Luke Campbell’s hopes of another world title shot suffered a severe blow as Ryan Garcia rose from the canvas to land a superb stoppage in Dallas.
In a gripping lightweight fight, Briton Campbell landed a left hook in round two to floor Mexican-American Garcia.
Some asked how the much-hyped Garcia might respond to adversity and while he fought on emotion, he found answers.
Campbell survived a tough attack in the fifth, but a well-placed body shot ended the contest two rounds later.
“You taught me a lot,” Garcia, 22, told 33-year-old Campbell as the opponents embraced in the beaten man’s corner at the American Airlines Center.
The jubilant reaction from Garcia’s team – including gym-mate Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – hinted at relief, but unquestionably emphasised the statement they knew their man had made.
In beating a fighter of Campbell’s pedigree – and by rising from the canvas to do so – this win served up plenty of answers about Garcia, whose social media following led him to be identified as the world’s 12th most marketable athlete in October.
“I think I showed a lot of people who I really am. I showed today I am special,” he told DAZN.
“They wanted to show me as a social media fighter. Anybody who puts you down, remember you’re not who people tell you who you are – you are who you choose to be. I chose to be a champion tonight.
“He caught me, I was like, ‘I got dropped, this is crazy’. I’ve never been dropped in my life. I had to adjust. I knew I could beat him, I just had to get back up.”
Garcia is the first man to beat Campbell by stoppage. Shortly after the fight Campbell told Garcia in his dressing room that he punched harder than anyone he had ever faced. The London 2012 Olympic gold medallist then told his Twitter followers that Garcia has a “massive future ahead”.
This stoppage win will add to the kind of hype that has led some American broadcasters to suggest Garcia’s star status could bring new fans to the sport in the years to come.
The 1-3 bookmakers’ favourite was carried to the ring on a throne while Campbell waited in the ring in Texas.
But within two rounds a heavy left hook put Garcia on his back and it is to his credit he got up, took the fight to his rival and won rounds in the aftermath.
Garcia had only twice gone past round four, and his last two bouts had lasted less than 180 seconds in total. He carried a fizz in his punches throughout and a left hook-right hand combination in the fifth rocked Campbell and sent him into the ropes as the bell sounded.
In a contest that ebbed and flowed, Campbell found some poise after a relentless attack from Garcia when the action resumed at the start of the sixth.
But a round later, Campbell braced for an attack to his head only for Garcia to beautifully drive a left hand to the body that left him on all fours.
Garcia’s team raced into the ring, lifted their man and placed a crown on his head.
His 21st win in as many fights could earn him a world title shot next, or his preferred bout with American Gervonta Davis.
For now, it has justified the hype and underlined his threat. After the fourth loss of his career, Campbell will need to regroup if he is to attempt to win a world title for the third time.