By Jason Pribila: The banner hanging above the ring at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, was the silhouette of the “Golden Boy” himself, Oscar De La Hoya. The name on the marquee belonged to Ryan Garcia (14-0, 13 KO), the 19-year-old knockout sensation, who was about to fight his first main event in front of a crowd that seemed very familiar to his promoter.
“The only difference now is you are seeing the little girls of the moms that used to cheer for me,” said De La Hoya.
There is no question that Garcia is attracting a new demographic. If one did not realize that they were watching ESPN, they may have thought they channel surfed to MTV about to discover the new opening act for Bruno Mars.
Fernando Vargas (32-16-3, 24 KO) came out of his corner and tried to immediately land something big on his decade younger foe. When his wild overhand right missed, Vargas relied enough head movement to get inside to land his jab to Garcia’s body.
An admittedly nervous Garcia missed a few lead hooks early, but soon landed a jab of his own, which allowed him to settle down and settle into a rhythm.
Vargas was fighting well enough to inspire guest commentator, De La Hoya to predict that this fight appeared as if it would last several rounds.
Those words had no sooner left De La Hoya’s mouth than Garcia landed a straight right on Vargas’ chin. A moment stunned proved to be a moment too long, and Garcia followed with another blistering right hand / left hook combination that sent Vargas crumbling precariously while his knee bent awkwardly.
No need to count.
Ryan Grant’s first main event went so perfectly that he was able to join the broadcasting team to not only describe his 2:55 of work, but to also announce that he will next be seen on the undercard of Canelo-GGG 2.
Let’s hope Golden Boy matches Garcia tougher as they showcase him on what promises to be a huge pay per view audience, or fans will be forced to listen to Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman attempt to fill 45 minutes by breaking down the pros / cons of consuming tainted meat.
The televised opener featured a welterweight clash that served as a cross-roads fight between Keandre Gibson (18-2-1, 7 KO) and a fighter, who only four years ago was being featured as one of Golden Boy’s prized prospects, Eddie Gomez (21-3, 12 KO)
On January 30, 2014, Golden Boy promoted a fight card in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as a kick-off to Super Bowl Week that was being contested that Sunday down the road in Giants Stadium. Victor Ortiz – Luis Collazo headlined the show, but it was then undefeated Gomez that many in the crowd had paid to see perform.
Gomez was victorious that evening, but he would lose his very next fight. He temporarily rebounded, but his career would hit a low last July when he lost a decision to Alejandro Barrera, a fighter whose straight ahead style would have seemed to have been tailor-made for Gomez.
Prior to this fight Gomez claimed that the loss to Barrera allowed him to reassess his career and the humbled Gomez would now focus on his kids, who were the reason why he was now fighting.
That focus was set to be tested as Gomez was facing a confident fighter in Gibson, whose previous fight in October saw him decision the same Alejandro Barrera.
Both fighters tried to establish their jabs in the opening round. The taller Gibson was a bit busier and slightly more effective in what amounted to a feel-out first frame.
Gomez came off his stool aggressively as round two began and he fired a quick combination at the circling Gibson. Gibson tried to return fire by attempting to fire a double-jab of his own, but he forgot to first pull back his left. Gomez stepped in and landed a perfect right hand, and the fight was suddenly over.
Referee Tony Crebs deserves credit for not allowing Gibson to continue simply because he beat the count. Crebs was in perfect position to see the impact that the right hand had on Gibson’s jaw, and he waved off the bout when Gibson was unable to fully focus after rising from the canvas.
Landing a prefect right hand on national TV is exactly what Gomez’s career needed to be rejuvenated. Hopefully he remains humbled and continues to focus on all opponents as if losing is no longer an option.
Too many times boxing fans dismiss fighters when they lose their “0”. Let’s hope Gomez reminds both fans and fellow fighters that a loss or even losses does not necessarily need to define one’s career.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. He may also be followed on Twitter.com @PribsBoxing