Boxing

Ryan Garcia’s inner battle: “I wanted to kill myself”

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Lightweight contender Ryan Garcia was on top of the world as 2021 began. He had just scored the high-water mark victory of his young career, coming off the canvas to stop former world title challenger Luke Campbell and, thereby, affirming the main stage potential so many saw in him.

With good looks, natural charisma, a huge social media following, and, now, boxing street cred after the high profile win, “King Ry” found himself at the very top of the young and talented 135 lb. class.

Then, everything changed.

Old foe, depression, crept back into the life of the young fighter and nearly put him down for the count.

“When I was deep in it, I didn’t think I was gonna live, I was so depressive and I went to bad habits. I started drinking, and I never drink, ever. But I was getting drunk all the time. I wanted to kill myself at one point,” Garcia said in a recent interview on Inside Boxing Live.

“It was so bad, so intense, that I thought maybe I just rather not be here,’” Garcia added. “I didn’t understand what was going on. I needed professional help.”

Garcia has been open about his issues with mental illness, telling his social media followers that he battles anxiety and depression every day. This time, however, he was hit especially hard.

In preparation for a world title eliminator under the guidance of trainer Eddy Reynoso, who also works with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Garcia found it hard to even begin his training.

“When I got to the gym I just burst out crying for no reason in front of everybody and I ran out of the gym. That was the moment [I decided to pull out of the title eliminator against Javier Fortuna],” Garcia told Boxing News. “Canelo, everybody, was there and I was just trying to work out and I just couldn’t hold it in. I just burst. I got out of the gym. I said, ‘I gotta go guys.’

“My body just felt off, everything felt off. It was not just mental. It was like physical. I just felt like I couldn’t do anything.”

Crippled from the inside out, Garcia took some time away from the boxing business to get himself together. He credits therapy with helping him regain control of his life.

“It helped me a lot and then I kind of just went into this mode where I accepted it. I stopped fighting against the current and just went with it, and let myself recover. It was a pretty good thing for me.”

The mental health issues were not the last of the tough breaks for Garcia. An injured hand requiring surgery halted his comeback efforts and took away the rest of his 2021.

Now, in 2022, the 23-year-old is aiming at a big-time comeback. He’s scheduled to face Ghana’s Emmanuel Tagoe on April 9, but he still has a lot of baggage to deal with from his lost year.

Mental health issues no longer carry the stigma they once used to, so that’s not the problem. The issue is reliability and the concern over whether Garcia is fully truthful when it comes to his boxing business and whether he will keep scheduled fight dates.

The talented blue-chipper pulled out of two high-profile bouts last year. And, even if his reasons for withdrawing were legitimate, the money men may be reluctant to make a large investment in a fight date that, based on recent history, may never come through.

There’s also the fact that Garcia stirred up plenty of ill will when he spent a good chunk of last year floating false rumors to the media, tying himself to big-money bouts with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Gervonta Davis that were never, ever realistically going to happen. The kid crossed the line from self-promotion to trolling, dishonest clickbait and fans don’t easily forget being manipulated.

But, baggage or not, all will probably be forgiven and forgotten if he flashes those supremely quick hands and puts on a show April 9. From there on out, though, there are just no guarantees.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com