Ryan Garcia is a model fighter who would like to be champion

Ryan Garcia has an appointment next week to walk the New York Fashion Week runway for Tommy Hilfiger. He also has an upcoming spread in Flaunt magazine and a major commercial deal starting in February.

“I have to watch all that stuff because boxing shows no mercy,” Garcia said.

The Victorville super-featherweight returns to the ring Saturday night at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio against the World Boxing Assn.’s No. 5-rated contender, Carlos Morales (17-2-3, six knockouts) of Highland Park, in a lightweight bout.

Garcia (15-0, 13 KOs) is in the unique position of balancing emerging celebrity — he has 1.2 million Instagram followers — with the grinding demands of world-class boxing.


“It’s crazy how many things come up when you think you’ll be resting,” he said. “I try to take it day by day and pick out the opportunities I believe will be the most beneficial. There’s so many people who come to me here in L.A., promising me this and promising me that.

“What I’m learning is figuring out what’s real versus what’s just talk.”

His boxing career is being viewed in the same way.

His promoter, Golden Boy, has launched a joint venture with Facebook Watch to stream Saturday’s 6 p.m. card for free. Facebook has paid a license fee for five Golden Boy cards this year.

Garcia said Instagram reveals he has potential to draw a strong worldwide audience, given his massive followings in England, Australia and Russia. He said he ultimately wants to undertake a worldwide boxing tour of those countries.

“It’s incredible the reaction this kid is generating … so many just love him, and while others may hate him, they all love to watch him fight,” said Oscar De La Hoya, owner of Golden Boy. “We feel strongly feel we’re going to do a huge number on Facebook. They have 2.6 billion users. If we capture 1% of that, we’re in great shape.”

Garcia has been off since a May 4 unanimous-decision victory over veteran Jayson Velez in a main event at StubHub Center that provided the 20-year-old with lessons to center his training around.

“I’ve been working on my defense and my inside game,” Garcia said. “You’ll see clever stuff I can do on the inside, along with the speed and power you expect. I’ll move my head and look more like an all-around fighter.”

He made limited use of a jab in his last bout but, “I have a great jab,” Garcia said. “It’s just something I haven’t used. I’m focused on using it more. When the time comes, I can use it and everyone will see it.”

Morales, 28, is just one bout removed from a fight with the WBA’s secondary super-featherweight champion Alberto Machado.

Ryan Garcia poses during a weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 5, 2017.
(Omar Vega / LatinContent/Getty Images)

“This fight gets me up there into the rankings, in better position for a title shot in one or two more fights,” Garcia said.

Garcia mentioned Japan’s new World Boxing Organization champion Masayuki Ito as a belt-holder he’s eyeing.

“It’s about how I perform this fight,” Garcia said. “I’ve had two months to prepare and I can’t wait to show everyone how much I’ve improved.”

During the layoff, he got into a verbal altercation with WBA 130-pound champion Gervonta Davis (20-0) in Las Vegas.

“The match between he and I one day would be pay-per-view status,” Garcia said. “I just love that fight because it will be the biggest I can get.”

Until then, Golden Boy will attempt to maximize the Garcia magnetism in a way that ensures a strong crowd like Saturday’s sellout while moving him closer to a title shot.

“I just want to lean on my team to make the best decisions for me because, knowing myself, I won’t say no to anybody,” Garcia said. “So the best option for me is to trust Oscar and everybody at Golden Boy, because if they left it up to me, I’ll fight Gervonta Davis tomorrow.”

Twitter: @latimespugmire