Ryan Garcia is back in the win column.
Whether or not the next step includes his current promotional team is another story.
The star boxer and current junior welterweight hopeful rebounded from his lone career defeat with an eighth-round knockout of Mexico’s Oscar Duarte. The bout’s lone knockdown ultimately produced the end of the fight as referee James Green counted out Duarte at 2:51 of the eighth round in their DAZN main event Saturday evening from Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
“He was tough, I hit him with some hard shots but he kept coming,” Garcia told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after the win. “I started using my legs. Derrick [James, Garcia’s head trainer] was like ‘Man, start using your legs a little bit, it’s gonna open up the shot.’ It literally did that.”
Garcia boxed tall and smart in the opening round under his first fight with James, the 2022 Trainer of the Year. He used the ring and never allowed the normally relentless Duarte to plant his feet and land his power shots. Duarte entered the fight riding an eleven-fight win streak, all by knockout.
Duarte enjoyed his first moment of success in round two. Garcia left out his jab and his right hand low, which created an opportunity for Duarte to land a counter left hook. Garcia remained upright and boxed his way through the balance of the round.
A lack of activity from Duarte allowed Garcia to dictate the pace throughout the third. He was committed to the jab but also threw and occasionally landed heavy right hands behind it. Duarte charged forward and trapped Garcia in a corner but was unable to make him pay. Referee James Green warned the Mexican for hitting Garcia in the back late in the round. Garcia connected with a left hook and right hand just before the bell.
Both boxers were warned for low blows in round four. Garcia was the busier fighter and continued to control the range, a concern in the Duarte corner as their urged their charge to dramatically increase his punch output.
The advice took as Duarte enjoyed his highest totals in rounds five and six. Garcia still landed the cleaner blows in the fifth, particularly with his right uppercut which set up long combinations upstairs.
Duarte closed the gap in the sixth and carried over that trend into the seventh. Garcia was able to reestablish his distance and connected with a counter left hook, which Duarte absorbed and continued to charge forward. Garcia began to move more after a body shot by Duarte, a tactic which drew a spattering of boos from what was a pro-Garcia crowd prior to that moment.
That changed in an instant.
A greater commitment to power punching was enough for Garcia to close the show, beginning with a left hook, right hand combination early in round eight. A follow-up by Garcia had Duarte legitimately hurt for the first time in the fight and Garcia didn’t let the moment pass. A perfectly timed left hook set up the rally. Garcia landed an uppercut and left hook as Duarte already began his fall to the canvas.
“I have a killer instinct,” stated Garcia. “Sometimes when I hurt somebody that bad, I just be cracking ‘em. It was a pretty basic technique. Jab, step back. He reaches, I catch him with a counter left hook.”
Duarte remained on a knee all the way to the count of nine. He tried to rise before ‘ten’ but the referee didn’t buy the act and stopped the contest. Duarte briefly protested but had to settle for his first loss in nearly five years as he fell to 26-2-1 (21KOs).
Final punchstats compiled by Compubox saw similar numbers produced but it was Garcia’s power that proved to be the difference. Garcia (24-1, 20KOs) landed 70-of-300 total punches (23.3%), including 55-of-138 power shots (39.9%). Duarte was 69-of-287 overall (24%) and landed and threw more power punches (62-of-175, 35.4%) than Garcia, though all that mattered was the ending.
Garcia claimed his first win in nearly 18 months, when he stopped Javier Fortuna in the sixth round of their junior welterweight clash last July 16 in Los Angeles. He opted to forgo a stay busy fight which would have come this past January 28 versus Mercito Gesta, and instead fast-forwarded to a blockbuster showdown versus Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis.
The financial reward justified the risk though it resulted in Garcia’s first defeat as he was knocked out in the seventh round of their April 22 Showtime Pay-Per-View event.
Garcia was determined to overcome the setback, a process that began with a switch to James, whose stable he joined barely weeks after the event. The move came shortly after Garcia severed ties with Joe Goossen after three fights together.
“Shoutout to Derrick James, Dallas in the house, baby,” said Garcia. “We worked hard. We’re going to build off this and only get better.”
The greater battle, however, came with Golden Boy Promotions, his now estranged promoter. The two landed in a lawsuit earlier this summer but temporarily put aside their differences for Garcia to move forward with his career.
It spilled over into fight week, as both sides took shots at each other. Garcia saved his most direct points for Thursday’s pre-fight press conference, where called to task a pair of Hall of Famers in Golden Boy co-founder and chairman Oscar De La Hoya and managing partner Bernard Hopkins.
That was compartmentalized for fight night.
“It just comes with the territory,” Garcia stated. “I’m a person about moving forward, having a kind heart and showing forgiveness. I just want to show positivity in this world. I said what I said but I have no hard feelings towards nobody. I just want the truth to prevail.”
How much longer they stay together remains to be seen. Garcia won’t let it further stall his career, though. Title aspirations are still the primary goal, and one in particular for the immediate future.
“I told everyone I’m committing to become world champion. If Rollies wants that, bring it on Rollies,” Garcia said, in reference to WBA junior welterweight titlist Rolando Romero (15-1, 13KOs). “I know you talk a lot, let’s get it going. Where you at, Rollies? You got beat up by that old dude (Ismael Barroso), we know what happened. Don’t be trying to fake it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox