When you're 19 years old and selected ESPN's 2017 prospect of the year, it's vitally important to keep the momentum going and start 2018 in an impressive manner. And that's exactly what junior lightweight Ryan "Kingry" Garcia intends to do when he faces Fernando Vargas, Thursday at The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. The bout is scheduled for 10 rounds.
After turning pro in June 2016, Garcia (13-0, 12 KOs) has fought six times in 2017, winning all six by knockout. It's almost been too easy.
"We're trying to find somebody that's going to test Ryan and go more rounds so we can showcase his skills a little more," said Roger Ruiz, Garcia's manager. "The way we brought Ryan up, every opponent has been a little tougher than the last one and had a better record."
In terms of experience, Vargas (33-15-3, 24 KOs) fits the bill. While the Mexican veteran from Tijuana has been inconsistent since turning pro in September 2006, he garnered a bantamweight title shot (on one-week's notice) against Jamie McDonnell in April 2016.
Vargas, who hadn't fought as a bantamweight since 2006, struggled to make weight, but gave a determined effort before being stopped in the ninth round. Weight drained, undertrained and fighting on his opponent's home turf at the O2 Arena in London, he really didn't have a chance.
In subsequent fights, the 29-year-old Vargas has gone 3-3. One of those losses, however, was by majority decision to Horacio Garcia in a very close fight. If Fernando hadn't suffered a knockdown in the third round, the fight would probably have been a draw.
Regardless of Vargas's experience against tough opposition, Garcia, a resident of Victorville, California, doesn't sound worried. He knows where he wants to go and is confident he'll get there.
"Just know that you're talking about the next superstar," he said. "I'm not here to play. This is my time, and I can't wait to show my skills."
Garcia, whose father, Henry Garcia, was an amateur boxer, is a student of the sweet science in and out of the ring, eagerly soaking up all the knowledge he can.
"Just know that you're talking about the next superstar. I'm not here to play. This is my time, and I can't wait to show my skills."Ryan Garcia
"I just learn from every legend that I've watched," Ryan said. "I learned from the best. I paid attention to how Floyd Mayweather adapts. I paid attention how to land a big shot, like Oscar De La Hoya with the left hook. I really watched and studied these guys. A lot of people say my left hook is like Roy Jones'.
"But honestly, you can't pinpoint anybody I really fight like. I just fight like myself. I'm like a cat -- if I see the opening, I'm going to shoot for it. I think what stands out is my accuracy."
In the co-feature, KeAndre "The Truth" Gibson (18-1-1, 7 KOs) takes on Eddie "E-Boy" Gomez (20-3, 11 KOs) in a welterweight match scheduled for 10 rounds.
The 27-year-old Gibson turned pro in October 2010 and went undefeated in his first 17 bouts, but his streak came to a screeching halt on April 1, 2017 when undefeated Antonio Orozco stopped him the fourth round. Orozco wore down Gibson with body punches and floored him with a right to the head in the fourth. He managed to beat the count, but was unsteady on his feet, and referee Russell Mora stopped the fight.
Gibson, of St. Louis, Missouri, rebounded with two victories, including a majority 10-round decision over Alejandro Barrera in arguably the best performance of his career to date. Despite suffering a cut over his right eye in the seventh round, Gibson rallied to outbox and outwork Barrera the rest of the way.
Gibson is a skillful boxer who moves well and is a sharp, accurate puncher. But as his 35 percent knockout ratio indicates, his blows are not that powerful, which can be a problem when fighting boxers of Orozco's caliber. Nevertheless, he enters the Gomez match in an upbeat mood.
"Eddie Gomez is a tough, solid fighter, but he's just been coming up short in fights," said Gibson. "I know he's trying to bounce back, and I'm trying to stop that from happening."
The 25-year-old Gomez, a former New York Golden Gloves champion, has lost two of his three most recent fights. Among them was the only knockout loss of his pro career, which came against undefeated Rashidi Ellis in the first round, December 16, 2016.
Gomez needs a significant win to get his career going in the right direction again, and the Gibson bout gives him an opportunity to do just that.
"I'm fast, I got power, and I mix it up -- I can box, brawl, go to the body and throw fast combinations," said Gomez. "I'm ready to show the world my skills.
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