He may have 8.7m followers on Instagram but Ryan Garcia also has what he calls an “old-school soul”.
At 23, he has linked up with a trainer three times his age – connecting to the past to help shape what is to come. Joe Goossen is the man responsible to take Garcia back to the future.
Boxing wisdom is sometimes confused and contradictory around trainers and their impact. There are champions who reach the mountain-top because of their trainer. And there are those who get there despite the guy in the corner.
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Angelo Dundee was a key influence in various ways in the career of Muhammad Ali but when it came to one of Ali’s defining nights, The Greatest chose to follow his own instinct. As Dundee screamed at him to “get off the ropes” against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, Ali preferred the rope-a-dope tactic which eventually drained Foreman’s resources and set up a never-to-be-forgotten success.
Seven years later, conversely, Dundee’s message inspired Sugar Ray Leonard to a come-from-behind win against Tommy Hearns in Las Vegas when he screamed, “You’re blowing it now son, you’re blowing it,” in between the 12th and 13th rounds. Leonard eventually won in the 14th and readily acknowledges the importance of Dundee’s rant.
Guidance in the corner is only as important as the daily grind in the gym. Some trainers, even those with years of experience, are more comfortable by day than under the bright lights of fight night.
And the perennial questions remain: does the trainer make the fighter? Or is the reverse true?
The former world champion at middleweight and super-middleweight, Steve Collins, and title challenger Matthew Macklin are two I’ve listened to in the past endorsing the merits of regularly switching trainers. Why wouldn’t a fighter expand his knowledge and repertoire by embracing a range of ideas and methods?
Against that, the likes of Andre Ward, Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch opted for consistency of approach and stuck with the same trainer all the way to the finish line.
In linking up with Goossen, Garcia has left behind not only Eddy Reynoso but also Canelo Alvarez. Videos on Garcia’s You Tube channel (attracting millions of views) show Canelo demonstrating how best to throw certain punches, including the left hook to the body which pole-axed Luke Campbell in Garcia’s last appearance in the ring 15 months ago.
Fighters sometimes learn most from other boxers in the same gym and the value of working out alongside Canelo can hardly be overstated. But Garcia has intimated that he could not command Reynoso’s full attention and/or dedication and so took flight. Careers can be made and broken by such calls.
Recent messages posted online suggest Garcia is revelling in his new partnership. If time out to repair a fragile hand and a brittle mind had dented his commitment to boxing, a gushing review of the recent featherweight title clash on DAZN between Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan was evidence of a passion restored.
“One of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen” was how Garcia described the thriller in Nottingham, where Wood was floored in the first round by a southpaw left hand from Conlan which was uncannily similar to the shot which decked Garcia in the second round of his fight against Campbell.
In both cases, the stricken fighter came back to win – and it took much more than a trainer’s urgings to help them.
Goossen is well-versed in bringing fresh rationale to already-established talents. What to tweak and what to leave alone are judgments he has made many times before in working with Shane Mosley, Michael Nunn, Diego Corrales and many more.
Mosley says Goossen generally makes fighters hit harder and so the results of his work with Garcia, whose 21 wins include 18 inside the distance, will be fascinating to assess. The last time Garcia went the distance, taken 10 rounds by Carlos Morales in 2018, he appeared one-paced at times and his work was not always flushed with variety.
Could Goossen have made a difference on that night? We can only guess … but his new bond with one of the most exciting attractions in the sport brings yet another dimension to a lightweight division already flooded with talent.