Ryan Garcia’s insanity act was just a glorious diversion to shock Devin Haney

Following a build-up focused on Garcia’s mental state, the American showed that there was more than meets the eye as he stormed to a majority-decision win over a stunned Haney

Steve Bunce
Sunday 21 April 2024 15:20 BST
Garcia won an unexpected majority-decision victory against Devin Haney on 20 April in New York
Garcia won an unexpected majority-decision victory against Devin Haney on 20 April in New York (Getty Images)

After two months of disturbing behaviour, there were 12 rounds of quality from Ryan Garcia in a fight that divided boxing.

Garcia dropped Devin Haney three times to win their fight at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, on two of the three scorecards. Haney’s WBC super-lightweight belt was not on the line late on Saturday night; Garcia, in what was viewed as a final act of his crazy pre-fight antics, weighed in three pounds over the limit. Haney lost on points, but still left the ring as the WBC champion. The failure at the weight was a tactic and not the latest crazy act of a damaged fighter.

Before the first bell Garcia was forced to undergo psychiatric testing, forced to prove he was not damaged and forced to defend himself against a series of outrageous claims. There were many in the old sport who called for the fight to be cancelled and for Garcia to go and get some help with his mental health issues. Garcia’s perceived public breakdown became the story of the fight; in private, he just got down to business. It was the fight of his young life in the ring, and he happily turned it into a fight for his sanity away from the ring.

Garcia’s pre-fight antics included missing the weight and chugging a beer during the weigh-in (Getty Images)

It was all a beautifully crafted act, a ruse to con Haney, the officials and the fans. Garcia chugged a beer after failing to make weight, talked with his demons and just got on with the giant and wonderful con. Haney was always sceptical, but the evidence was compelling; Garcia is a social-media savage, a smart man at manipulation. It was too easy to forget that the pair had fought six times as amateurs, winning three each – Garcia is a real fighter, but he has a genuine understanding of social media. Garcia was acting too crazy to be crazy and some of his 3am rants were impressive. Garcia is eccentric, but that does not make him mentally unstable.

They will fight a rematch, the weight will not be a factor, the belt will become a prop and not a trophy. Thankfully, at the fight’s conclusion, they seemed to finish with the nastiness from most of the pre-fight exchanges and embraced. Haney’s father and coach, Bill, had repeatedly talked about Garcia being killed in the fight. He had talked like Garcia deserved to die. There were several graphic and disgusting statements; Garcia’s behaviour was odd at times, but Bill Haney’s was reprehensible.

In the opening minute of the first round, Haney was rocked and hurt by a Garcia left hook; the left hook from Garcia was the punch of the fight. It set the agenda for the mayhem, the raw emotion of a fight that very few expected.

Garcia dropped Haney three times on his way to victory on the night (Getty Images)

Haney had tried on occasion to sensibly discuss the fight in the build-up, and had mentioned Garcia’s left hook, but most of the talk had been about Garcia’s mental health. It was a glorious diversion; Haney lost to a man who most people in boxing wanted placed in a straitjacket and locked away.

In the seventh, Haney was hurt, stunned and then dropped by a left hook. He looked in deep trouble, but regained his feet and was then given more time to recover when Garcia was docked a point for hitting on the break. It seemed harsh; Haney had been holding on grimly to survive. At the bell to end the round, Haney went back to his corner with his eyes wide open and he looked in shock.

Haney was dropped again in the 10th round and the fight was slipping away from him; it was the end to a fight that nobody predicted. Haney was dropped for the third time, again from a left hook, in the 11th. Garcia was tired, but when you can hurt and drop an opponent, fatigue is less of a concern. Haney was also exhausted; Haney, remember, had made the weight and perhaps, who knows, Garcia not having to put his body through the torture of dropping the three pounds could have been the factor. Garcia paid Haney an agreed fee, thought to be $600,000, for failing to make the limit, and not the $1.5m that has been reported.

The two fighters put much of the pre-bout conflict behind them after the final bell (Getty Images)

In the end, in a packed ring of emotional team members, the three scores were read out: A draw of 112-112 and then 115-109 and 114-110 in Garcia’s favour. Haney lost for the first time in 32 fights but left with his belt; Garcia won for the 25th time. They are both just 25 and they will fight again and possibly even a third time. They will both be in six or more super fights in the next four or five years and they will move effortlessly across weight divisions. They will be at the very core of boxing’s biggest nights. There is already talk of a fight at catchweight, made at 145 pounds, which is five above super-lightweight and two below the welterweight limit. The fight showed once again that the belts offered by the sanctioning bodies are just pieces of jewelry – it’s the two boxers that count and not the leather and gold and fake jewels in the belts they pay for and wear to the ring.

Garcia, by the way, wore a million-dollar diamond crown to the ring. He left with a lot more after a night of raw emotion and shocks.

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