By Mark Elezaj
Ryan Garcia passed his toughest professional test Saturday night, becoming the WBC interim lightweight champion after the 22-year-old superstar knocked out Britain’s Luke Campbell with a left hook to the body.
Saturday nights main event, billed as “Fire and Ice,” saw Garcia come out aggressively looking to end the night early.
Garcia’s hand speed was on display, landing a straight right that hurt Campbell early.
Campbell regrouped and turned things around in the second, landing a huge overhand left that caught Garcia on the chin, knocking him down to the canvas for the first time in his career. Garcia quickly got up and was able to weather the storm, surviving the round.
“I’ve never been dropped in my life,” Garcia said after the fight. “I think I got a little too excited over the moment. I knew I was in control and I wanted to dog him. I wanted to crack him and he cracked me. … I was a little dizzy. I ain’t gonna lie. But it wasn’t that bad.”
In the third, Garcia used his aggressiveness to keep Campbell fighting off of his back foot. Campbell responded well, landing short hooks to the body of Garcia.
In round four, Campbell looked to turn up the action and pushed forward, throwing combinations, but Garcia would answer with a straight right hand of his own. Both men exchanged punches until Garcia landed a left hand followed by two right hands upstairs at the close of the round.
In round 5, Garcia continued to attack Campbell, throwing combinations that landed. Campbell tried to respond but Garcia landed a left hook and right uppercut that sent Campbell stumbling into the ropes. Campbell was saved by the bell.
In the sixth, both fighters enjoyed success at center ring. Garcia landed a straight right while Campbell landed a counter left hand. Garcia would compose himself and go back on the attack, landing a right hand upstairs followed by a left hook to the body.
In Round 7, Garcia connected with a crushing left hook to the body, dropping Campbell took a knee. Campbell was unable to get back to his feet, giving Garcia the knockout victory at the 1:58 mark of the round.
“I think I showed a lot of people who I really am,” Garcia said. “Going into this fight, I wanted to show people that whatever they call you, they wanted to call me a ‘social media fighter’ and a lot of things. Your teacher may call you things, your parents even, anybody who tries to put you down and tell you you can’t become something. Remember, you’re not who people tell you you are. You’re who you choose to be. I chose to be a champion tonight. I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me, even when he dropped me. I got up. It was a good shot. I was cold and he dropped me. I was like, ‘Yo, I got dropped. This is crazy.'”
Garcia said that he’d like to fight Haney, but also said that the fighter he wants the most is Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who holds one of the WBA’s secondary belts and is coming off a knockout victory over Leo Santa Cruz.
“I’m a man of my word,” Garcia said. “Let’s go, Tank. Let’s go. And I see you, Devin Haney. I like him. I want to fight him, too. But I really want to fight Tank. I know people are worried about that one, but I’m ready. I fought an Olympic gold medalist. Lomachenko couldn’t stop him. Linares couldn’t finish him. I showed today that I’m special.”
Campbell l, who falls to 20-4 (16KOs) with the defeat, his second straight, spoke highly of Garcia after the fight.
“He’s very heavy handed. Even when I was blocking the shots, I could feel them, that was the hardest shot I was ever hit with.
“I tried and tried to get up, but I couldn’t. I felt him coming on, and I was moving back, and when you move back my body relaxed a little bit and that’s the exact time he hit me.”
Garcia felt that he was able to prove what he has been saying all along.
“Going into this fight I wanted to show people that you are not what people call you,” insisted Garcia. “You are what you choose to be.
“I chose to be a champion tonight. I didn’t let anything stop me from being a champion tonight. Even when he dropped me, I knew that couldn’t stop me from being champion.”
~ The Fighting Voice ~