Part athlete, part entertainer, Ryan Garcia is the Golden State’s undefeated boxing hero. But he has his eye on an even bigger prize
Photography by JACK WATERLOT
Fashion Direction by CHRISTIAN STROBLE
Words by CHRIS WALLACE
“I’m on fire right now,” Ryan Garcia says, and it would be difficult to disagree. The 24-year-old boxer with the face and physique of a campaign model has a lot to feel good about. In the seven years since he turned pro, Garcia has won all 23 of his fights—19 of them by knockout—and most of them in spectacular fashion. His ferocious but elegantly constructed combinations almost blur in real time, and they astound with their precision in slow motion. He has won many millions of dollars in prize money and TV deals, and, I don’t know, if you go toe-to-toe with two dozen guys who’ve trained their whole lives to fight and beat them all, maybe you are allowed to feel a bit confident in yourself.
HERMÈS cardigan, $1,750, pants, $1,375, and boots, $1,475. VACHERON CONSTANTIN watch, $39,000. Vintage PAUMÈ LOS ANGELES pendant. Vintage VITALY necklace.
But Garcia’s optimistic energy is not just that of someone for whom things have come easily. Growing up in Victorville (he has three sisters and one brother), Garcia was hungry to compete and says he was disappointed in the effort and commitment of his baseball teammates. When, at 7 years old, he raised his concerns to his uncle (“As long as it is an individual sport, I’m in,” he says he told him), his uncle introduced him to boxing for the first time. “It could’ve been tennis, or anything, really,” Garcia says now, but on that first day, he fell head over heels in love with the whole culture around boxing. “I can still hear the sound of my mitt hitting the bag the first time,” he says, like he’s talking about a love song.
TAG HEUER watch, $3,050. IN GOLD WE TRUST PARIS necklace, $270.
He moved between gyms in Riverside and San Diego, seeking out the best coaches to work with in the ring, and as an amateur and soon an undefeated professional, Garcia was able to channel his passion and competitiveness. In very short order, the charisma he showed in his fights found him a fanbase and a platform to express his flash and panache in other arenas. On Instagram, Garcia is @kingryan, a handle he says comes not from arrogance but a play on the Gaelic root of Ryan, which means “little king”—though he often wears a necklace with a fully iced-out pendant reading “King Ryan,” which does somewhat belie the claim. In his flexy photos on social media, standing in front of his Lamborghini or stunting around Rome on a trip this summer, Garcia gives good old-fashioned playboy boxer in a medium expressly made for just such unbridled aspirational alpha-id-gone-wild content. Which, to him, is all sort of part of the plan. “Boxing’s always been a classy sport,” he says, “even though it’s brutal—celebrities coming to Mike Tyson fights, everybody dressing up in suits. You could become a great role model. Even other athletes look up to me,” he says. “I’m not just in it for the game,” he adds. “I love the whole art of boxing, from the business side to what I bring to the table: entertainment.”
DOLCE & GABBANA coat, $6,695, and leggings, $745. Vintage YOHJI YAMAMOTO pants. BURBERRY shoes, $1,150.
» I’m really into fashion. It’s like a project for me. And I don’t half-ass anything. I have to try my hardest «
And this is crucial to Garcia’s idea about himself, his role in the sport and beyond, and his future. “I describe myself as a leader, like a general for troops,” he says. “I’m the one that has to go into battle for everybody, for a kid that’s looking up to me, and I’m going to put on the best performance they’ve ever seen.” He believes that he has a responsibility to show that kid, and the rest of us, “the best way of life.”
It sounds like that kid he is fighting for, for whom he is champion in the ring (and the world) is sort of abstract—all kids. But Garcia does have two children of his own, (he lives with his family in his new home in Porter Ranch, close to Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys where his coach, Joe Goossen, is based), and perhaps the sense of greater responsibility comes with young fatherhood. Not that he is exactly struggling to do it all—the training, the media, the expectations and two daughters with two mothers. Garcia is nothing if not efficient with his time, he says. “I have ADHD, and everything has a purpose. It’s a rare thing that I’ll kick back and watch a movie.”
VALENTINO coat, $3,950, shirt, $1,150, pants, $1,690, and shoes, $980. CARTIER bracelet, $7,000, and ring, $2,240.
Managing Ryan is a family affair. His father, Henry, is his assistant coach, who you’ll spot in his corner talking strategy with Goossen during fights. His brother, Sean, is also a professional boxer and has been assisting in Ryan’s training for the past seven-plus years. His mother, Lisa, oversees Ryan’s merchandise line, Fierce King, and she and Henry have their own business, Fierce Reflex, a line of boxing reflex bags used in many major professional gyms.
When he does need to blow off some steam, or treat himself, Garcia’s favorite hobby is shopping. “I’m really into fashion,” he says, and he loves going into a store, trying things on to put together. “It’s like a project for me. And I don’t half-ass anything. I have to try my hardest. That looks good, that don’t look good, OK.” However, he isn’t exactly living the fast life in L.A., even when all duded up in his Lambo. “Honestly,” he says, “I’ll go to Dave & Buster’s with it, seriously.”
ADIDAS x GUCCI jacket, $3,200, and pants, $1,750. Vintage PAUMÈ LOS ANGELES shirt. AMIRI shoes, $650. CARTIER necklace, $25,000, bracelet, $38,800, and ring, $22,800.
Eventually he’d like to put his interest and talent in the field to work by creating a capsule collection for a fashion brand, and to have a hand in doing the marketing—maybe directing commercials or ideating campaigns—aspirations which were fanned to flame by his interactions with Kim Jones, the artistic director at Dior Men with whom Garcia designed his trunks and robe for a recent fight. “Me and Kim, we talk all the time,” he says. “I was watching Aladdin and I liked how he was dressed in it. He had the white with the baby-blue silk inside lining, and then that’s what I was telling Kim. ‘I want to put it all together. That’s where my inspiration’s coming from.’ They were collaborators not dictators, and I like to work with those type of people.”
» Boxing is all body language. I can feel when somebody’s uncomfortable. I tell people I could have been an FBI agent «
In 2021, while he was the reigning lightweight champ, Garcia canceled a title-defense bout in order to address mental health concerns. It was an extraordinary move in the world of boxing, even as athletes in other sports are making strides in this arena—think tennis player Naomi Osaka opting out of her title-defense run at the U.S. Open last year. Garcia says now that his anxiety and depression were spiraling at the time, to the point that he was suffering panic attacks and even experiencing suicidal thoughts. As you can imagine, for an athlete on his level, Garcia has an outsized will and an intensely analytical mind; he wants to measure everything he puts into his body and brain and study their results to improve performance. And he says that when he was able to analyze what he was experiencing, something rather remarkable occurred to him—during a game of poker, of all things.
ADIDAS x GUCCI pants, $1,980, gloves, $370, and blouson (over shoulder), $3,900. JAEGER-LeCOULTRE watch, $11,000.
“I don’t encourage people to gamble,” he says, “but I was looking at my hand and realized that I had been trusting my feelings instead of trusting truth.” Our inferences, and expectations, about what a dealer is holding, what other players may have in their hands, what cards might come up next and how the whole game will play out, in other words, do not reflect reality but merely our own feelings about reality. And those feelings for which we have no objective evidence, Garcia implies, cannot be trusted. So now he commits himself to playing the hand he has, in all phases of his life, “being in this moment,” he says. He has even worked this into his mid-match mantras as he coaches himself through a fight. Which, in itself, is extraordinary.
LOUIS VUITTON jacket, $6,250, and pants, $1,180. Vintage PAUMÈ LOS ANGELES necklace. Tank, stylist’s own.
Because think about it: How many of us regularly enter into that extremely heightened fight-or-flight consciousness and, while there, can maintain cool, calculated poise, let alone create a beneficial commentary while under attack? “You’re fighting for your life basically in front of millions of people, and then on top of it, you’re going to be judged how you fought for your life,” Garcia says. “I’m always saying mantras for myself while I’m fighting, and thinking without thinking,” noting particular punches and behavior and trends, all without consciously articulating them but building them into his own response on a reflex-twitch level. He may be naturally gifted in this department, like those people who are somehow calmer under duress. He considers himself to be extra perceptive of human behavior and body language—essential information about the status of a combatant during a fight—and thinks this gives him a kind of superpower in civilian life, a talent for reading people, reading a room. “Boxing is all body language, and I can feel when somebody’s uncomfortable really quick … I tell people I could have been an FBI agent,” he says, seeing through the veils as he does, to know how people are really feeling. Actually, “no, that’s an idea for a DC comic.”
» I have ADHD, everything has a purpose. It’s a rare thing that I’ll kick back and watch a movie «
Garcia’s comic book character would have a bit of mysticism about him too, he says, because he has a kind of Zen master control of his mind. “You get to this place in your mental training where you’re ignoring the signs of your body … because your mind actually is way [more] powerful than people could imagine. You’re willing to let it all go, like, ‘I’m willing to die on this run, so let’s see how far I can go.’ What I’ve experienced is this sense of freedom once you pass the mental barriers that hold a person back, and then all of a sudden you’re not tired no more, and you’re free,” he says. In that headspace, Garcia says, “you could think against anybody, whether it be in business [or any walk of life], because you know where you’ve been mentally. No awkward moment or no weird situation could ever throw you off because you’ve already been to a very hard place in your mind, and you push through it. You’ve become the master of your mind, and your body has to listen and adjust.”
FEAR OF GOD pullover, $160, and shorts, $70. Vintage bag.
So what happens when you develop this superpower and the confidence born from an undefeated run of prize fights? When you are as competitive as Garcia is, you want to put it to the test—on bigger and bigger stages, with heightened stakes. “I’m ready,” Garcia says. “I told everybody that, after what I was coming out of, my whole career was just going to take off. I feel like I’m going to go on this run of nonstop victories.”
Hair by ANDRE GUNN at Art Department using T3MICRO.
Makeup by ELAYNA BACHMAN at Art Department using CHANEL.
Feature image: ZENITH watch, $8,400. Vintage PAUMÈ LOS ANGELES tank. Vintage VITALY bracelet.
This story originally appeared in the Men’s Fall 2022 issue of C Magazine.
Discover more STYLE news.
See the story in our digital edition