Can He Use His Fists For More Than Social Media?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because he's the next big thing in boxing ... and he's thinking beyond the sport.
By Deborah Bonello
His reputation precedes him. By miles. With 3.6 million followers on Instagram, Ryan Garcia, 21, is perhaps the best-known professional boxer who is yet to be a world champion. When it comes to social media, his IG handle, @kingryang, doesn’t lie. But the lightweight hasn’t been crowned in the ring … yet.
He started boxing at age 7 while living in Victorville, California, a desert city between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Frustrated by the baseball team he played with as a child, he wanted to take up a sport at which he could excel alone.
“I wanted to be on my own so I could have my own results and make my own decisions about what I was doing,” says Garcia. “I was striving for that thrill of everything being on me.”
Although Garcia is on the books of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, he can claim a lot of the credit for his fame. He has managed his Instagram feed since day one, posting photos and videos of his training and his first televised matches, such as the one from September 2017 when he knocked out Mexican featherweight Miguel Carrizoza in a mere 30 seconds.
His followers grew from 30,000 to 100,000 in that one week alone. He says keeping control of his social media messaging is crucial. Garcia is inspired by — and mindful of — the battles of other athletes who are leveraging their platforms to make a social impact, such as soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
“I want to know that I gave power to the athletes,” Garcia says. “In a lot of other sports the athletes have power, but in boxing, we’re controlled by the powers-that-be. But I want it to be different — some of them earn peanuts.” Garcia has clashed publicly with Golden Boy over the handling of his career. De La Hoya told DAZN in September that Garcia was merely misled by others in his ear. “It’s very unfortunate because the one to suffer is the fighter ultimately,” De La Hoya said.
Garcia has since signed a new multiyear deal with Golden Boy and he says it’s now “all good.” But he wants to show his contemporaries the value of maintaining control.
I’m the face of this new generation of athletes.
“Creating a brand for yourself and getting what you’re worth is huge for boxing,” he says. “Without you [the boxer], there is no card, there is no event. I’m the face of this new generation of athletes.”
But dominating social media isn’t the same as dominating boxing, and until he wins a major title, he has yet to prove his punch. Garcia hasn’t lost one of his 18 fights yet, and 15 of those have been knockouts, but analysts say the competition hasn’t been top-notch. On Nov. 2, Garcia faces Romero Duno (23-1) as an undercard to a fight featuring Saul Canelo Álvarez — a megastar and mentor to Garcia. A win would put Garcia in a position to fight for a world title before long.
With plans to stop boxing by the ripe old age of 26, Garcia has little time to lose to make it into the big leagues. He wants to be a film director and to start a foundation for young people with mental health issues. It’s another place those IG followers could come in handy.
- Deborah Bonello, OZY Author Contact Deborah Bonello