Ryan Garcia didn’t get the knockout finish he sought but took plenty from his comeback fight after more than 15 months away from the ring.

The unbeaten lightweight contender was forced to go twelve rounds for the first time in his career, dominating Ghana’s Emmanuel Tagoe in a lopsided unanimous decision victory. Garcia floored Tagoe in round two but was unable to put away his defensive minded foe, though leaving the Alamodome in San Antonio—which housed the recent DAZN headliner—with the confidence of having the stamina to box over the long haul and to throw his previously injured right hand without fear of going back on the end.

“My hand felt good,” Garcia told BoxingScene.com after his successful ring return. “It’s a little bruised but that’s no big deal. Everyone gets bruised during a fight.  

“I actually felt like I should have had better timing with it, though. I felt the difference with the eight-ounce gloves after getting it right with fourteen-ounce gloves in sparring. I felt myself coming up short a lot.”

Timing issues were expected, given that Garcia (22-0, 18KOs) has not fought since an off-the-canvas, seventh-round knockout of England’s Luke Campbell (20-4, 16KOs) last January 2 in Dallas, Texas. From there came a canceled July 9 fight with Javier Fortuna due to a needed mental health reset, followed by his withdrawal from a planned November 27 clash with Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz after suffering a hand and wrist injury requiring surgery.

Garcia sat out the balance of 2021 as a result, returning to the gym early in the new year and announcing his fight with Tagoe. With it came the reveal of his working with new head trainer Joe Goossen, who replaced Eddy Reynoso after five fights together—all ending in knockout and none deeper than seven rounds.

The seven-week camp with Goossen spent throwing and landing his right hand with confidence in addition to getting in sync with a new lead voice on the corner. The end result was still a lopsided win over a streaking contender in Tagoe who’d won 32 in a row, with plenty to gain from the night and also a lot more to learn.

“I could have done a better job placing my shots and applying smart pressure,” admitted Garcia. “But, I know the hand is good. I know I can go twelve rounds and I’m ready to get back in the gym and just keep getting better and better.”

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