Ryan Garcia has become such a social-media influencer that his boxing matches are nearly becoming secondary to the events of his personal life.
The 20-year-old lightweight from Victorville returns to the ring in a main event Saturday to be broadcast on DAZN (6 p.m.) when he meets Puerto Rico’s Jose Lopez (20-3-1, 14 knockouts) at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.
The bigger recent news, especially to the 2.3 million Instagram followers of Garcia (17-0, 14 KOs), is that he became a father on March 20 when his daughter, Rylie, was born in Lancaster.
Garcia was training in Solana Beach that day when he got word that his ex-girlfriend was giving birth, so he raced north, arriving in time to hold the swaddled bundle of joy in his arms.
“There was no words,” Garcia said. “Right when I saw her, it was like seeing my little twin. It was just the best moment ever in my life, and I’m just so happy I was there to see her first little breaths and cries. I’m so blessed.”
The situation has caused a social-media stir about Garcia’s dating life, but the typically upbeat fighter said he’s handling the thousands of comments “with love, and remaining focused on my main priorities in life, which are my daughter now, then boxing.”
Garcia’s whose mainstream power is seen in his lead acting role in the YouTube series, “On The Ropes,” and his popularity produced controversy last month when his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, filed a cease-and-desist order against rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. for alleged tampering with Garcia.
Garcia had attended Mayweather’s birthday party as well as one of his boxing cards, which led the retired champion to offer the Golden Boy Promotions fighter $200,000 to defeat unbeaten prospect Rolando Romero.
“I’m learning along the way, and there’s going to be some little bumps and bruises, but as long as I keep rolling with the punches, I will keep moving up,” Garcia said in discussing the trappings of his fame.
Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said he and De La Hoya are constantly present to provide Garcia advice and not concerned by their top prospect becoming a parent.
“When it comes to that personal stuff, we’re very hands off. We’re always going to support him, and anytime a baby comes into the world, it’s a beautiful thing,” Gomez said.
Saturday night will be Garcia’s second fight under trainer Eddy Reynoso, Canelo Alvarez’s primary cornerman who has worked to improve Garcia’s defense, strategy and fitness for the 10-round bout.
Also on the card, Puerto Rico’s Angel “Tito” Acosta (19-1, 19 KOs) defends his World Boxing Organization light-flyweight belt against Mexico’s Ganigan Lopez (35-8, 19 KOs).
After selling out 2,500-seat Fantasy Springs in less than two weeks, Garcia said he aims for both a clean victory to land a spot on the May 4 undercard of Alvarez’s two-belt title defense against fellow champion Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas, and a triumph that continues his path toward a world title shot of his own.
Lopez represents a continued upgrade in opposition. The 25-year-old defeated former lightweight title challenger Orlando Cruz in June 2017, but has lost twice since, including an October technical knockout at the hands of Jonathan Oquendo.
“‘Wonder Boy’ was once an upcoming prospect like Ryan, and he’s a real test who’s naturally from that weight class,” Gomez said. “From our perspective, it’s that time for Ryan to start showing how he’s improved under Eddy Reynoso.”
Garcia expressed confidence that will happen.
“I take no step backward from anyone. Every fight is serious to me, and Eddy is super happy with me,” Garcia said. “I’ve stepped it up and I feel like my body’s changing. You can see it in my physique. I’m becoming more of a man. So I’m ready to put on the best performance of my life.”
Lopez’s chippy behavior leading up to the fight is akin to the negativity Garcia sometimes sees in comments on social media. He has a common way to answer both.
“I just want to stay as calm as possible,” Garcia said. “In anything you do, if you don’t let your emotion take over you, you can make the better decisions. Whatever this guy is doing — he seems angry, with a chip on his shoulder, and I have the feeling he’s going to try to push me or intimidate me — I’ll keep that laser focus, do my job and adjust. He’ll expend energy throwing crazy shots. I’ll stay poised, keep my distance and bam! Good night!”
Garcia dealt with a similar foe, Braulio Rodriguez, who pushed Garcia on stage during a weigh-in in December at Madison Square Garden. Garcia knocked out Rodriguez in the fifth round.
“I’m happy to fight for the local crowd, for the hard-core, SoCal fans. … It’ll be a great atmosphere, hearing everybody’s ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ and I want to put on a masterful show of class and skills,” Garcia said.