Although it was far from perfect, Ryan Garcia reminded boxing fans of his explosiveness on Saturday as the junior welterweight star successfully rebounded from the first defeat of his career.
Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs), despite a fight week soaked in drama amid a war of words with his own promoters, showed no mercy to Mexican slugger Oscar Duarte (26-2-1, 21 KOs) in an eighth-round TKO inside the Toyota Center in Houston.
Not only did the victory mark the 25-year-old Garcia’s return to the win column just eight months removed from his knockout loss to Gervonta Davis in their pay-per-view blockbuster, it also marked a successful debut of his new partnership with 2022 trainer of the year Derrick James, who became Garcia’s third head coach in as many years.
“It was a great performance but I just want to give honor to God and give him the glory,” Garcia said. “I fought hard to find myself again. I did a lot of soul searching and I just wanted to thank him.
“[Duarte] was a strong fighter. He took a good punch. He’s a Mexican fighter like me and he’s tough. I hit him with some hard shots but he just kept coming. I started using my legs, just as Derrick told me to between rounds, and it opened up the shots.”
Garcia’s ability to focus was impressive considering the potential distraction of his nasty feud with Golden Boy Promotions, which geared up to an all-new level at Thursday’s final press conference when Garcia, Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins took turns airing out their private laundry.
“It just comes with the territory,” Garcia said. “I am a person about moving forward and having a kind heart and showing forgiveness so I just keep it at that. I want to show positivity in this world. I said what I said but I hold no hard feelings.”
Despite the highlight-reel finish to the fight, which began when Garcia stung Duarte with a beautiful check left hook in Round 8, the total sum of Garcia’s comeback performance was a mixed bag.
While it’s certainly a result that could be excused for the first fight of a new relationship between trainer and fighter, Garcia continued to show puzzling (and potentially dangerous) reactions to Duarte’s pressure and spent most of the middle rounds avoiding exchanging of any kind as the crowd booed Garcia’s constant movement.
Yet, the very thing that makes Garcia so dynamic — the lethal combination of his speed and power — exploded virtually out of nowhere in Round 8 to instantly combust a close fight. After hurting Duarte badly with his counter left hook, Garcia exploded with combinations to eventually drop Duarte.
Even though Duarte was able to beat the count, referee James Green didn’t like the look in his eyes and waved off the fight at 2:51 of the round.
“I have a killer instinct,” Garcia said. “Sometimes, when I am hurting somebody that bad, I am just cracking them. But I caught him with a perfect left hook.
“I just had to slow his momentum down. He was building momentum, momentum and I knew I had to cut this off somehow.”
The fact that Garcia outlanded Duarte by a single punch, according to CompuBox, explains how close this fight felt until it was over. Garcia praised James for his effort after the fight and called for a title shot at 140 pounds against WBA champion Rolando “Rolly” Romero.
“It’s our first fight. [James and I] worked hard,” Garcia said. “We are going to build off this and are committed to get better. I’m committing to becoming a world champion so, if Rolly wants it, let’s do this.”
CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Saturday with the live results and highlights below.
Fight card, results
- Ryan Garcia def. Oscar Duarte via eighth-round TKO
- Floyd Schofield def. Ricardo Lopez Torres via first-round TKO
- Shane Mosley Jr. def. Joshua Conley via sixth-round TKO
- Darius Fulghum def. Pachino Hill via second-round TKO
Garcia vs. Duarte scorecard, live coverage