IN an era where social media stars are generating bigger gates and pay-per-view buys than genuine world champions, an elite boxer with a similar social presence has the tools to conquer the world.

Perhaps that’s why lightweight contender Ryan Garcia is dubbed ‘King Ry’.

Unbeaten in 22 fights, Garcia boats wins over a handful of formidable contenders, including GB’s former Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell.

The 23-year-old’s dazzling hand speed has helped secure him 18 knockouts, along with the status as most valuable asset in Golden Boy Promotions’ current stable of fighters.

But perhaps Garcia’s most formidable stat is the near nine million followers he has on Instagram. That’s more than the lightweight divisions’ kingpin Devin Haney, KO attraction Gervonta Davies and the great Vasyl Lomachenko combined!

The Californian returns to the ring in Los Angeles this weekend taking on former world champion Javier Fortuna. It’s a decent test in the fledgling career of the youngster with the world seemingly at the end of his fists.

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However, whilst he may have the talent and the fan base to become boxing’s next superstar, outside the ropes Garcia is struggling under the weight of expectancy.

A switch to work alongside Canelo Alvarez under coach Eddie Reynoso ended acrimoniously earlier in the year with both camps suggesting a lack of commitment and discipline was to blame.

Sandwiched in between, Garcia also had surgery on a wrist injury and, far more concerning, took a break away from boxing altogether after admitting to suffering from mental health issues related to the sport.

BOOST: GARCIA TO WIN BY TJO IN ROUNDS 10-12 – 9/1

Saturday’s fight with Fortuna was originally scheduled for last July, but was cancelled during that 15-month sabbatical from competition.

And even though Garcia did return against Emmanuel Tagoe in April, he was extended to the judge’s cards for the first time in five years.

Garcia appears to be back to his trash talking ways, and is already talking up a potential blockbuster against ‘Tank’ Davies. But first he has questions to answer against Fortuna at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center).

The Puerto Rican, 33, is a talented southpaw with a tenable 37-3-1 record. He enjoyed a 13-month spell as a world champion down at super-featherweight starting in 2015.

Fortuna also lost a world title up at lightweight to Robert Easter Jr in 2018 via split decision, with a foul early in the fight for holding and hitting came back to haunt him on the cards.

FULL CARD BETTING

Jo Jo Diaz did outbox him over 12 rounds last summer, however, meaning Garcia has to perform and look good this weekend to continue to be talked about at the top of the division.

Lightweight #1 Haney may hold all the belts, but the fanbase Garcia has at his fingertips means he’s the hottest ticket at 135lb. Financially, he’s every promoter’s leading contender.

Battle ready Fortuna likes to start fast. But Garcia’s hand speed is unrivalled and against an opponent so willing to trade, Fortuna could find himself on the canvas more than once before he succumbs to only the second TKO defeat of his career.

TIP: Garcia by TKO, Rounds 7-9 – 3/1