By Eric Lunger
From the StubHub Center in Carson, CA, another chapter in the venerable Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry was written, albeit in this case Mexican-American, as 19-year-old sensation Ryan “El Flash” Garcia took on hard-hitting veteran Jason Velez in a ten-round junior lightweight clash.
With his boyish good looks and undeniable charisma, Garcia is a worthy member of the Golden Boy stable and heir-in-waiting to Oscar de la Hoya’s legacy as a Los Angelino and proud son of Mexico.
Velez came out in the first working inside and pounding the body. Garcia was patient, but seemed unaccustomed to the tactics he was facing. The second was an even round, with Garcia landing a few powerful counters that may have swayed the judges.
In the third, Garcia showed more confidence in handling Velez’s pressure and countering as the Puerto Rican fighter came in. In the final minute of the round, Garcia caught Velez with some solid combinations, wobbling Velez momentarily. Garcia’s accuracy and hand speed are impressive, indeed, elite level, and he showed a poise beyond his years in the middle rounds, not chasing the knock out.
Accuracy again was the theme of the fifth round, when Garcia landed the cleaner and more accurate shots. By contrast, the sixth featured a lot of clinching and holding until the last minute, when Garcia unleashed a barrage of combinations. As the rounds ticked by, Velez continued to hold and work inside, while Garcia continued to use his accuracy to score. It was hard to see Velez winning any rounds that way. Did Velez’s plan succeed in slowing Garcia down? In the eighth, it did not seem so.
In the ninth, Garcia began to move and circle, to the dismay of the crowd. But again, Garcia fought with composure, doing enough to score and win the round. In the final frame, Velez gave everything he had, and Garcia handled it skillfully and maturely. It was a good fight by both men, but Velez never did enough to break through nor to avoid Garcia’s counters. The judges scored the bout 99-91 across the board for Ryan Garcia.
In the co-feature, rugged and determined Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs) of Ireland took on Berlin Abreu (14-1, 11 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. O’Sullivan, 33, sports facial hair from the 1910s, but his boxing skill-set and strength are very modern. Abreu, a full decade younger than O’Sullivan but moving up in weight, was coming off a career-defining win over Argentine David Peralta in December of 2107. Nonetheless, O’Sullivan presented a definite step up in class.
O’Sullivan is a pressure fighter and a power puncher, as Abreu found out in the first round. The Dominican seemed willing to absorb O’Sullivan’s punches, but it seemed a questionable game plan. It was more jabs and hooks from O’Sullivan in the second, though Abreu did respond with momentary offense of his own. That said, the Irishman landed some clean and hard punches. At the end of the round, Abreu seemed to think he had seen something, as he started to drop his hands and look for a big upper cut.
The third round was lopsided, as O’Sullivan landed repeated left hooks to the body and powerful short rights to the head. With 34 seconds to go in the round, Abreu contemptuously spit his mouth piece, or perhaps he was frustrated with the beating that he was taking. Referee Gerard White had no choice but to deduct a point. In the corner between rounds, Abreu’s corner surrendered, and Abreu made a quick exit to the boos of the crowd.
O’Sullivan runs his record to 28-2 with 19 KOs, and remains a candidate to face middleweight kingpin Gennady “GGG” Golovkin at some future date.