputed championships, the sport remains one with a complicated political landscape. One of the men most impacted by that landscape is 23-year-old rising star Ryan Garcia, who battles Javier Fortuna on Saturday night.
For years, fans have been teased by the idea of a battle between Garcia and fellow rising superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis. It’s a fight that makes all the sense in the world from a competitive perspective and both men talk the fight up with regularity. It’s also a fight that is very unlikely to happen any time in the near future.
Garcia fights under the Golden Boy Promotions umbrella, a promotion that recently signed a lengthy deal with DAZN. With Garcia being one of the promotion’s biggest fighters, he isn’t fighting anywhere but DAZN. Meanwhile, Davis is tied to Premier Boxing Champions through Mayweather Promotions and will almost certainly only fight on Showtime or Fox PPV. Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza said in June he could not foresee a deal to have the fight air on both networks.
“Candidly, I don’t know what DAZN brings to the table, to be completely honest,” Espinoza said. “I understand what UFC brought to the table in [Floyd] Mayweather-[Conor] McGregor. I understand what HBO brought to the table in Mayweather-[Manny] Pacquiao. I don’t understand what DAZN brings to the table. It’s not a big enough fight to split up five different ways.”
With that in mind, the question becomes: What is next for Garcia should he get by Fortuna as expected? The answer is likely Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr., a man with whom Garcia has plenty of history.
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Garcia was originally set to face Fortuna in July 2021, but Garcia withdrew from the fight to take time away from the sport and address his mental health. Diaz stepped in for Garcia and scored a competitive decision win in his debut at 135 pounds, immediately calling for a fight with Garcia.
A fight was signed between the pair to meet in November, but Garcia withdrew from a fight yet again, this time to have surgery on an injured hand. Diaz instead ended up in the ring with WBC titleholder Devin Haney, losing a decision in a fight where he proved he could be competitive against, if not quite topple, the elite of the lightweight division. Haney went on to claim the undisputed title in June by thumping George Kambosos.
Diaz was then in attendance at Garcia’s return fight in April, a dominant if awkward victory over Emmanuel Tagoe. Speaking on DAZN after the fight, Diaz was quite critical of Garcia and his willingness to truly challenge him.
“I’m the type of guy that will never dodge or duck anybody, and if Ryan Garcia wants to sign the contract, and I sign the contract, we can get it going,” Diaz said. “But it’s going to be hard for myself and big fighters and dogs at the 135-pound division to get in the ring with a guy like Ryan Garcia. I feel like he doesn’t have that heart to be in there with the big dogs.”
While it would be disappointing for many fans to see Garcia in with Diaz next, it is a valid fight against a tough former world champion. The fight would also provide a direct comparison between Haney and Garcia via a common opponent.
Hopefully, in 2023 boxing will see the politics shift enough that the battle between Davis and Garcia can be made. It would be a great fight for boxing and a compelling clash between two legitimately talented young stars in a loaded division. And, if not, both men should stop calling the other out for a fight that simply isn’t going to happen unless it becomes so massive their respective promotional interests have no other option.
Still, one can expect that in the process of the fight not happening in the immediate future, both Davis and Garcia will continue kicking the ball of blame back and forth, something Garcia already started during a media call earlier in the week when he said, “I think it’s quite obvious where we are headed once we pass Fortuna. I am going to campaign for the fight against Gervonta Davis.”
“I’m not desperate to fight him. I’m hungry to show the world that I’m the best fighter in the division. I feel like he’s the best fighter other than myself in the division, and with speed, power and accuracy and IQ, I think he’s up there. But I’m just that much better and I’m gonna separate myself from him and I’m gonna make it look very easy when I’m in the ring with him and I’m just eager to show people that I’m more than meets the eye, that I’m really a much better fighter than you perceive it as and when you’re in the ring with me, you’ll feel it right away.”
While there will be obvious disappointment in Davis vs. Garcia not coming together, both from the fans and the fighters, a fight between Garcia and Diaz would be an acceptable fight should Garcia get past Fortuna on Saturday. But, after Fortuna and Diaz, Garcia and his team will need to find ways to make fights against the elite at 135 and to take the risks that will ultimately prove his place in the sport.