03 January 2021 02:47
Ryan Garcia proved Saturday night he's more than a social media star. With a vicious left hook to the body, Ryan Garcia made a resounding statement to the boxing world with a seventh-round knockout of Luke Campbell. It was the biggest step up in Garcia's career, and early on it looked like he might have bit off more than he could chew as Campbell dropped him in the second round with a left hook. But Garcia overcame being knocked down for the first time in his career, and his power and speed were too much for Campbell. Garcia's win immediately brings to mind potential megafights against Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Devin Haney.
Garcia wasted no time calling out Davis, saying "I'm a man of my word. I'm ready." A Garcia-Davis bout would be one of the biggest fights in boxing. ESPN analysts Cameron Wolfe and Ben Baby debate what we've learned about Garcia and how he stacks up against the champions and top contenders in the lightweight division. Wolfe: This was the hurdle Garcia needed to conquer before I could put him in the conversation with Lopez and Davis. He's proved to me that he's a fighter--especially getting up from being dropped to come back and badly beat a game Campbell--and that's a requirement to get in the ring with Lopez and Davis.
I walk away feeling better about Garcia's boxing ability living up to his star-like persona and fanbase. Let me turn it over to you, Ben. Did Garcia show you enough to beat Lopez, Davis or Haney? Lopez's win over Vasiliy Lomachenko was still more impressive for me given Lomachenko's status as arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. But I'm still not sold on Davis and I certainly don't know if Haney has the firepower to keep up with the other top young champions who are on the rise. Ryan Garcia, left, recovered from an early knockdown to defeat Luke Campbell by TKO. His social media followers are an easy joke for hardcore boxing fans, but the widespread appeal that Garcia has with Gen Z is exactly what the sport needs to expand its viewer base and rebound from a sport lacking superstar power since Floyd Mayweather retired. As much as we salivate over the long overdue Terence Crawford-Errol Spence Jr. fight, there's an argument made that Garcia, Lopez and Davis can all surpass them in popularity sooner than later. And this new era of young lions, particularly the lightweight division, seems genuine in fighting the megafights immediately without letting them marinate. This sets up a very fun quartet at the top of the lightweight division with Davis, Lopez, Garcia and Haney. As of right now, I rank them Lopez, Davis, Garcia then Haney. Baby: For me it's Lopez and then Garcia. The win over Luke Campbell did more for me than Tank Davis' win over Leo Santa Cruz. Campbell hasn't been able to beat elite guys, but he's lost to fighters who are all arguably better than Haney. If I could have one New Year's resolution for boxing, it would be that all these young lions live up to their word and clash it out with the other young lions without letting these bouts marinate. Lopez and Garcia seem more than willing, given their most recent fights. ON the back of a tough year for every sport, our star columnist CARL FRAMPTON and boxing correspondent DAVID KELLY make their predictions for an exciting 2021, which will hopefully see the return of sell-out crowds to the sport. Teofimo Lopez: Lopez is well known within boxing circles and 2020 was his breakout year because of his victory over Vasyl Lomachenko, but over the next 12 months he could become an absolute superstar. There are many big fights that could be made and near the end of the year I would love to see him move up to light-welterweight. Gervonta Davis: Davis has been a big name for a while in boxing and the victory over Leo Santa Cruz raised his profile even more, though he was expected to win. This year he can become a huge star if the right fights are made. Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Vasyl Lomachenko can all provide the platform for him to really take off. Naya Inoue: WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Inoue made the smart move of linking up with Bob Arum in America so he now has the base to become a massive star. Arum can deliver the unification fights at bantam and also push him towards world honours at super-bantam and featherweight. Errol Spence: Welterweight kingpin Spence proved his class once again at the end of 2020 with his win over Danny Garcia on his return to the ring after a serious car crash and now Spence can look ahead to a very exciting 2021. Everyone in the sport wants to see him face Terence Crawford to decide who is the undisputed 10st 7lb No.1 but before that don't be surprised if he faces WBA champion Manny Pacquiao. Teofimo Lopez: At just 23, Teofimo Lopez is one of boxing's stars on the back of his win over Vasyl Lomachenko, and there is no reason why he cannot become an even bigger name this year. Holder of the WBO, IBF and WBA titles, a unification fight with Devin Haney, who has the WBC belt, would be the perfect way to enhance his standing even further. A step up to light-welterweight before the end of the year would not be a surprise and he will at some point be a two-weight champion. Josh Taylor: Due to the pandemic, 2020 was essentially a wash-out for Taylor, who won the World Boxing Super Series in 2019 when he defeated Regis Prograis. I expect Taylor to become undisputed champion and then defeat Jack Catterall in an all-British dust-up and be a global star. Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua: We've all been wanting to see Fury take on Joshua for a number of years and while Spence-Crawford is my No.1 fight for 2021, this one would be a close runner-up. Tyrone McKenna v Lewis Ritson: Tyrone McKenna finished the year with a disappointing, narrow defeat to Ohara Davies in the Final of the Golden Contract, but the Belfast man could bounce right back with a battle against WBA intercontinental light-welterweight champion Lewis Ritson. McKenna insists he doesn't want to slip back to non-title bouts and a fight with Englishman Ritson would be one for all fans to savour as their styles would guarantee an all-action clash from the opening bell. James Tennyson v Sean McComb: James Tennyson looks like he is being pushed towards the world scene and at this point is naturally further up the lightweight ladder than fellow Belfast man Sean McComb, who this month fights for the Commonwealth title. It would be an ideal way to finish off 2021 with a huge fight between two Belfast men in the SSE Arena. Anthony Cacace v Jo Jo Diaz: Anthony Cacace is one of the most naturally talented Irish fighters of the past 25 years and it would be a shame if he never had the chance to fight for a world title. The Belfast man has to get past Leon Woodstock in a defence of his British title and then there is the possibility of a fight with world-ranked Archie Sharp. Taylor-made duel: The Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez undisputed world light-welterweight title fight happens and Jack Catterall gets the winner after waiting a lifetime to box for the Championship. Promote big fights: 2020 saw a bit more of the top promoters working together but it needs to increase for the sake of the sport, particularly during a pandemic. Bob Arum, Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn and Al Haymon can make a greater effort to deliver the big pay days for their fighters and the bouts fans want to see. In Fra homecoming: Carl Frampton to face WBO world super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring in Belfast's SSE Arena with 2,000 fans allowed in under the necessary Covid restrictions. Conlan's big night: Michael Conlan to finally land his shot at the WBO world super-bantamweight title in Belfast this summer before a big crowd. He can be a world champion this year. A meeting with former world champion Jorge Linares has already been mentioned and that would certainly be a tasty way for him to open up the coming year. A world title opportunity could also come his way and he certainly has the power to trouble anyone he faces at lightweight. Fury Josh too good: The heavyweight blockbuster between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua looks increasingly likely to happen this year — and we may even be treated to two battles between the British heavyweights.