When it comes to the much-anticipated return of unbeaten lightweight Ryan Garcia following a tumultuous 14-month layoff, Emmanuel Tagoe has pulled few punches in regards to letting the world know he plans on playing spoiler on Saturday.
Tagoe (32-1, 15 KOs), a 33-year-old native of Ghana, will look to make his name throughout the sport against Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) when they square off inside the Alamodome in San Antonio for a main event set for a catchweight of 139 pounds (9 p.m. ET, DAZN -- subscribe now).
"I think I have the tools to knock out Ryan on Saturday. This fight is an opportunity for me to showcase myself," Tagoe said. "I came here to knock out Ryan Garcia. I think he's good but he's not my size. I can't wait for Saturday. I'm going to show everyone."
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Garcia, 23, will need to answer a number of key questions related to everything from ring rust, wrist surgery, a well-documented mental-health battle and a soap opera divorce with trainer Eddy Reynoso and prized pupil Canelo Alvarez. With veteran Joe Goossen now in his corner, Garcia feels refreshed and ready to let his hands go.
"Boxing is part of me. I have been doing this since I was seven and I am good at it," Garcia said. "I know that I still have a lot left to give to the sport. I feel pretty safe in the ring. I am not taking a beating. Even in sparring, I don't feel like I am getting hit with a lot of shots. And fortunately, I am healthy enough to continue to fight at a high level and give fans some amazing fights.
"This is going to be an exciting fight from me. You can expect timing and explosion. I don't look to toss someone around for a couple of rounds. If I land a good one, you can expect that I am going to be looking to take someone out."
Garcia, fueled by his massive social media following which includes nearly 9 million on Instagram alone, is hoping to get back on track with a victory before resuming his chase of the biggest names at lightweight, including Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Devin Haney. While no one has ever questioned his physical ability, Alvarez made headlines last fall by criticizing Garcia's work ethic.
The fight will be the first time Garcia will enter the ring since the biggest win of his young career in January 2021, when he rose from the canvas to finish, and ultimately retire, former world title challenger Luke Campbell.
"I miss everything about boxing: the competition, the contact, destroying someone," Garcia said. "I just love to fight and just be better than the person in front of me. Tagoe is a veteran, he is going to try his best to keep me off of him, to survive. His goal, I think, is to not get knocked out.
"I know he has been saying that facing me will be easy. But I can say one thing, my job is to not make his life easy in that ring. Fans should be ready to see me give this fight everything I got. If he can take a shot, it will be a good fight. If he can't, he will be out of there very quick."
The undercard fills out with a pair of interesting bouts fans can get excited about. Former top prospect Gabe Rosado is back in a super middleweight contest against the son of a legend in Shane Mosley Jr. Rosado shocked the world in 2021 with his knockout of Bektemir Melikuziev. The veteran was moved directly into an opportunity against rising star Jaime Munguia, but he came up short on the scorecards. Rosado has alternated wins and losses for much of his pro career, but Philly native always comes to brawl even if he ends up on the losing side of things. Mosley Jr., meanwhile, has won four of his last five with the lone defeat coming in his most recent outing against Jason Quigley.
Let's take a closer look at the fight card for Saturday night before making a prediction and pick on the main event. Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Fight card, odds
- Ryan Garcia -1600 vs. Emmanuel Tagoe +900, catchweights (139 pounds)
- Gabriel Rosado -300 vs. Shane Mosley Jr. +240, super middleweights
- Marlen Esparza (c) -260 vs. Naoko Fujioka (c) +210, women's flyweight unification
While the reveal of Tagoe as a comeback opponent felt a bit disappointing at the time due to his lack of name value, he might just be the perfect style matchup Garcia needs to rebuild his confidence and hush up his critics due to Tagoe's straight-ahead attack. For as sublimely skilled as Garcia is offensively with his lightning quick hand speed and combinations, the legitimacy of his chin and defensive instincts on an elite level are still up for debate.
Garcia also may just be wired as such that he'll never quite remove his vulnerabilities from the equation of any fight. A gunslinger at heart with an aggressive new coach behind him, the possibility of Garcia making an emphatic statement against the lesser skilled Tagoe is very much in play. In fact, the wide betting odds seem to suggest it's a lock.
The scenario this creates is that Garcia might end up passing this test with flying colors while still not completely proving that he's mentally and physically recovered from the past year.
Pick: Garcia via TKO5