De La Hoya: Garcia Needed This Fight To Prove He Belongs With The Elite

DALLAS—A less experienced promoter would’ve watched their life flash before their eyes after witnessing hit the deck the way Ryan Garcia did in his latest crossroads bout.

Oscar de la Hoya had flashbacks witnessing the moment in real time, though not in a bad way—in fact, drawing experience from his own Hall of Fame-led career in remaining confident that Garcia would prevail. The 22-year old would do just that, recovering from a 2nd round knockdown to drop and stop England’s Luke Campbell in the 7th round of their interim lightweight title fight Saturday evening at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

“Ryan did what every great champion does—he got right back up and closed the show,” de la Hoya told BoxingScene.com. “I was down several times at the same point in my career as Ryan is at now in his career. Just like he did (on Saturday night), I got up in those fights and came back to win.

“Watching Ryan get dropped, obviously you get a little worried. The fact that he got up right away and finished the way he did—he became a man in the ring at that very moment.”

Garcia had never been down prior to Saturday evening, and in fact has been tearing through competition. The rising young star from Victorville, California had fought just nine total minutes of ring time in his past three starts over the last two years prior to meeting Campbell, who has been down before but never stopped in 23 previous starts.

That changed by night’s end for Campbell, though not going down without a fight. A perfectly placed overhand left by the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time title challenger sent Garcia to the canvas midway through round two and the pro-Garcia crowd into a brief state of shock.

“The way he was able to get up, we knew it was a flash knockdown,” insists De La Hoya. “But it was a scary flash knockdown! It was a vicious (left hand), a really vicious shot. I don’t think many fighters can get up from that.”

Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) did just that, while also accomplishing what Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko before him failed to do while they reigned as lightweight titlists—put away Campbell avoid the scorecards. With the win—Garcia’s fifth straight knockout_comes the type of statement making performance that de la Hoya and the Golden Boy Promotions team needed to witness firsthand before pushing forward with fights versus the elite lightweights.

“That’s all there is to it. He became a man (on Saturday night),” insists de la Hoya. “He needed this fight for validation. He needed this fight to prove to the boxing world that he belongs with the elite

“He passed with flying colors (on Saturday night). It was an A+ performance as far as we’re concerned.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox