The big fight that has captured the attention of boxing fans in recent weeks might not be happening after all.
Despite the speculation and social media posts by Ryan Garcia, it appears a bout against legendary champion Manny Pacquiao is unlikely to take place. Golden Boy Promotions executive Eric Gomez told ESPN’s Salvador Rodriguez there “is nothing to talk about” in regard to a fight between two of boxing’s biggest names.
That leaves Garcia in a tough spot, without a clear direction for his next step. The undefeated prospect is coming off the biggest win of his career, a technical knockout of Luke Campbell that showed he can generate more than just buzz and likes on social media. Garcia is one of the hottest names in a division that includes some of the sport’s top young talent.
ESPN.com’s Ben Baby and Michael Rothstein take a look at the fallout of the situation and where Garcia goes from here.
Baby: When the Pacquiao-Garcia bout was first broached, very little about it made a ton of sense. Michael, what are your thoughts on the entire situation?
Rothstein: To me, it felt like two things, and those two things are what so many fights end up being about: money and prestige. There’s no doubt a fight like this, with one of the sport’s biggest names in Pacquiao against one of its most social media-savvy up-and-comers would have gained a massive amount of attention. And that’s good for the fighters and a sport that needs the attention.
That said, I’m not sure the fight itself would have been very smart for either fighter. While Garcia, 22, is good and has lots of potential, going up in weight to fight even a 42-year-old Pacquiao seems like an unnecessary risk for someone who already has an interim belt and is in line for more title shots. For Pacquiao, what does he have to prove at this point by doing this? It just never, from a logical perspective, worked for me. Of course, logic doesn’t always rule in boxing.
Ben, could you see any upside for either fighter if this fight does indeed go down — other than the many, many dollar bills they’ll stand to collect?
Baby: I could see an upshot for both fighters. For Pacquiao, it’s a way to get another big payday and a massive win before he makes his run for Philippines president. For Garcia, it’s a chance to immediately catapult to the top of boxing’s cash cow list in a fight that could be similar to Pacquiao’s 2008 win over Oscar De La Hoya.
But it doesn’t seem like it’s possible. The money for their purses without a full gate makes this fight incredibly difficult. And there will be some chatter about whether failing to make this fight damages Garcia’s stock at all since he stumped for this bout publicly. I’d argue it’s not a big deal, to be honest. He handled the speculation about it being an exhibition very well and showed he wants to put his record on the line in a fight with actual stakes.
Luckily for Garcia and Golden Boy, there are plenty of big names for him to choose from for his next bout. And I think that will probably start with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, right?
Rothstein: It should. Except if I’m Davis, I’m at least a little bit annoyed right now that Garcia went and chased this Pacquiao fight. The fight with Davis was clearly both the one to make and one fans wanted to see. So if I’m Davis, I’m at least looking to see if there are other potential options out there that make sense. Actually, there are a lot of options, as Tim Bradley outlined Monday.
He about to do an exhibition wit Manny..definitely don’t want the fight no more! I’m on to the next 👌🏻 https://t.co/FtpGyR4hvu
— Gervonta Davis (@Gervontaa) January 24, 2021
Davis-Vasiliy Lomachenko would be a fight that becomes incredibly interesting, even if Lomachenko is coming off a loss to Teofimo Lopez. Lomachenko is still a massive name and still a challenge, and this would be a fight that would attract people.
And if Davis wants to go hunting for a belt — because that’s part of all of this — Devin Haney is another intriguing option. Again, it’s a fight people would watch; although, in that case, it might be more so for Davis than for Haney, even if Haney is the one with the WBC lightweight title.
But if attention is the goal for Davis, then excusing Garcia’s flirtation with Pacquiao and making the fight happen is a good plan. If Davis is open to it, after the callouts and typical prefight talking, it’s the one to make.
But Ben, that leads to a question for promoters and for fighters: If Davis-Garcia were to happen, should it take place before fans can attend and increase revenue with a live gate? Because we’re still, at the end of all of this, looking at boxing in the middle of a global pandemic.
Baby: Definitely. It’s hard to see a really, really big fight happening without fans in attendance. For Lomachenko and Lopez to be in the mix, it likely requires Top Rank to stage a fight in limited capacity, something the company hasn’t done since COVID-19 took full effect. Being able to come up with the money to make a major fight happen is really difficult without any fans.
Money makes all of this very tricky. And for that reason, Jorge Linares might be a great candidate to be Garcia’s next challenge. Linares is a terrific fighter who is a very recognizable name among fight fans. He is someone who could make financial sense and will surely push Garcia as he continues his climb toward a title shot.
It might even be a bit of a risk at this point in Garcia’s career. But that’s what makes the payoff that much better. A win against Linares pushes Garcia to another level and makes him more money in a big fight when COVID-19 restrictions are loosened. And that could eventually lead to a future megafight down the line against someone like, oh, I don’t know, Lopez.
Rothstein: Lopez-Garcia feels like it’s going to happen at some point. It makes too much sense from a star-wattage vantage and a dollar perspective. I just don’t see that fight happening all that soon. To me, that’s something we will see gain momentum maybe a year from now, especially if some of the young fighters start lining themselves up against one another.
If I’m one the promoters, I would try to hold off that fight as long as possible, because the more titles involved, the more attention it’ll get. Garcia puts fans in the stands. So does Lopez. They are going to put the work in to be sharp in the ring, and they will be excellent maneuvering in the lead-up process to get tickets sold and pay-per-views purchased (if this fight ended up in that sphere).
So it just feels like a long way off. But that’s also why Garcia needs to be smart with his opponent selection throughout 2021. He has options — many of which we overviewed here. It’s just a matter of choosing the right ones at the right time to eventually head to a massive Lopez encounter down the road.