Ryan Garcia should have been on top of the world when he hit rock bottom. Thoughts of suicide and declining mental health forced the young star out of boxing but he’s now back, writes Dan Raphael
Rising lightweight superstar Ryan Garcia just grabbed the biggest win of his career. It was January 2, 2021, in Dallas, and he had lunged a tough knockout in the second round to take control of Luke Campbell and hit him with a violent left hook with the body in the seventh round.
Fought for the first time in 11 months, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, Garcia was ecstatic for the victory. He celebrated wildly in the ring as King Canelo Alvarez and his stablemate cheered him on and pound-for-pound ringside.
But for Garcia, who has not filled out boxing since then, the joy was short-lived. Something wasn’t quite right. He was struggling with his inner thoughts and feelings, and he had moments that left him crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason and thought of killing himself. His issues were so bad that he pulled out of his next fight, and declared that he was doing so in order to deal with his mental health issues.
“I’ll explain it to you as best I can,” said Garcia. boxing news. “I’m comfortable talking about it because I’m better off now. After the Campbell fight I was in cloud nine. I was so excited to get back in the ring and do my things. And then there was a shift in my mind that I couldn’t quite fathom, and it was so weird. I started to get more depressed and just kept I feel so lost, just lost in myself and in my mind.
“I thought I’d be fine because I had anxiety. I talked about struggling with anxiety. So, I was like, OK, I’m going to remove it. It might just be whatever. I don’t know what this is. And then things just kept getting worse.”
The 23-year-old Garcia, 21-0 (18), of Victorville, California, is in good shape now. He is managing his mental health and is rehabilitating his wrist and right hand that he injured in training that necessitated surgery in October and forced him to withdraw from the November fight with Josef Diaz Jnr. But Garcia is excited to be back in the ring – the scheduled date is April 2 – and is hoping to take on a major opponent. His desire for a showdown with Isaac Cruz, who gave Garcia’s dream opponent, Gervonta “Tank” Davis, everything he could afford in the contested December 5 loss decision.
But there was no guarantee Garcia would find his way back to where he is now, happy, motivated and talking about fighting again in light of the bleak outcome of the victory over Campbell.
Garcia’s lawyer and confidant, Guadalupe Valencia, who also works with fighters such as double-division champion Jesse Vargas and heavyweight Frank Sanchez, noted that Garcia’s enjoyment of Campbell’s victory was particularly short-lived, but that it took him some time to realize that it was related to mental health issues, Garcia will soon announce to the world that he’s been dealing with it.
After fighting Luke Campbell he seemed to enjoy the victory a little but not enough and so, later on, now that I look back to look for signs I realize he doesn’t seem to be enjoying it was probably the result of these things he was going through.
Despite signs that all was not going well, Garcia signed in mid-April to face veteran rival Javier Fortuna in [WBC] Assignment to a temporary title fight that was scheduled for July 9.
“It was as if I was going to put myself together and be able to fight back,” Garcia said. “But my mind remained so confused. I can’t explain it. It was like agony. It was so horrible that I couldn’t even think properly. I couldn’t focus on anything.”
Later in April, just two weeks after Garcia got into a fight with Fortuna, he posted on his social media that he was pulling out.
“At this time it is important to manage my health and wellness,” Garcia wrote. “I have decided to take some time off to focus on becoming a stronger version of myself. I hope to be back soon and looking forward to returning to the ring when I am in better health.”
While Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN will go ahead with a July 9 date with Diaz Jnr to replace Garcia and select Fortuna for the temporary belt stripped from Garcia, Garcia has been dealing with his issues in therapy sessions not knowing when or if he will. Be able to return to the ring.
“When all of this was happening and we had to call off the fight, nobody knew what was going to happen,” Valencia said. “My thinking was we were going to get through this. I also remember Tyson Fury, what he went through, and being in the boxing world, I know a lot of fighters go through a lot of things and get it back, and I felt that Ryan being strong, having a good network around him, would come back. It’s just a matter of being patient. “.
It all came to a head in late April, just two weeks after Garcia signed up to fight and returned to training camp at Alvarez’s San Diego gymnasium to work with Eddie Renoso, the star coach he and Alvarez co-branded.
“When I got to the gym, I started crying for no reason in front of everyone and got out of the gym. Garcia said of that moment, when he knew he had to pull out of the fight with Fortuna.
Garcia said it was embarrassing.
“It was Canelo, everyone there, and I was trying to work out and couldn’t keep it,” Garcia said. “I just exploded. I just got out of the gym. I said, ‘You guys have to go.’ I was just crying and walking my lawyer, Lube, outside and I said, ‘What’s wrong with me man? I just don’t understand this.’ I was walking With him for about an hour and I couldn’t pull myself together. I didn’t know what was going on. I just felt my body, I felt everything. It wasn’t just my mind. It was like my body. I felt like I couldn’t do anything.
“I was doing my strength and conditioning and just started crying. Everyone said, ‘You look. What’s wrong with you, your behavior? I usually come to the gym happy, excited and laughing. Like I said, it wasn’t just me. I told my people that I would cancel this fight because of this.”
Valencia remembers that day well and that long walk and talk with Garcia.
“We went to the gym and Canelo was there, Eddie was there. Everyone was there and Ryan got to work. If I saw him working, everything seemed completely normal,” Valencia said. And then he cut off the workout and went outside, so I went out with him and he was having a meltdown. “
At that point, Valencia and Garcia walked over to discuss what might have gone wrong.
“He just expressed to me that he didn’t know what was wrong with him and why he was feeling this way,” Valencia recalls. “He didn’t feel normal, he didn’t feel like himself and he didn’t know why. We just walked and talked and I tried to reassure him that this is not something that happens to him alone and that it happens to a lot of people. We discussed we needed to get professional help and we did. Lucky for me my wife is a therapist She has been in this field for a long time, so I heard a lot about her through my wife because this is her field.So, I know a lot of people lead completely normal lives but sometimes something goes on inside that makes their lives different.
“I know this happens to people and the important part is discussing our need for professional help because neither I nor anyone else who was not a professional can help him get through this, so we just need to get him professional help and it starts with his desire to do it.”
Valencia said Garcia immediately agreed he needed to see a professional.
“Ryan is a smart kid. He’s young, but very smart and he knew right away that, yeah, we should get professional help,” Valencia said. “So that was the beginning of the discussion about that and then we got professional help and it was great. From that moment to where we are today, it’s like day and night. If you sit down with Ryan now and talk to him, you’ll never know he’s been through this.
“Ryan has a great support network around him. His family is very supportive. He got me. His parents are very supportive. They completely understood the people around him and got him the help he needed. For me, the most important part is wanting professional help because I believe That with mental health the biggest problem is that people try to fight it a lot and not accept it and not want to get help because they somehow feel that getting help is the negative thing and there is a stigma to that.”
Garcia soon found himself in therapy working despite his problems, which he said he is now under control.
“I went to therapy for two months, intensive care, and just talked, you know, a lot of my problems,” Garcia said. It helped me a lot. It helped me a lot and then I got into this situation where I kissed him. I stopped fighting against the tide and went with him and let myself recover. It’s kind of like, OK, you’re going to die and you accept that you’re going to die. I’m trying to find the bottom of it. That’s what it is, and I’m going to make it be what it will be. And let it flow through me and over time I got smaller and smaller and one day I was – I don’t know what happened – but I felt like everything lifted me up and I felt a kind of happiness I carried on with my life And before you know it, man, I’m starting to feel better. It was such a good thing for me.”
Garcia admitted that there were some very bad moments. He said he contemplated suicide.
“That was on my mind,” Garcia said. “At one point, the medication they prescribed me, I was going to take it all day. I was really struggling with it.”
Garcia eventually turned the corner.
“He’s in such a good place now,” Valencia said. “I think he learned a lot about himself. He went to therapy and he accepts that and can talk about it. I think it’s great going forward in his career.”
Garcia looks fine and said he’s happy and enjoying parenthood. He has two daughters, aged three and one.
“I am learning every day,” he said of fatherhood. “They don’t have any clues about it, but I like him.”
Garcia is also training again, although he still hasn’t been able to use his full right hand yet, and is eager to get back into the ring.
“I plan to fight several times [in 2022] “We’re looking forward to getting the ball back,” Garcia said. “You achieved a great victory [last] January. I’m here to forget all the things I’ve been through and be an inspiration to everyone who might go through what I went through that year and come back with a bang.”