The 5 Best Opponents for Ryan Garcia After Win vs. Emmanuel Tagoe

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2022

The 5 Best Opponents for Ryan Garcia After Win vs. Emmanuel Tagoe

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    King Ry has returned to the throne room.

    Social media powerhouse and lightweight contender Ryan Garcia ended a self-imposed 15-month layoff Saturday night with a unanimous decision victory over of rugged veteran Emmanuel Tagoe in the main event of a DAZN-streamed card at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

    Garcia, now 22-0 with 18 KOs, hadn't fought since a body-shot stoppage of Luke Campbell in January 2021 that was followed soon after by his announcement that he'd take a break from boxing to focus on his battles with anxiety and depression.

    He kept his 8.7 million Instagram followers and nearly 1.2 million YouTube subscribers busy with content throughout his hiatus and suggested in the ring after the Tagoe victory that big events would soon follow.

    The B/R combat sports team used the opportunity to create a list of fighters who we think would make the best opponents for Garcia's next appearance, which is likely to come before the end of 2022.

    Click through to see what we came up with and leave a comment or two with views of your own.

5. Vasyl Lomachenko

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    Not too long ago, this would have been the fight to get.

    The Ukrainian-born Lomachenko entered the final few months of 2020 as the top man at 135 pounds as he prepped for a unification bout against a certainly talented but equally untested Teofimo Lopez.

    Twelve surprising rounds later, The Matrix was a former champion.

    He still is as spring 2022 arrives, but he's won two straight bouts since and was on the verge of a title shot against Lopez's conqueror, George Kambosos Jr., but pulled out amid the war in his home country.

    His status remains in question these days, but a late-year return could coincide nicely with Garcia's follow-up to the Tagoe victory and would provide both a chance to elevate their championship possibilities.

    The 23-year-old talked up the possibility during an appearance on the Boxing With Chris Mannix podcast (h/t Boxing Scene), saying: "It's just gonna be a fun fight. He's going to be very wary with my s--t. He knows. And I have to watch out for his pressure and his technical abilities. I will be looking forward to that."

4. Teofimo Lopez

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    Here's another where a year makes a lot of difference.

    Lopez was riding a tidal wave of public acclaim in the afterglow of his upset of Lomachenko and emerged from the pandemic layoff with what figured to be a routine defense against a rugged but limited Kambosos.

    Twelve rounds later, he was a former champion.

    Lopez was dropped, bloodied and humbled by the Australian with Greek roots, though he's still having problems accepting the split-decision loss as anything more than the product of a corrupt system bent on pushing better-connected fighters to the front of the championship line.

    Garcia's promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, has been titillated by the prospect of a Garcia-Lopez fight for quite a while, suggesting on Instagram Live last fall that Lopez would win an imminent match but adding that his man would be ready to secure a victory with another year's worth of experience.

    And create what in his estimation would be a historic rivalry.

    "Ryan has the skill and the talent to beat him," he said (h/t Boxing Scene). "Both guys can create a trilogy and f--king incredible, freaking amazing fights for us in boxing."

3. George Kambosos Jr.

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    Now here's one precisely no one saw coming.

    Prior to entering the ring to face Lopez last November, Kambosos had run up a pristine 19-0 record with 10 KOs but hadn't beaten anyone on a level that got many people excited outside his native country.

    But the night in midtown Manhattan changed his life forever.

    "Ferocious" emerged from the fight as a popular and respected commodity and has since parlayed his three-belt acquisition into a title unification with Devin Haney that's scheduled for June 5 in Melbourne, Australia.

    He's a +155 underdog (bet $100, win $155) to defeat the unbeaten American, but should he pull off a second straight surprise, it'd be no shock to see Garcia race to the front of the line to get the next shot.

    "I will show him that he does not belong in the ring with me," he said on the Boxing With Chris Mannix podcast (h/t Boxing Scene). "I will get him out of there. For sure. And I'm not just talking like Teofimo. I'm actually going to do it."

2. Devin Haney

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Here's the second half of the condition laid out in slide three.

    If Kambosos defeats Haney when they get together in early June, it'll be him who's in line to fight Garcia.

    But if chalk holds and Haney, an unbeaten pro and a -190 favorite, comes through, the prospect of a championship duel between two 20-something Americans with pristine records becomes an extravaganza.

    Still just 23, Haney took the patient road to the WBC title he now owns, turning pro in 2015 and holding the Mexico-based organization's second-tier belt after a defeat of Alfredo Santiago in late 2019.

    He was elevated to the top belt a year later and has since won three times, defeating Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares and Joseph Diaz by wide unanimous decisions.

    The social media rivals have frequently jawed back and forth in cyberspace, and Garcia said after the Diaz fight in December that he'd be simply too much for Haney to handle.

    "I definitely feel like I'm better than him. I know I'm better than him," he said (h/t Bad Left Hook).

    "Haney is pretty good, but the last two fights, for me, I kinda feel like I'm too explosive, too fast for Haney. And my shots are definitely stronger than the people he's fought. So anything could happen in that fight, he could move, he could do whatever, but I know that I'll catch him and we'll see how he reacts. And even if he doesn't react like that, I definitely have the skills to beat him."

1. Gervonta Davis

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    You want a fight that could create a generation of boxing fans?

    This might be it.

    Garcia and Davis are both in their 20s, both active on social media, both unbeaten in their careers and both steered by promotional powerhouses in De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., respectively.

    Oh, and their styles—Garcia is a stalker with hand speed, Davis is a smart counterpuncher with power—seem to be a perfect match as well. Add in the fact that they seem to have a genuine enmity for one another and it's a match made in pay-per-view heaven.

    Davis has a fight scheduled in May to defend his second-tier WBA bauble at lightweight, but a fight with Garcia would be far bigger than sanctioning body recognition anyway.

    "The perfect scenario is Ryan Garcia versus Tank Davis, right?" De La Hoya told TMZ Sports. "And the crazy part is that Floyd Mayweather is Tank Davis' promoter and I'm Ryan Garcia's promoter, so it will be—imagine me and Floyd putting on the gloves after Ryan and Tank. It would be the Super Bowl of boxing.

    "I would love to get that fight done in 2022."

    So would we, Oscar. So would we.


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