EXCLUSIVE: With Kambosos unlikely, Ryan Garcia targets Isaac Cruz

Ryan Garcia

Hoganphotos / Golden Boy

By the time lightweight star Ryan Garcia returns to the ring, it will have been more than a year since his last fight, and he can’t wait.

Golden Boy Promotions is planning for Garcia’s return on April 2 at a site to be determined and he knows who he wants to fight. But he is resigned to the fact that his first choice is unlikely to happen.

“Of course, I want to go right after (George) Kambosos,” Garcia told World Boxing News in an interview. “I told my team I want to jump right in and get him because I might as well go and get all the belts coming back. But it’s not gonna happen. People want me to fight (somebody else) first, but it’s OK. I understand.”

Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs), 28, pulled a massive upset by outpointing Teofimo Lopez on Nov. 27 in New York to take his unified 135-pound world championship. Kambosos does not have his next bout scheduled, but Garcia seems an unlikely foe. Kambosos, who said he’d like to fight at home in Australia, has prominently mentioned WBC titlist Devin Haney as a preferred foe in order to clean up the WBC mess that labels Haney as its world champion and Kambosos as its “franchise” champion.

With Kambosos an unlikely option for Garcia, he has targeted contender Isaac Cruz, who lost a close and disputed unanimous decision to secondary titleholder Gervonta “Tank” Davis in an entertaining fight on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles. Garcia would like to eventually face Davis in a big-money showdown and wants to fight Cruz (22-2-1, 23, of Mexico, so fans and media will compare his performance and Davis’ against a common opponent.

“I’m just motivated to get back in the ring and a lot of people are high on this guy (Cruz) right now because he gave Tank a good fight, and I just think it’s a good matchup for me to get back into the ring after such a long layoff,” Garcia said.

Garcia has been out of the ring since last Jan. 2, when he overcame a second-round knockdown and knocked out longtime contender, former world title challenger and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell in the seventh round to claim the vacant WBC interim lightweight belt.

Garcia was scheduled to defend the interim strap against mandatory challenger Javier Fortuna on July 9, but in late April, Garcia announced via social media that he had withdrawn from the fight and was going to take a break from boxing to address a mental health issue.

Ryan Garcia

The 23-year-old Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs), of Victorville, California, who was stripped of the interim belt, got help for his mental health issues and was training for a return to action in November to face Golden Boy stablemate Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr., a former junior lightweight world titlist moving up in weight.

However, Garcia injured his right wrist in training, had surgery on Oct. 18 and was forced to delay his return until April. Garcia suffered a chipped bone and ligament damage. He said his right hand had been giving him problems even before his most recent injury.

“My right wrist had a lot of problems and I had broken it and then I had a couple of tears in my hand. But I’ve had this,” Garcia said. “The doctor said I’ve had (tears) for quite some time, but I just kept fighting because a lot of my fights didn’t go past the first round, from (Romero) Duno to (Francisco) Fonseca. (Jose) Lopez was two rounds. The only one that went a long time was Campbell. So, I hadn’t really had to use my right hand. I re-injured it to the point where there was no way I could fight (Diaz in November). I would actually be fighting with one hand.”

While Garcia said he would love to fight as soon as possible, he is still doing physical therapy to strengthen his hand. He said he can do whatever he wants in his workouts except punch with his right hand.

While he stays in shape and continues to go through the rehabilitation process for his hand, Golden Boy has made an offer to Cruz for the fight, sources told World Boxing News.

Garcia hopes they can close a deal.

“It’s not a guy who’s just an easy, gimme fight,” Garcia said of Cruz. “He’s gonna offer some challenges to me, but I know I’m gonna be able to capitalize on all my advantages and everything that he brings to the game. It’s perfect for me. I’ve seen that style a million times.”

Floyd Mayweather Gervonta Davis Isaac Cruz
Esther Lin

TANK

And, of course, he knows that if the fight happens his result against Cruz will automatically be compared to Davis’ result.

“That’s gonna be probably one of the biggest fights when it happens, me versus Tank, so it’s a perfect opportunity for me to show how much of a different level that I am than Tank,” Garcia said. “It will get people more interested. I’ve been trying to build this Tank fight for years and I think I’m doing a good job at it. Every time we fight we’re trending (on social media) and I think people are gonna go crazy when that fight actually happens.”

For the April fight, Garcia said Golden Boy threw a couple of names to him, including Diaz, but he wanted them to pursue Kambosos and Cruz first.

“I really wanted to get them in the ring with me. I just felt both of them are good comeback fights for me,” Garcia said. “They threw in JoJo but I was like I’d rather go after Cruz. JoJo is interesting but it won’t be as interesting as Cruz because JoJo just lost to Devin (on Dec. 4) and Cruz lost to Tank, but a lot of people thought he won. So, that’s why there’s excitement for a Cruz fight. There are a lot of people saying Cruz is going to beat me. We are looking forward for that fight.”

Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.