Something changed in boxing, fairly dramatically, when Ryan Garcia caught Luke Campbell with a perfectly placed liver shot on Saturday in Dallas.
Garcia won the interim WBC lightweight championship in the process, but this sport already has too many title-holders, so the significance of his victory has little to do with the fact he’s probably the 436th active boxer who can call himself a world champion.
The significance of Garcia’s win, like Teofimo Lopez’s victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko in their IBF-WBA-WBO title fight in October, is that they see themselves as the leaders of a new generation of fighters who aren’t beholden to the mores of boxing’s ignominious past.
They are in one of the sport’s hottest divisions, and they’re eager to take on the biggest challenges.
Simply put, they want to fight the type of fights that get the general public excited.
For both of them, those fights exist. At this point, Lopez is clearly the cream of the lightweight crop, but Gervonta Davis and Devin Haney are also factors in this class. Each would make a good opponent for Garcia and Lopez.
Haney was in Dallas watching Garcia, and the fans who attended began to chant for a Garcia-Haney fight when Garcia asked them who they wanted to see him fight next.
So great, go with that fight and let Lopez and Davis fight each other. Both would be remarkable fights.
Garcia and Haney are both extraordinarily fast-handed and physically gifted. Lopez and Davis are both extremely heavy-handed.
The winners would be exponentially bigger than they are now as a result, and would make for a massive unification bout.
Imagine, for a second, how big Lopez would be if, for the sake of argument, he were to defeat Davis. At that point, he’d be coming off back-to-back victories over Lomachenko and Davis and would remain undefeated with three of the four belts. And he’d still only be 23 years old.
Until now, Garcia has been known more for his massive social media following than for his boxing skills, though he clearly proved any doubters wrong when he dismantled Luke Campbell, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, on Saturday. Garcia was decked in the second, but that happens when a fighter is offensive and fighting to win, as Garcia was doing. But he won every other round and showed his mettle by the way he responded.
Anyone who rips him for getting dropped doesn’t understand the sport or its history. It seemed like in his early days as welterweight champion, Felix Trinidad was dropped each time and didn’t get rolling until he pulled himself off of the canvas. In 1963, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, was dropped by Henry Cooper.
It’s part of the sport. It’s how one reacts to being dropped, and Garcia reacted flawlessly.
If Garcia were able to defeat Haney, a fight with Lopez would be one of the biggest of the year.
Beyond what they will do for their own careers, they have the great potential to impact the way their peers behave, and that’s what is exciting about this.
Yes, fighters deserve to be paid; this is a brutal business. And nobody is asking them, to borrow an old Floyd Mayweather term, to fight for slave wages.
But the boxers have the power to crash all the political boundaries down that prevent great fights from being made. If welterweight champions Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. demanded today that their promoters match them next, it would happen pronto.
Garcia and Lopez have both insisted they’re not going to let things like which television network a potential opponent is affiliated with prevent a quality fight from occurring.
And if you look at some of the most significant fighters in history, look at the opposition they faced. They all faced scores of champions and future Hall of Famers.
Ali, for instance, was 11-3 against men who wound up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Those kinds of fights — champion versus champion and future Hall of Famer versus future Hall of Famer —are the type that invigorate the sport and force people to take notice.
And when they do, they see the other good things happening in the sport.
There is a lot of elite young talent in boxing now. Guys like Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia can have a huge impact on making the public at large far more aware of that young talent than they are now.
They need to translate their words into action. so gentlemen, the stage is yours. The clock is ticking.
More from Yahoo Sports: