The undefeated 130-pound world champion went from being a virtual unknown to emerging as one of the world's best fighters in a truly amazing story.
When 2021 came to an end, Hector Luis Garcia was fighting eight-rounders at volleyball arenas in his native Dominican Republic. In February of 2022, on a day when not much was happening, he received a call that made him say, “My life will never be the same.”
Garcia, 16-0 (10 KOs) stepped in against the red-hot Chris Colbert on less than three weeks’ notice and scored one of the year’s biggest upsets. Six months later, he added the WBA World Super Featherweight Championship on a historic night. And as the year comes to an end, Garcia finds himself preparing to take part in the first big match of 2023: a superfight against undefeated three-division champion and boxing superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis Saturday, January 7 on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
No matter what happens that night, or the rest of 2023, Garcia will always be called “Champ,” and will be known as Premier Boxing Champion’s Breakthrough Performer of the Year for 2022.
Earlier this week, a quick Google search of Garcia’s name showed about 10 articles on him, in Spanish and English, in just the last four days alone. Last February, before he fought Colbert, the Las Vegas Review Journal mentioned his name only twice in an article announcing the change of opponent.
Instead, the article – and much of the boxing world - focused on how many nicknames Colbert had and of his phone calls with sports legend Deion Sanders, the man he shared the “Primetime” moniker with. The article spoke about Colbert’s bright future and what fights awaited him. As it turned out, Colbert hasn’t boxed since while Garcia added a world title and is now headlining a pay-per-view event.
If anyone had bothered to ask, they would have known that Garcia had different plans. Plans that revealed themselves when the bell rang. In a fast-paced fight, Garcia, a 22-to-1 underdog, stalked the flamboyant Colbert, working his body and blocking the fast counters. The fight featured some spirited exchanges during the first five rounds. By round six, talk of an upset started spreading among the ringsiders.
Then, in round seven, Garcia’s life changed forever.
With both locked in an exchange near the center of the ring, Colbert threw a low right. Garcia countered with a punch he had been waiting to throw his entire life. A straight left landed against Colbert’s jaw that sent him toppling head over heels. Garcia dominated the rest of the fight, winning a lopsided decision.
Six months later, he and stablemate Alberto Puello teamed up in a history-making evening. That night, both were crowned world champions, marking the first time in history that two boxers from the Dominican Republic won championships on the same night.
Leading up to the fight, the changes in his life had already begun to take place. This time, he entered the ring a 3-to-1 favorite to beat the champ, Roger Gutierrez of Venezuela. But Gutierrez was not going to give up the title without a fight. Gutierrez, a devout Catholic who, as a youth, originally took up boxing to improve his street fighting skills, had won that championship as a promise made to both the Virgin of Chiquinquirá - the Patron Saint of Colombia and Zulia, Venezuela – and to his mother, who passed away from cancer just one month before he won the title.
With his tight guard, and accurate punches, Garcia took the lead from the champ. But Gutierrez made him earn every point. Right down to the final round, he threw haymakers for his Mom, and for the Virgin of Chiquinquirá. Each time he did, Garcia fought back with flurries. Garcia won a clear-cut decision and when he returned to his hometown of San Juan de la Maguana, a small parade awaited him along with dozens of requests for interviews.
From being an eight-round fighter to becoming a world champion to a pay-per-view headliner next, Hector Luis Garcia took advantage of every opportunity he was given in 2022, making him the PBC Breakout Performer of the Year.
For a closer look at Hector Luis Garcia, check out his fighter page.