Luke Campbell did a nation proud in his effort to defeat red-hot American youngster, Ryan Garcia in Dallas on Saturday night.
Campbell (20-4, 16 KOs), a former two-time world title challenger was surprisingly a huge betting underdog, despite his vast experience and accolades as an amateur which saw him claim Olympic Gold at London 2012.
Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs), who had over 7m Instagram followers heading into the fight, breezed to 20 straight victories, with 17 knockouts, but many had questioned his true credentials at world level and if Campbell would prove a test too soon.
The 22-year-old was carried to the ring on a Tyson Fury-esque throne, but despite his flamboyance Garcia was soon brought back down to earth and forced to contend with the biggest crisis of his career, as Campbell caught him with a crisp left hook, which sent him crashing to the canvas in the second round, stunning the limited crowd in attendance at the American Airlines Center.
The Californian showed all his heart and fighting courage to respond from the knockdown and remained dangerous throughout.
After rattling his foe at the end of the fifth round, Garcia poured on the pressure for the finish and Campbell’s brave resistance was finally broken by a devastating left hook to the body, which he later described as the hardest shot he’d ever endured.
The 33-year-old was unable to beat referee Laurence Cole’s count, as he was handed the first stoppage defeat of his career.
‘Cool Hand’ has never been shy of a challenge, with his only losses in elite company to Vasiliy Lomnachenko, Jorge Linares and now Garcia, who has been tipped to eclipse the achievements of his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya.
The Brit has never looked out of place, particularly on Saturday night where he displayed his accuracy and skill, landing 74 punches to the body compared with Garcia’s 94, according to CompuBox.
In the end, Campbell was edged by the speed, power and possibly Garcia’s youthfulness, although the unbeaten American was full of praise for his rival in the aftermath tweeting, “let me tell you nothing but respect to @luke11campbell. True warrior for life.”
— Ryan Garcia (@KingRyanG) January 3, 2021
The pair embraced in Garcia’s dressing room following their absorbing contest, in a great display of respect for each other’s efforts.
Well I’m honestly heart broken, I really wanted to bring the win back for you all. I’m sorry for that. I hope you all enjoyed the fight. Have to take my hat off to @KingRyanG, well done and a massive future ahead for him. I wish him all the best. pic.twitter.com/hCVvillSm2
— Luke Campbell MBE (@luke11campbell) January 3, 2021
Whilst Garcia moves on to potential showdowns with WBC champion, Devin Haney and WBA titlist, Gervonta Davis, Campbell did not reveal what the future might hold for him post-fight, however here are some potential options if he desires a third shot at world honours:
Hard-hitting Ghanian, Richard Commey is aiming to become a two-time world champion himself and begins the road back to the summit against Jackson Marinez on February 13th in Las Vegas.
Former IBF Lightweight champion, Commey (29-3, 26 KOs) was relieved of his belt in a two round demolition by now unified titlist, Teofimo Lopez last December, but remains in the top ten of both the WBC and IBF.
The 33-year-old is a proven former champion and should he negate his way past Marinez, he’ll be on his way towards a shot.
However, with Lopez reportedly in talks to face mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr and with Haney having two mandatories in Garcia and Javier Fortuna, Commey could be waiting his turn and a clash with Campbell would be plausible in the interim.
Jorge Linares rematch
Campbell always felt he had done enough to beat Jorge Linares, after dropping a split decision in their 2017 unified Lightweight world title showdown in California.
It was a role reversal for Campbell, who was floored himself in the second round, but rallied back to come within touching distance of a maiden crown.
At 35-years-old, Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) is entering the twilight years of his career and saw a bout with Fortuna fall through after testing positive for Coronavirus.
With Fortuna mandatory challenger to Haney, it is likely the three-weight world champion, currently ranked five by the WBC will have to bide his time and thus a second meeting with Campbell would make sense commercially, with both men holding big profiles.
The victor of the fight would be on course for another world title birth, in a bout likely to generate substantial interest, following a thrilling first outing, whilst it would be fitting to attain a decisive winner after a close, first clash.
James Tennyson is one of the most exciting Lightweights in Britain and ‘The Assassin’ seems to have found his place at 135lbs having moved up from 130lbs, following a sole defeat to then IBF champion, Tevin Farmer in 2018.
Tennyson (28-3, 24 KOs) has looked explosive and destructive in his six fights in his new weight class, winning each inside the distance, with two victories over Gavin Gwynne and Josh O’Reilly in 2020, the latter dismantled inside a round last month.
The 27-year-old is close to a world title shot himself, rated sixth by the WBO and seventh by the WBA, where Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis await.
Anytime. whenever and wherever you want. I’ll add another to the list.. https://t.co/51lR7rot8H
— LINARES (@JorgeLinares) December 4, 2020
Promoter Eddie Hearn is eyeing a showdown with Linares in Tennyson’s home of Belfast later this year, with the Venezuelan open to the prospect, however a meeting between Campbell and Tennyson would be a big domestic fight, that would catapult the winner into world title contention.
If Campbell was to nullify Tennyson’s blinding power, then he would have every chance of prevailing.
If Campbell opts to go down the domestic route, then a clash with Lee Selby would be another enticing option.
Former Featherweight world champion, Selby (28-3, 9 KOs) suffered a split decision defeat in his IBF final eliminator to George Kambosos Jr in October and with the pair both 33-years-old and each coming off a loss, it represents a crossroads fights.
Nevertheless, both men remain slick operators and appear to still have much left in reserve.
A showdown would certainly be appealing to the UK audience.
Campbell leaves Dallas with his integrity and respect in tact, after a game display against the next big star in America and whilst his endeavours were not enough to defeat Garcia, he proved that he is more than capable of mixing with the best in a thriving division.