Should we anticipate to take anything away from Saturday’s much-anticipated lightweight showdown in Dallas, it’s whether Ryan Garcia is merely a popular young boxer with nearly eight million Instagram followers or a 22-year-old fighter who is ready — right now — to take over the sport.
Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) will face his stiffest test to date inside American Airlines Center (3 p.m. ET on DAZN, sign up now) against 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time title challenger Luke Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) in a bout, originally scheduled for December, that was pushed back after the 33-year-old native of England tested positive for COVID-19.
With his boyhood charm and prolific social media output, Garcia has made a name for himself in recent years as a prominent self marketer and potential future star. But after joining the camp of Canelo Alvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso two years ago, Garcia has made a much more serious push toward relevancy.
Garcia has followed a disappointing 2018 majority decision win over Carlos Morales with four straight knockouts and now has added tough talk to match his lightning quick hands and sharp combinations.
“I’m going to be the best fighter in the world for this next era,” Garcia said during the teleconference to promote the fight. “This is probably how it was supposed to be written. This is how the stars are aligning. I get everybody around the whole world to watch and this is what I have always wanted to do, which is inspire the whole world. This is the perfect opportunity to do it.
“Luke Campbell, it’s inevitable for him. He’s just going to get his ass whooped. Whether it’s December or Jan. 2, his fate is the same.”
The move to a more brash persona highlighted by trash talk is something that’s new for Garcia, who has long been targeted by top names in the sport who have assumed, given his matinee idol looks, that he’s nothing by a pretty boy. But Garcia can fight and he has taken issue with the confidence that the 33-year-old Campbell has shown throughout the build to this weekend’s bout.
“I feel very disrespected by Luke,” Garcia said. “All that disrespect, all that hate, and all that envy is going to blind him. Luke is just the first one. I feel bad for Luke. He’s just the first one of my opponents that’s going to get it bad. I’m older, stronger, and coming into myself. I already felt I was coming into myself for the [Francisco] Fonseca fight. I was on a roll and ready to takeover. God said how it was supposed to be. I cannot wait to punish Luke Campbell. I want to break his eye. I want to break his bones. I want to break everything off of him.”
Despite failing to capture a world title, Campbell has come painfully close in decision losses to both Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko in which he fought tough and, in the case of a razor-thin loss to Linares, had a case for a win.
“I believe I’m coming into my prime now and everything that has happened to me in the past has prepared me for where I am today,” Campbell said. “I believe I am going to win this fight and represent.
“I’ve got to go in there and not make any mistakes and be the best I can be. I believe me being the best I can be can beat anyone in the lightweight division.”
Campbell’s only other pro defeat in a split decision against Yvan Mendy in 2015 was avenged three years later. Garcia, for one, hasn’t been impressed. He has also been outspoken against those who believe Campbell’s experience will be too much for him.
“I don’t even know what they are talking about. What experience does he have?” Garcia said. “Every time he stepped up, he lost. He even lost to a guy we never heard of. Who is Yvan Mendy? He talks a lot of shit saying he’s going to KO me but, to be honest, anytime there was someone who shouldn’t have been in the ring with me, I got him out of there real quick.
“I’m going to prove that Luke Campbell don’t have it and it’s my time and my era. I’m ready to show the world who I am. I’m not here to play games. I’m tired of hearing all the misconceptions about me on Instagram. They don’t know the work I put him.”
Should Garcia run through Campbell with the ease in which he has knocked out Francisco Fonseca and Romero Duno in recent fights, it would certainly put the boxing world on notice about his future. Although Garcia has been established as the betting favorite, there is plenty of reason to believe Campbell will be enough to severely test Garcia, if not play spoiler to his future plans.
From Garcia’s perspective, it’s all talk. He wants to show the world he’s ready for big-name opponents such as Gervonta “Tank” Davis and believes stopping Campbell will be the first step in securing those fights.
“I’m not worried about Luke, he has no challenges for me. All he got is pitter-patter punches and amateur stye punches,” Garcia said. “None of that is going to save him. The moment he feels my shots, he’s going to start backing up. I’ll figure it out from there and I’ll start surgically beating him down. I’m going to punish him and then go on to fight ‘Tank.’ I’m not even worried about Luke Campbell.
“I want to conquer this division. I make this weight pretty easily, I’m a disciplined person. I can make this weight for as long as I want to make it. My goal is to defeat Teofimo Lopez, to knock out Gervonta Davis and to beat Devin Haney so whatever order it is, I’m here to conquer this division and become the biggest superstar in boxing.”
Elsewhere on this card, a pair of fighting brothers take center stage when Rene and Felix Alvarado return to the ring. Rene Alvarado, the WBA (regular) super featherweight champion, is scheduled to take on Roger Gutierrez. The larger of the twin brothers boasts an impressive eight-fight win streak. This will be his first fight since stopping Andrew Cancio in November 2019. Meanwhile, Felix Alvarado will put his IBF junior flyweight title on the line against DeeJay Kriel. He boasts a robust 17-fight streak, but has yet to truly step up to face elite competition.
Fight card, odds
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Ryan Garcia -400 vs. Luke Campbell +310 — WBC interim lightweight title
Rene Alvarado (c) -800 vs. Roger Gutierrez +550 — WBA (regular) super featherweight title
Felix Alvarado (c) -550 vs. DeeJay Kriel +400 — IBF junior flyweight title
How to watch Garcia vs. Campbell
Date: Jan. 2 | Start Time: 3 p.m. ET (main event around 6 p.m. ET) Location: American Airlines Center — Dallas TV/Stream: DAZN (sign up now for $19.99/month)
Make no mistake, this is the fight that will tell us exactly how good Garcia is. Campbell is a big lightweight, a southpaw and comes in with an extensive amateur background. His footwork is elite and his power, while not overwhelming, has the potential to hurt Garcia as the fight rolls on.
The key will be how well Campbell does to handle Garcia’s speed and whether he can counter clean enough to force “KingRy” into a posture opposite the one he will enter with — as a cocky finisher looking to walk Campbell down.
If Campbell isn’t overwhelmed by the powerful combinations, the result should be a fairly deep referendum on just how good Garcia’s toughness and adaptability truly are. These are traits he hasn’t had to show much of once he has stepped up in class, largely because he has finished his recent opponents so early.
The great unknown for Campbell is how much the tutelage of Reynoso and the mentoring of Alvarez have gone in improving Garcia’s boxing IQ. Reynoso’s reputation as a smart game planner who preaches defensive responsibility as a means to produce efficient offensive surges is a dangerous combination for Garcia opponents to tackle given his speed and explosiveness.
One could just as easily imagine Garcia forcing a surprising stoppage by steamrolling him as one could Campbell being stingy enough to suffocate Garcia’s output and push this fight into the later rounds. Yet if there’s any tell to be found in Garcia’s recent shift from cocky to alarmingly confident, there’s a fear for Campbell that maybe Garcia knows something he doesn’t.
Maybe the flashes of brilliance Garcia has shown against lesser competition will carry along with him as he steps up in class because he really is that special. It’s the reason this fight remains so intriguing and the same reason oddsmakers like Garcia to live up to the hype.
Adam Zampa picked up 5 for 17 in a match totally dominated by Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 2 for 179 (Fletcher 89*, Valente 1-36) beat Adelaide Strikers 68 (Zampa 5-17) by 111 runs
Andre Fletcher has repaid Melbourne Stars’ faith in him with a stunning 89 not out before Adam Zampa claimed 5 for 17 to set up a huge 111-run victory over Adelaide Strikers at the MCG.
The Strikers were bowled out for just 68 chasing 180, their lowest total in BBL history, the third-lowest overall, and it was also the fourth-largest defeat by any team.
Fletcher had not passed 18 in the first nine matches in the tournament but he overcame a lack of strike in the first 10 overs to reach his first half-century in T20 cricket in more than 12 months before destroying the Strikers’ quicks in the Power Surge to set up a match-winning total of 2 for 179.
Fletcher revealed he received a phone call of encouragement from West Indies great Brian Lara a few days earlier, which inspired his innings.
He got good support from Glenn Maxwell (37 off 28) and Hilton Cartwright (30 not out off 17), though Cartwright’s innings possibly cost him a century. The Strikers attack lacked penetration without Rashid Khan and Peter Siddle, although Liam O’Connor and Daniel Worrall bowled tidily.
The Strikers then succumbed to the Stars’ spin trio as they raced through the overs with rain looming on the radar. Maxwell and Zahir Khan set it up in the Powerplay and finished with 4 for 31 from eight overs combined. Zampa then finished the job as the rain began to fall claiming his second T20 five-wicket haul.
It was a bizarre innings from Marcus Stoinis. He admitted to the media on Thursday that he had been struggling with how to build an innings under the new rules, having at times gone too hard in the four-over Powerplay and he even revealed he forgot about the Power Surge in the last game. Fletcher’s lean tournament has no doubt also played a part in his indecision. Stoinis faced 14 dots in total including 10 in Worrall’s first two overs. He has the confidence he can catch up but he never did, holing out to long-off to a borderline waist-high full toss from Danny Briggs for 13 off 26.
Fletcher faced just 15 balls and reached his highest total of the tournament of 22 while Stoinis was at the crease. Maxwell walked out at No.3 and avoided his third consecutive golden duck, but the Stars crawled to 1 for 57 after 10 overs with O’Connor stepping into Rashid’s enormous shoes and bowling and excellent four-over spell. However, he wasn’t able to take any wickets to expose the Stars’ middle order. Maxwell and Fletcher opted not to take the Power Surge despite both men being set at the start of the 15th over and Maxwell holed out to long-on at an inopportune time.
Spiceman runs hot
Fletcher hadn’t reached fifty in his last 30 T20 innings dating back to his century in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2019. Here, he got to his 50 off 36 balls at the end of the 16th and the relief on his face was palpable. The Stars took the Power Surge and Fletcher filled his boots. He torched Wes Agar and Worrall for four fours and two sixes as both quicks got their lengths horribly wrong delivering a mix of full tosses and length balls. Fletcher delivered a contemptuous no-look strike off Worrall over the long-on off the last ball of the Surge.
He was 82 not out with 12 balls left in the innings but only faced two more. Cartwright made 30 not out off 17 balls with two sixes, two fours, and three twos leaving Fletcher to watch at the other end. Fletcher finally got on strike last ball of the innings and deposited Briggs over the sightscreen. He was emotional as he walked off the ground and received a lengthy embrace from his skipper Maxwell. He later revealed that the emotion was for his late uncle.
Rain rush wrecks Strikers
With rain looming on the radar, Maxwell decided to race through three overs of spin in the Powerplay to get through five overs as quickly as possible. The gamble paid huge dividends as the Strikers slumped to 2 for 10. Alex Carey promoted himself to open with Phil Salt and both men fell cheaply. Salt gloved an attempted reverse sweep off Zahir to the keeper while Carey was clean bowled trying to launch Maxwell over long-on. Maxwell kept the spin attack rolling bowling just two overs of pace in the first 10 as the Stars defended just 57 to claim the Bash Boost point. Matt Renshaw and Jon Wells did not score a boundary off the spinners with Renshaw holing out to Zampa in the 10th over.
Zampa shrugs off shoulder concern
Zampa hurt his shoulder diving in the field and had to spend some time sitting on the dug-out when he wasn’t bowling. But it didn’t affect his legspin as he put on another masterclass. The damage had been done by Maxwell and Zahir but Zampa was still needed to close out the 10th over and secure the Bash Boost point. He was far too good for the Strikers tail claiming four of the last five wickets.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
Kaprizov’s OT winner lifts Wild past Kings in season opener
LOS ANGELES — Kirill Kaprizov scored his first NHL goal with 1:13 remaining in overtime and finished with three points as the Minnesota Wild rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.
The 23-year-old Russian scored on a breakaway, putting the puck past Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick. Kaprizov, who is the third Russian-born player to make his NHL debut with the Wild, also had a pair of assists. He was a fifth-round selection by Minnesota in 2015 before signing a two-year, entry-level contract last summer.
Minnesota trailed 3-1 after two periods before rallying. Jonas Brodin, Victor Rask and Marcus Foligno also scored for the Wild. Cam Talbot made 32 saves in his Minnesota debut.
Dustin Brown scored his 300th goal, Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist and Andreas Athanasiou also scored for Los Angeles. Quick stopped 23 shots.
Brown got his milestone goal with 2:55 remaining in the second on the power play with a wrap-around that put the Kings in front by two goals.
The Kings, who were one of seven teams that missed the playoffs, were playing their first game since March 11. They were the league’s hottest team with seven straight wins before last season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota was playing its first game since Aug. 7, after it lost to Vancouver in four games in the best-of-five qualifying round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Talbot had a rough game in his Wild debut. Talbot, who signed a three-year contract last July, fell to 7-10 in 17 career starts against Los Angeles.
Minnesota G Alex Stalock, along with Los Angeles D Kurtis MacDermid, G Cal Petersen and Sean Walker
The Wild remarked before the game how strange it felt walking through their largely empty hotel across the street from Staples Center, with no activity at the adjacent LA Live complex, either. There was no team meal, just grab-and-go food for coaches and players to take to their rooms and eat on their own.
“I packed a lot more recovery stuff this year,” Talbot said. “More sweatpants. Less jeans. You can’t really go anywhere, so it’s just comfy clothes and stuff to keep you entertained in the room.”
The teams will meet again on Saturday night. Eight of Los Angeles’ first 21 games are against Minnesota and the season series will be wrapped up by the end of February. The Wild are one of four Central Division teams who are part of the reconfigured West Division this season.
“Adjustments will come into play on both sides but saying that these early games are more about us,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan about playing teams in back-to-back games for most of the season. “It is about doing things in our world before picking things apart about other teams.”
Evander Holyfield wants to fight Mike Tyson for a third time: ‘No more excuses’
Evander Holyfield heard about the hype behind a 54-year-old Mike Tyson returning to the ring to fight a 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. and decided that he wanted in on the action. The former undisputed heavyweight champion has called out Iron Mike for one last bout between the two middle-aged men.
“No more excuses,” said Holyfield in a statement, per Reuters. “This is the fight that must happen for both our legacies. Saturday night you said you were ready to fight me, so sign the contract and get in the ring, Tyson. The world is waiting and it’s on you now. I’m ready.”
If there’s anyone who understands the magnitude of the draw these two fighters can still bring, it’s Holyfield. Not only does the boxer keep his ear to the ground on such things, but Tyson once helped it get there in one of their two famous bouts. The first Tyson-Holyfield fight ended in an 11th round TKO for Holyfield, while the second infamously ended when Tyson was disqualified for biting a chunk of Holyfield’s ear off.
Holyfield offered up his services to fight Tyson in his return to the ring, but promoters went with Jones Jr. instead. The 58-year-old appears to be using his being spurned as motivation to get this second comeback fight for Tyson to happen.
“My side tried to make the fight happen and we got nothing but excuses,” Holyfield’s statement continued. “Now I can see why he wanted a tune-up fight before thinking about fighting me. Roy Jones was a good local opponent for Mike but a fight with me would be a global event and the only fight that anyone wants to see is a fight between us.
“There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t make it happen.”