Is Ryan Garcia the Next Canelo Alvarez? Oscar De La Hoya Thinks So

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2022

INDIO, CA - MARCH 30: Canelo Alvarez, Ryan Garcia and Oscar De La Hoya posing for the media on March 30, 2019 at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA (Photo by Tom Hogan/Golden Boy/Getty Images)
Tom Hogan/Golden Boy/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This interview took place before the Los Angeles Times reported a woman filed a lawsuit alleging Oscar De La Hoya sexually assaulted her twice in 2020.

A decade ago, Oscar De La Hoya told anyone who would listen that a then-21-year-old Canelo Alvarez would become the biggest thing in boxing.

And based on The Ring's latest pound-for-pound list, he was spot-on correct.

These days, the Golden Boy kingmaker is working 24 hours a day to spread the word that another captivating 20-something, Ryan Garcia, is ready to assume the throne.

The unbeaten Garcia has 18 KOs in 22 bouts and is already on a short list of callouts for nearly every high-profile fighter within 10 pounds of the lightweight division.

Let's not forget, De La Hoya knows exactly what he's talking about.

The 49-year-old from East Los Angeles is an OG ring celebrity, having emerged from Barcelona 30 years ago with an Olympic gold medal that made him a mainstream sports sensation.

Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

He was a champion within 18 months of turning pro, won belts at six weights and retired in 2009 having fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what was then the sport's all-time biggest pay-per-view event.

"I feel like I have a unique perspective having gone through what I went through," De La Hoya told Bleacher Report. "I can tell a fighter what to do and what not to, what works and what doesn't work."

Particularly if the fighter is paying attention.

De La Hoya lost a split decision to Mayweather in the May 2007 fight that drew nearly 2.5 million PPV buys, and he was Alvarez's promoter/mentor when the Mexican met Mayweather six years later in a show that surpassed the earlier fight in net revenue and just missed topping it in terms of buy rate.

Mayweather beat a 22-year-old Alvarez by majority decision—a result that remains Alvarez's lone loss in 60 fights—and it was a challenge De La Hoya never wanted his burgeoning star to take.

"I told him he shouldn't take the fight," De La Hoya said. "It was a bad idea. There was a chance that he could be embarrassed by a guy on Mayweather's level, and that's exactly what happened.

"But he's always going to do what he wants to do. He's a very stubborn person."

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Alvarez was back in the ring six months later and has gone 15-0-1 since while picking up titles in three more weight classes. He'll meet two-time rival Gennadiy Golovkin to complete their trilogy in this year's most anticipated bout in September, but it'll be without De La Hoya—with whom he went through a very public divorce that culminated with a breach of contract lawsuit in September 2020.

A settlement prompted Alvarez's release from De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions a few months later, and the 1992 Olympic champion has since turned his attention to Garcia, whose looks, charisma and talent are augmented by a vast social media presence that's yielded more than a million YouTube subscribers and nearly 9 million Instagram followers.

"Instagram is the new gold medal," De La Hoya said.

But there's something else that makes the new kid appealing as a client, too.

"When you say something to him, he listens," De La Hoya said. "He's a 23-year-old kid who hears what you have to say, and he pays attention to it and he wants to learn. That's a valuable commodity. He listens to me. He listens to (Golden Boy executive) Bernard Hopkins. He values what we say.

"He's got a lot of advantages. The fact that he's so well-known already is absolutely important, and it'll help him build his popularity. He can make boxing fans out of a lot of people who wouldn't be."

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS- APRIL 09: Ryan Garcia (L) throws punches to his opponent Emmanuel Tagoe (R) at their light weight fight at Alamodome April 9, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Tom Hogan/Golden Boy Promotions via Getty Images)
Tom Hogan/Getty Images

Garcia scored the biggest win of his career with a seventh-round stoppage of ex-title challenger Luke Campbell in January 2021, then stepped away to focus on his mental health after going public a few months later about struggles with anxiety and depression. He finally returned to the ring in early April with a clear defeat of veteran Emmanuel Tagoe and was immediately on the mind of 135-pound contender Isaac Cruz following Cruz's win on Errol Spence Jr.'s PPV undercard last weekend.

Predictably, Garcia took to Twitter—where he has more than 80,000 followers—to address the callout.

De La Hoya suggested that fight could happen in July, and, assuming all goes as planned, a significant follow-up with a higher-profile suitor, i.e. Gervonta Davis, would be in play within 12 months.

Davis is currently promoted by Mayweather but has expressed discontent with the relationship.

De La Hoya said a fight with Garcia is doable regardless of Davis' contractual alignment, but it could get a lot easier to make if the fighter is a free agent and able to negotiate his own deals.

But if not Davis, it can be someone else—perhaps Vasyl Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney or George Kambosos, all of whom have already been tied to Garcia through words or deeds.

"There are all kinds of opportunities and options for him," De La Hoya said. "The sky's the limit."

"He can be the biggest star in boxing. It's not the same way I got there or the same way others have gotten there. And he's willing to do the things and put in the work that it'll take to get there."

Once there, he even suggested a dream match with Alvarez was in play, should both he and Garcia stay on their tracks for the next five or six years.

By then, Alvarez would be in his mid-30s, while Garcia—who stands two inches taller and has a comparable reach—would be in his late 20s and should have moved up and been successful at multiple weights.

Alvarez started his career as a 139-pound teenager in 2005 and will fight at 175 in early May.

"It could be the biggest pay-per-view event ever," De La Hoya said. "Without a doubt."

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

He'd certainly know.

Of the 29 boxing matches in history that have posted seven-figure buy rates, De La Hoya had a role in precisely 11 of them—four as a fighter, four as Alvarez's promoter and three more working with Victor Ortiz, Miguel Cotto and Robert Guerrero in their unsuccessful fights against Mayweather.

He founded Golden Boy Promotions while still an active fighter in 2002 and has maintained full-time contact with the sport since a TKO loss to Manny Pacquiao in his final bout in 2008.

It's that connection, he said, that spurred talk about a ring comeback last summer at age 48.

De La Hoya was set to meet ex-MMA champion Vitor Belfort in a boxing match at Staples Center in Los Angeles but contracted COVID-19 and pulled out several days before the September 11 date. Ex-heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, then 58, stepped in and was knocked out in just 109 seconds.

Seven months later, however, that itch has been scratched.


"It's not the same anymore," De La Hoya said. "I have to have the mental edge and the spark to want to do it, and it's not there now. Getting sick really took the legs out from under me and set me back to square one. I do 30 minutes of cardio now and I'm dying. So it's not something I'm thinking about right now.

"But anything's possible. You can never say never."