Ryan Garcia believes that the toughest fight of his career has only made him more dangerous.
In January of last year, Garcia won a vacant interim WBC lightweight title with a seventh-round TKO of Luke Campbell, but victory did not come easily. Campbell scored a knockdown of Garcia in the second round of the contest, putting Garcia on the canvas for the first time in the 23-year-old’s career.
Garcia (22-0, 18 KOs) returns to action this Saturday when he fights Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1, 15 KOs)) in San Antonio and he views the Campbell fight as a valuable learning experience.
“I learned two things,” Garcia said on The MMA Hour. “One, I learned how to react if I ever got dropped because I never got dropped in a real fight in my life and I kind of imagined that’s how it would be, I would come at the person like, alright, now we’re really fighting.
“And then second, I didn’t even need to start off that fast off of Campbell. I could have probably just broken him down at a slower pace even from the get-go because if you watch the fight I started off super quick. Put him on the back foot right away, but that was the two things. Patience, because I’m a natural born boxer, puncher, I didn’t need to press the fight so quickly on the get-go and then second, how I’d react and that’s how I imagined. So I feel good that I know that if somebody brings that out of me, just start running because I’m gonna come at you.”
The more aggressive side of Garcia may come out against Tagoe, especially given that the Ghanaian fighter has been open about questioning Garcia’s abilities in the lead-up to the fight. In a recent interview with The Boxing Voice, Tagoe said that he expects to defeat Garcia “easily.”
Garcia welcomes the trash talk, though the more he hears from Tagoe the more eager he becomes to shut him up in the ring.
“I don’t know what to believe,” Garcia said. “I’ve watched him fight and normally I would want to talk s*** back but I don’t need to. Whatever’s gonna happen to him I already know. No words are gonna change the fact of how I handle him in that ring April 9. So I’m gonna let him get everything off his chest, let him have his moment, let him enjoy himself, but in the ring just know that he could be called the ‘The Gameboy’ but it’s about to be game over. I’m not here to play games, I’m running right through him and the more he laughs the more I’m gonna be punching, I promise that.”
“I’m competitive so once you get under my skin a little bit, it gets worse,” he added. “So don’t be surprised in that ring if I really punish him.”
Prior to the Tagoe booking, much of the conversation surrounding Garcia’s future was how he would handle his internal struggles as he has been open about taking time off from fighting to tend to his mental health.
However, Garcia wants it to be known that regardless of what he may have been dealing with in his personal life, his professional goals remained the same.
“No, no, no,” Garcia said when asked if he considered retirement. “No chance. No, because it wasn’t about boxing, not at all. It had nothing to do with boxing. I love boxing. It’s all I’ve done my whole life. It was everything outside of fighting that was probably the sole reason of why I was feeling the way I felt. Now that I’ve matured and I’ve realized a lot of things, I feel so much better. Really, it’s about being great in all terms of your life, not only in the ring and how you train, but great in how you handle yourself outside.”
“It’s really the things that you surround yourself with and the environment,” he continued. “If you want to be great inside the ring, you have to be great on the outside of the ring so I removed a lot of the stuff in my life that maybe wasn’t affecting my boxing career but it was affecting me mentally and spiritually so I definitely got rid of a few things.”
With his admission of his struggles came criticism, some of which got under Garcia’s skin. But overall, he’s glad that talking about mental health was not only helpful to him, but to others as well.
“It wasn’t really difficult for me because of my personality,” Garcia said. “I’m very open and I’m very transparent with a lot of things, but I think it was hard to hear the backlash that I received and all the negative things that were said about me and the character I am as a fighter. So that was a little hard.
“Other than that, it’s good because of all the things that came out of it and all the people that have came up to me and said I’ve helped them through their own troubles by speaking up. There’s a lot of benefits to what happened and I’m happy with the decision I made to publicly come out and say that I was struggling.”