Ryan Garcia has spent most of the past year learning from his mistakes.
How far he will advance under the tutelage of head trainer Derrick James remains to be seen, though their relationship jumped off to a positive start. Garcia won his first fight with the 2022 Trainer of the Year in his corner when he knocked out Mexico’s Oscar Duarte in the eighth round of their December 2 DAZN headliner from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
It marked the first fight for Garcia since his seventh-round knockout defeat to Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (29-0, 27KOs). Their April 22 blockbuster clash in Las Vegas was his first ring appearance in nine months—largely by choice—along with another seven-plus months before he entered the ring this past weekend. That is something he plans to dramatically change in the year ahead.
“I want to get back by March or April,” Garcia insisted. “Inactivity really crushed me.”
It has become far too commonplace for the 25-year-old Victorville, California native.
Garcia (24-1, 20KOs) has spent much of 2023 feuding with Golden Boy Promotions, with whom he signed to a promotional deal in 2016 and extended in September 2019 for a reported additional five years. The two sides remain locked in two-way lawsuit, though that matter was temporarily set aside for the sake of resuming his career.
The contract extension came only after Garcia called Golden Boy to tasked for their attempt to force him into a last-minute fight versus Romero Duno. The desperate effort to salvage his place on a September 2019 show when original opponent Avery Sparrow was apprehended on an outstanding warrant the morning of their weigh-in.
Garcia dropped off the card but signed a lucrative multi-year extension which began with a November 2019 knockout of Duno. He was out of the ring for more than seven months by that point, at the time a career-longest inactive stretch. Garcia scored a first-round knockout, and another in his February 2020 quick hit of Francisco Fonseca.
That bout came just prior to the pandemic, followed by eleven months before his January 2020 knockout win over 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former title challenger Luke Campbell. Injuries left him sidelined for a career-longest 14 months before his triumphant return in a twelve-round win over Emmanuel Tagoe last April in San Antonio, followed by a sixth-round knockout of Javier Fortuna just three months later in Los Angeles.
The opportunity arose for Garcia to take a stay busy fight versus Mercito Gesta on January 28 preceding his superfight versus Baltimore’s Davis. He opted against it, despite Davis’ wise decision to first face Hector Garcia on January 7 since he hadn’t fought since last May. Garcia ultimately went into the biggest fight of his career armed with the second longest layoff of his still promising career.
Seven-plus months between that night and the one on December 2nd was a slight improvement but the year ahead plans to be more productive on that front, if Garcia gets his way.
“I’ve been boxing [as a pro] since I was 17,” noted Garcia, who turned pro in June 2016, two months shy of his 18th birthday. “I’ve had my breaks, a year, a year-and-a-half… you’re not going to become a better boxer that way.”
On Tuesday, Garcia revealed that he instructed his handlers to begin negotiations for a potential showdown with newly crowned WBC junior welterweight champion Devin Haney.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox