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HITS and MISSES: Ryan Garcia, Kazuto Ioka and More

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  • HITS and MISSES: Ryan Garcia, Kazuto Ioka and More

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    By Kelsey McCarson

    HITS and MISSES: Ryan Garcia, Kazuto Ioka and More

    Boxing shut down for the Christmas holidays, but the sweet science got back to business as usual right when the new year came along.

    Rising 135-pound prodigy Ryan Garcia started his 2021 campaign by stopping Luke Campbell at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The 22-year-old American's biggest win yet came right on the heels of 115-pound titleholder Kazuto Ioka stopping Kosei Tanaka in a New Year's Eve Japanese superfight.

    So there have been plenty of important fights in boxing already in 2021. Here the biggest HITS and MISSES after all that action.

    HIT: Ryan Garcia's Viral Knockout

    Lightweight contender Garcia is only 22 years old, but the phenom is already drawing praise from the likes of NBA superstar LeBron James, world-famous actor Michael B. Jordan and many others.

    Maybe that isn't as important as the high marks he's also been levied from boxing insiders like Chris Mannix, who believe Garcia can become the biggest superstar of the new century, but it will only help the fighter build on the incredible platform he already has.

    Garcia's knockout win over Campbell was viral and vicious. The sensational body punch that dropped Campbell for good in the seventh round quickly made the rounds on social media and it had all sorts of celebrities from inside and outside the combat sports world talking about it.

    It was also violent, timely, and gritty. Garcia was knocked down in the second round by Campbell, and he had to sit down on his punches over the next few rounds to turn the tide.

    MISS: Golden Boy's Plans for Alvarado Twins

    Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions could use all the star power it can get right about now after losing its biggest draw last year Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Having Garcia on the roster helps that cause tremendously, and so does the presence of rising 140-pounder Vergil Ortiz.

    But De La Hoya's crew could use some other commodities, too. Both Rene Alvarado and his twin brother Felix Alvarado entered Saturday night's card wearing belts around their waists, but only the latter left the ring in the same manner.

    IBF light flyweight titleholder Felix Alvarado was a marauding menace in his 10th-round destruction over Dee-Jay Kriel. But Rene Alvarado lost his WBA junior lightweight title in a solid scrap to Venezuelan upstart Roger Gutierrez.

    As promotional purposes go, boxing brothers are great and twin brothers might be even better. But that's only the case if they both win fights.

    HIT: Incredible Power of Boxing's First Social Media Superstar

    Entering Saturday's fight, Garcia had over 7.8 million followers on Instagram. After his knockout went viral, "KingRy" was crowned with a few hundred thousand more interested parties to go over the 8.1 million mark.

    To put that incredible number in perspective, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has 6 million followers on the same platform. So Garcia is poised to become one of the biggest superstars in the sport. In some very important ways, one might even argue Garcia already is.

    But beyond getting all those looks and likes on Instagram, Garcia's latest notable clip is easily the most important thing that's happened in his boxing career. Garcia won the biggest fight of his career over a former title challenger and Olympic gold medalist, and he did it in a noteworthy and compelling way.

    MISS: Anti-Social Media Bigotry

    In chatting with Garcia before his fight, it became apparent to me that many people follow boxing who don't support the fighter solely because of his incredible following on social media.

    In fact, some even dare to label Garcia as "that Instagram fighter," or even something more like YouTubers Logan and Jake Paul, than one of the best young fighters in the sport.

    If you're one of those people, consider how Garcia puts the right focus on the most important things. For him, the marketing and social media aspect of his life is just a small part of a bigger goal. Garcia wants to be great.

    "I think I just did a great job at seeing the opportunity there to share my talents on social media, and I use it and people took it how they wanted to take it," Garcia said. "But I've been boxing my whole life, and I've been ready for the biggest fights. I want to leave a true legacy when I'm done with the game."

    For Garcia, that means using his incredible reach to make huge fights happen way faster than they would otherwise. Garcia says he wants to fight the likes of Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, and Teofimo Lopez as fast as possible.

    "I'm very excited. There are so many fighters I get to fight and so many great moments I can give to the fans," Garcia said.

    If that's not worth supporting , I don't know what is.

    HIT: Kazuto Ioka's Sensational Win on New Year's Eve

    The New Year's Eve tradition of massive combat sports showcases over in Japan continued last week with WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka stopping Kosei Tanaka in an important battle between top stars.

    Last year, Ioka became Japan’s first-ever four-division titleholder when he captured his 115-pound belt, and the 31-year-old added to his growing legend by stopping the previously undefeated Tanaka from accomplishing the same goal.

    Ioka vs. Tanaka didn't get as much coverage in the United States as it probably should have. With the proliferation of over-the-top streaming platforms, maybe fights like this going forward will be able to be featured more for the American viewing audience.

    Regardless, Ioka's huge win shouldn't go unnoticed. It should be celebrated as an important feat.

    Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel