Ryan Garcia

“I feel a beat to boxing, I feel a rhythm” – introducing boxing’s next superstar, Ryan Garcia
By Finn Blythe | Sport | 31 August 2021
Photographer Danielle Levitt
Stylist Julia Ehrlich.

shorts, worn throughout, stylist’s own; shoes and socks RYAN’S own

21 WINS.
18 BY KO.

22. Undefeated. Fearless: Ryan García is the future of boxing. With spring-loaded reflexes and a left hand that sends opponents into alternate dimensions, this American’s ascent to golden boy has been blistering.

In García’s most recent fight, against former Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell, his impeccable aura entered unchartered territory. With 90 seconds left in the second round, García was caught flush on the chin and felt the canvas for the first time in his career. Forced to dig deeper than in his previous twenty fights combined, the lightweight’s response proved his reputation, delivering an exhibition in counter-punching before ending the fight in the seventh, as he predicted, with a brutal shot to the body. Five years since turning pro, the boy from Victorville, CA, is primed to dominate the sport like few before him, with an online following that could signal a new dawn for boxing.


Finn Blythe: Hey Ryan, how’s your day going?
Ryan García: I just ran about five-and-a-half miles, came back, got a haircut, took care of my daughters and I’m just enjoying life. God is always good.

Finn: Is the run a pretty standard start to the day?
Ryan: I do a lot of different things but the standard is pretty much: get up, go run, have a coffee, do some band work and praise God.

Finn: It’s been six weeks since the Luke Campbell fight, the biggest win of your career. How have you reflected on that win and your performance?
Ryan: It was a great fight. I feel like a lot of people got a lot out of it, not just the entertainment aspect but the whole message behind it. Life will knock you down and you gotta keep moving forward. Even for Campbell, he lost the fight but he didn’t really lose because he gave it his all and showed the fans what a great fight is. It was just a great night of boxing that really reflects the beauty of the sport.

Finn: I was listening to you talk before the fight about how you wanted it to bring something out of you, to take you to a point you maybe hadn’t been before. It’s interesting that’s exactly what happened.
Ryan: It did. Like I say, if you’ve put in the work everything else is in God’s hands. So whether that knockdown was meant to be or not, something good came out of it and a lot of people can learn from that. The fact a young fighter got dropped in the biggest fight of his life, against a gold medallist ready to knock him out, and showed no fear. I kept moving forward. And that’s like your life: when something great’s going to happen, fear or doubt gets in the way and some people retreat. I chose to showpeople, don’t retreat against fear, move forward. Attack fear, defeat fear, fear is the onlything holding you back from your blessings. So go attack it and with God you can doanything.

Finn: After a victory like that, how much time do you give yourself to just take it in and enjoy it?
Ryan: Boxing’s a lifestyle for me. To me, success is like cologne or perfume, you smell it but you don’t drink it. It was great, I smelled it for a couple of weeks but I never drank it, so it’s all good. I just keep doing what I’m doing, I’m not going to change, really. All I’ll change is little details.

Finn: When you’re not working towards a fight, how do you maintain sharpness?
Ryan: I just look at myself. If I’m looking sloppy or not like myself then obviouslysomething’s going wrong. Maybe I’m eating too many Skittles but you’ll start seeing itlittle by little, my face gets a little bigger, my body won’t look as sharp. My body will tell me when I’m a little off-key, and I just bring it back into the balance and thenI go from there.

Finn: I was listening to you talk about the moment you fell in love with boxing, hitting mitts in the garage with your uncle, Sergio. One thing that really stood out was how you fell in love with the snap of the mitt. That got me thinking about boxing asthis world of sensory stimulation: the sound of a rhythm bag or the sensation of having your hands wrapped. Do you have any other favourite sounds or sensations?
Ryan: Like anything in life, if you’re doing something that is your gift or your passion, you can feel certain things that somebody else wouldn’t. So I feel a beat to boxing, I feel a rhythm to boxing, I understand the different timings, the different movements and I can see things before they happen. Because you’ve done it so manytimes you see recurring patterns, recurring situations and that just comes with practice beyond practice, right? Constantly thinking and feeling. Now that I look back at it, notonly did I fall in love with the sound of the snap, I fell in love with the purpose. To me, boxing is a purpose, so I fell in love with finding who I truly am going to become one day. That was what I felt when the mitts snapped, it was like the start of my journey and I think I fell in love with that as a kid.

Finn: What do you remember most from those early days boxing, what did it represent to you?
Ryan: Oh, it represented everything. It represented a chance, a chance to get out of my situation. It gave me a sense of hope when we didn’t have much. I was toldeverything was OK but I’d look around and nothing was, so I think it was just a senseof seeing a little bit of light. Looking back on those days it was like no matter how hard it got, boxing was always there and I think boxing represents God. He sent it here tohelp me go through those things with my family. When we felt we had nothing left,boxing was always there as a glimmer of hope. Boxing has been there for me since I put on those gloves, since I stretched and started punching, since I got hit on thenose. That was like a blessing to be going through that because it’s like, “Alright, my life sucks but this is not as bad.” I found peace and love in that and now look at whereI am. So yeah man, it was a struggle but if it was easy, I wouldn’t want it.

shorts stylist’s own

Finn: Could you paint me a picture of the last hour before a fight, are there anyroutines you always go through?
Ryan: I used to think that, but this time around [the Campbell fight] it was like, it’s OK to change things up, it’s OK to evolve. You just do what feels right, you don’t have to follow the same steps. Your work is the truth, that’s what I found out. Tying my shoes a certain way, none of that means anything. Your work is the truth and preparation kills all doubt. The superstition stuff, I used to really think that was a mental barrier to break and now I’m free. Nothing can put a hold on me, change my whole suit, do whatever you want, it’s not going to stop what I already prepared to do, it’s not going to stop what’s already happened. You put in the work, it’s going to come out. Not one thing they said about me came out in the fight. Not one. “Once he get shit by a big punch…” I got hit by the biggest punch, got right up. “He don’t have no grit, no heart, he’s all Instagram.” What happened? I came right at Luke. None of what they say mattered, this is what I’m trying to tell people. They can call me whatever, I just keep moving forward.

Finn: So five minutes before you walk out, what are you doing?
Ryan: I guess I just go into a mindset where I let gratitude take over, I let thankfulness take over, I let God take over. I submit myself to the moment, you know what I mean? I don’t know how to explain it but I just go into a zone where it is what it is now. The work is done, I’ve turned every stone, so I’m like, “Here it is.” When I come out all I think is “Thank you. I come from Victorville. This is all fun to me, it’s great, there’s no pressure here, I’m thankful.” Gratitude is the zone I’m in five minutes before, it’s just: “Thank you.”

Finn: When you’re in the ring, I know it must reach a point of instinct where you’re not even thinking, but what are you looking at? The guy’s hands, his head, his feet?
Ryan: I don’t look at anything, I feel. They will never know what I’m doing because I’m just feeling what I have to do. I got to a certain level where I just feel it, I don’t know how it is. Like the way you touch the belt and you know where to grab it to pick it up [picks up his WBC interim lightweight belt], that’s how I know when to throw the punch, it’s a feeling. All I know is when I’m in the ring I feel it, and then I assess what I have to do. I get a sense and I’ve prepared well, so my body will know what to do. Like I said on my Instagram the other day, boxing is just dancing with violence. I just dance better.

Finn: How closely do you follow a game plan?
Ryan: I don’t know, to me there’s like a sense of game plan, not a complete gameplan. There’s not like here, here and here, it’s more of an overall picture of what might go down. But my corner told me not to go after him in the sixth round.

Finn: I was going to ask you about the sixth round because I know that you couldn’t hold yourself back, you smelt it.
Ryan: Yeah, I rarely listen [laughs], I only listen when I mess up. The reason I didn’t listen to my corner in that moment is because they’re not in the ring. Luke Campbell is a stubborn fighter, he don’t want to lose, so I had to really break him. I had to give him what he wanted. He knew that I was going to come at him, so I’m like, “Alright, let’s go. I’m going to come at you, what have you got? You’re hurt? I’m going to beat you down.” I think that took it over the edge, because after that he was like, “There’s nothing I can do here.” I felt his body just give in, he submitted to the loss. If I didn’t do that, I could have given him another two, three rounds.

Finn: I know you predicted that body shot but I just wondered in terms of your training, are there individual techniques you hone in preparation for one particular fighter? So if we’re talking about Campbell, you feigned to go up top and then hit him with that body shot, is that something you’d rehearsed?
Ryan: You know that’s a great question. When I shadow box, I train every position to feel comfortable. So any fake, any movement, any position I’m in, I’m training it. Maybe my mind just knew where to go, because I didn’t say to myself, “I’m going to fake and then hit him to the body,” I just felt it. What I will say is a year ago, after the [Francisco] Fonseca fight, I knew I was going to knock Campbell out to the body. I don’t know how, but I’ve seen it in my mind, the exact body shot. Then I kind of put that to the back of my mind and as I was sparring, every time I landed a body shot it had an effect or it felt good. So right there I knew, it’s getting confirmed through my work. Then I just started mastering the body shot, bang bang, bang bang, and I was just on it all the time. Once it’s locked in, it’s locked in. I can’t explain it, I just knew how to throw it. I’ve never even knocked anyone down to the body, not even in my amateur career, and then I knock someone out to the body on the biggest stage of my life?! I mean, I don’t know what else to tell y’all.

Finn: And you set it up perfectly two rounds earlier.
Ryan: To be honest that fifth round really did him in, that shot to the head. Once you get hit with one of those you don’t want to get hit with it again. He made one mistake and my left hook comes out without me even thinking about it. For some reason I can just throw my left hand and I won’t get tired. I could be throwing it a million times during this broadcast and I won’t even get tired.

jacket, jeans and top all by BALENCIAGA SS21

“If I lose that might be the greatest fight you guys ever watch, because I’m not going to lose lightly.”

shorts and belt all by DIOR S21

Finn: As far as your training is concerned, it was interesting to hear you say that one of the biggest rewards is watching your body develop. Over the past twelve months, what changes have you noticed in your physicality?
Ryan: I think a sense of physical power and effortlessness. I don’t have to try as hard to hit hard. But like I say in my videos, I’m not there yet. If Muhammad Ali told me I look great, I wouldn’t believe it until I believed it. When I was going through training camp I started feeling that effortlessness, punches were coming out like nothing. I was like, “Everybody get out the way,” and I started knocking everybody out in sparring. Nasty. Without trying. I was sparring a guy who’s like 6’2″, big ol’ dude, coming at me. I hit him with one hook – out cold.

Finn: I wanted to talk to you about your Mexican heritage, which is obviously a very important part of your identity. I know you don’t speak Spanish so I’m just intrigued to know how you see that connection to the Mexican part of you?
Ryan: Mexicans, if you look at the history, are some of the hardest workers, and they don’t expect much. So it’s like I have that sense of heart in me. When I work hard, all I expect is to feel good for what I’ve done and I think I’ve seen that so often growing up. My grandma, people I’m around from my Mexican side, it’s so heartwarming because they don’t do it for anything else but themselves and their people. I always hold true to that. People try to say that I’m not Mexican because I don’t speak Spanish, I’m like, “Well you must not see how I work then.”

Finn: Cultural identity is so much more than just speaking the language.
Ryan: So much more.

Finn: Talk to me about your connection to Eddie [Reynoso], I think he’s won Trainer of the Year two years running –
Ryan: About to be three!

Finn: Probably. What makes him such a special trainer? How does he get the best out of you?
Ryan: Honestly, Eddie’s just blessed. I don’t know how to explain it, man. He be getting fighters and they just know what to do. Like he just trains us hard, I can’t explain it, coach just knows. He’s like Phil Jackson, you cut out the bullshit and just do what works. We don’t do no fancy shit, I don’t know whether people expect me to tell them there’s some secret sauce to it, we just do what works. We just look at the truth of what’s happening in the ring, we don’t do no crazy movements, we take from everybody – that worked, that didn’t. You can even see it in Canelo’s [Álvarez] game, sometimes he does the shoulder roll, sometimes he has his hands up, you kind of just follow what works in the moment.

Finn: It must be incredible to share such a close proximity to someone like Canelo [both boxers are trained by Reynoso]. What’s your relationship like and what do you look at in his skill set and think, “I want that”?
Ryan: I noticed that he’s always in hunt mode, he’s always in predator mode. I like fighters like that, so I took something from that. He has a good sense of balance, so I took some stuff from that. There’s so many things you can take from Canelo and apply to your game. He’s an inspiration to me, so just being around him, understanding what he’s doing, what I like, and even what I don’t like, because what works for him might not work for me. He even said himself, “You’re a whole different fighter to me, but you’re still just as dangerous.” We both have different attributes. Canelo is a tank, he literally walks through anything. Man got hit with a boulder by Triple G [two-time middleweight world champion Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin] and just walked right through it. So that’s a whole different breed, I’m more of a Sugar Ray Robinson body-type, I’m right in the middle, a good balance of tank and length. I’m ready to beat somebody’s ass, right? But he’s ready just to hunt you down and break you down. I feel I could fight on the back foot, where I could land a shot going backwards and knock you out. Canelo could do that, but he’s a stronger puncher moving forward. He has thumpers coming forward like no other. So when I was in the ring with him I kind of got what he does. He likes to make you think that none of your punches have any effect, but that’s what he does to you mentally, so you don’t even throw. Yeah, that dude is pretty scary, he has some hard punches, man. I tell him, “If I was bigger, I’d whoop your ass”, but in my mind I’m like, “I’m kinda scared, why am I saying that?” [laughs] He’s like my big brother, man. So we have fun together.

shorts stylist’s own

Finn: You’re part of a new generation of athletes who are connecting with massive fan bases over social media. How do you feel about being at the centre of this shift? And how do you maintain the balance between giving fans access while retaining a bitof privacy for yourself?
Ryan: Part of me just wants to give everything. Judge me all you want, I’m not trying to hide nothing. I guess the only privacy I wish for is not to be so harshly judged when you see the truth. Everybody makes mistakes, don’t trip on it, you do too. So if I show my truth, you shouldn’t be mad. I kind of just hope for the best and hope people understand, which I know they sometimes don’t. But pretty much what yousee is what you get, I try to put my real self out there. I write my own captions and do all my own things because I don’t want them to think of anything else but myself. And privacy-wise, I don’t move that private, I probably should a little bit more, maybe with security guards and what not, but other than that, yeah man, I’m not trippin’ on showing the truth.

Finn: As you said yourself, the best all lost. Muhammad Ali lost. Michael Jordan lost. Do you permit yourself to think about failure?
Ryan: My brother said it best: “If my brother ever lost, it would be a motherfucking fight.” If I lose that might be the greatest fight you guys ever watch, because I’m not going to lose lightly. But not going to happen, I plan on going so far ahead of the game that even just looking at where I’m at, people will be like, “Damn, I can’t even catchup. I might as well not even try.”

hair TIAGO GOYA using ORIBE; make-up SARA TAGALOA; photography assistants SEBASTIAN KEEFE, KENDALL CONNORPACK and JOHN BATCHINE; fashion assistant JANET LOPEZ

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