Tuesday, April 16

Ryan Garcia isn’t acting.

In the same way it is so often observed that there is no hiding place in a boxing ring, during fight week it becomes similarly difficult for a fighter to hide if they are ill-prepared.

When Garcia fought Gervonta “Tank” Davis in Las Vegas in April 2023, Garcia betrayed the nature of nervous energy that is natural for a fighter entering his biggest fight. The closer they then got to standing on the scales that week, the harder it became for him to hide the extent to which he was struggling to make the catchweight of 136lbs.

To observe him one year on, however, is to reflect on the Garcia of 2023 as almost serene.

If there were times he sounded naive when nearing his fight with the often-calculated Davis, one year on his relative innocence is difficult to detect; he instead appears a fighter on the edge.

His ill-advised use of social media since agreeing to fight Devin Haney at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Saturday has regularly portrayed him as someone battling for his mental health and maybe even at risk of unravelling, and while there remain many who have dismissed his behavior as that of someone who knows how to demand attention and therefore ultimately publicise a fight, his behavior on Tuesday suggests a fight is the last thing he needs.

He looked every inch the possible poster boy for American boxing – his boy-next-door, youthful face complemented by a physique that made him look like he was preparing to fight at 147lbs, and not the super-lightweight limit required to challenge for Haney’s WBC title. His physique was consistently on display because he arrived, in a sunlit Manhattan, at the Empire State Building without a top on, and wearing trousers with several tears in them that exposed the ankle weights he was wearing. 

Garcia owes so much of his profile to his marketability, so perhaps his appearance shouldn’t have surprised, but he then didn’t add another layer when at the outdoor viewing platform on the 86th floor of the same building that was so exposed to the strong winds that those around him asked each other how he could possibly withstand the cold. 

If it was tempting to wonder if his was the most distracted of minds – he said little of note and seemed more interested in listening to, on his phone, Tupac’s Hit ‘Em Up – Haney then arrived not only wearing enough layers to resist the cold, but perhaps enough to provide a reminder of how a fighter can often appear when attempting to healthily (if it is possible to do so healthily) make weight.

The last thing Garcia needs is the unforgivably harsh glare he will be exposed to on Saturday. The last thing he needs until Saturday is more time around the Haneys, who seem determined to bully him.

When Haney fought Regis Prograis in December it was difficult not to admire Prograis’ refusal to be intimidated by the attempts of Bill Haney and others in their entourage to unsettle him. Garcia spoke of his frustration about Davis’ timekeeping last year; perhaps it was that that inspired the Haneys’ late arrival on Tuesday. 

Less subtle, regardless, was the Haneys’ wider entourage making sure Garcia felt their physical presence. Garcia, similarly, appears unwilling to be bullied, but unlike Prograis, who appeared to relish his status as the underdog, Garcia’s response – particularly in the context of his erratic behavior since Saturday’s date was confirmed – was more unsettling because he occasionally growled like an animal, and at one point put one of his fingers between his teeth and bit.

Wednesday, April 17

Another day, another appearance from Ryan Garcia that provided nothing to encourage those hoping he will win Saturday’s fight with Devin Haney.

Both fighters, separately, spoke and performed media workouts at Brooklyn’s celebrated Gleason’s Gym.

On Tuesday, after they came face to face at The Empire State Building and Haney shoved Garcia – Garcia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya has since said Haney is “rattled” and spoke of never having seen him behave that way previously, despite less than 12 months ago Haney also shoving Vasiliy Lomachenko at the weigh-in for their undisputed lightweight title fight and proceeding to produce an admirably disciplined performance – they were scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Citi Field before the Mets faced the Pirates.

Those around Garcia reportedly said that though Garcia threw warm-up pitches, met various Mets players and “everything [was] running smoothly”, Mets security allegedly had concerns about the incident earlier in the day and feared that another altercation would occur on the field, and therefore cancelled. 

At Gleason’s, De La Hoya said simply of the development: “I think it was a security issue. It’s a shame, because Ryan and Haney were looking forward to it. We’re all Yankees fans anyway…”

But the cancellation, and Garcia’s increasingly typically vocal reaction to it, has arguably made more of an impression than had they thrown the first pitch as planned. Which those working to promote Saturday’s fight will perhaps recognise the value of – particularly given they increasingly appear guilty of neglecting, to Garcia, their duty of care.

Having again witnessed Garcia appearing too heavy to healthily make super lightweight on Friday – he regardless looks lean – BoxingScene spoke to one of the world’s leading matchmakers who happened to be present at Gleason’s, and that matchmaker said that Garcia looked like he was weighing in excess of 150lbs. De La Hoya, also the promoter of Saturday’s fight, said he had “No concerns whatsoever – he’ll make weight”.

It is to be hoped that De La Hoya, after the most decorated of careers – one that concluded, incidentally, with his poorest performance when his struggles to make welterweight contributed to him being stopped by the great Manny Pacquiao in his final fight in 2008 – is the superior judge. 

As on Tuesday, Garcia was again consistently topless, and therefore apparently not gradually attempting to make weight by wearing numerous layers, as is the favoured approach of so many other professional fighters. Also as on Tuesday, his trainer Derrick James – who, like De La Hoya and Golden Boy, has a duty of care to Garcia – refused to speak. BoxingScene had heard him turn down one interview request on account of his being unable to address the rumours surrounding his relationship with Errol Spence, so when making another, stressed that it was this weekend’s fight – and not Spence – BoxingScene wanted to discuss. Again, he refused (a cynic might question whether he is determined to avoid discussing the mental health of the fighter De La Hoya also described as a “cash cow”). 

For all that Garcia again appeared in a troubled place, before honouring his media obligations he showed his warmth throughout the time he spent signing gloves and memorabilia for young, amateur fighters at Gleason’s. He is one of the world’s highest-profile fighters and therefore likely to encounter others demanding his attention considerably more than most – De La Hoya will be able to empathise; Haney perhaps won’t – but he was admirably graceful and human throughout. 

Perhaps it is that human side – he has previously willingly spoken in a way that has betrayed vulnerability, not least surrounding the anxiety he has suffered with and knowing, in the build-up to his defeat last year by Gervonta “Tank” Davis, that he was going to lose – that contributes so much to his popularity. 

His again appeared the most distracted, restless and hyperactive of minds. Just after describing himself as a “little mental”, he said: “Y’all weren’t talking about Mike Tyson when he was like this. You all respect him now. So you gotta respect me. I seen some s*** I should have never seen, but I’m a killer now.”

He remains foul-mouthed in a way he wasn’t when he cut a considerably more composed figure – and one unquestionably attempting to make weight – in the build-up to his fight with Davis, and also unlike then he consistently retracts statements he makes, particularly those that are ill-advised.

“No consequences [if I miss making weight],” he said. “I’ll miss that s*** if I want. It’s my event. 

“I’m kidding. Bro, I’m gonna make the weight. It’s easy.

“I know I’m gonna win, bro. 

“You guys can’t even play ping-pong dehydrated, let alone fight in front of millions of people. Fact.”

He also “joked” about making it legal for fighters to smoke weed, and insisted his perceived headspace is a consequence of him acting – before then giving his best impression of Al Pacino, as Tony Montana from Scarface, shouting “Say hello to my lil’ friend”. That same hyperactivity contributed to him repeatedly punching the air in front of him while he spoke and, while explaining his “acting”, removing his hat, tossing it in the air to catch it, and then not succeeding nor caring that he hadn’t, because he was already moving on to the next thought and the next thing he wanted to say.

At the same time as describing Garcia as a “cash cow”, De La Hoya made comparisons between his leading fighter and Tiger Woods. The undignified, public fall of the great Woods, it is widely recognised in 2024, had been close to an inevitability because by the time he required saving from himself it was almost too late. If it is too late for Garcia to avoid a fight in which he can be expected to be repeatedly punched in the head, it is at least to be hoped that he is not on the brink of a significant fall of his own. 

Thursday, April 18

A fight week that started with one parent issuing a death threat to a fighter in front of that fighter’s parents reached a new low on Thursday afternoon.

“Welcome everybody to the event of the year,” Oscar De La Hoya, speaking with the enthusiasm of a corpse in a waiting room, started the final press conference. “There’s something about New York that just hits different.”  

DAZN’s Alfie Sharman was equally flat when came his turn, but as the successor to the unprecedentedly self-important Joe Markowski it remains refreshing every time it is he, and not the shameless reinventor-of-wheels Markowski, who speaks.

Perhaps they were dreading Ryan Garcia’s latest appearance. Perhaps they believed that with Bill Haney – wearing a tuxedo, sporting a Mexican flag over his shoulders and an American flag in each hand – dressed exactly like Don King that the father, trainer and manager of the champion was ready to outsell them all.

If they did, they didn’t anticipate the efforts of Chris Mannix, also of DAZN. “Nobody saw the talent of Devin Haney earlier than Eddie Hearn,” Mannix said. 

Surely he knows that that isn’t true? By the count of BoxingScene, Haney’s 15th professional fight was the last of 10 that took place in Mexico, at a time when Hearn – and every other equally influential promoter – was nowhere to be seen. The last of those 15 fights was in 2015; Haney’s debut on DAZN, overseen by Hearn, came four years later. All along, Bill Haney has also been open about none other than Derrick Harmon spotting his son’s talents when he was only eight years old. If DAZN want to continue to call themselves the “home of boxing”, that’s exactly the nature of statement they need to not get so wrong.

Eddie Hearn had already regrettably described Devin Haney as a “credit to the WBC”, and De La Hoya unveiled “commemorative” leather jackets as tacky as those King would once have relished wearing, when Garcia – the challenger on Saturday to Haney’s WBC super lightweight title in Brooklyn, New York – took to the microphone at the top table.

The deterioration of his mental health is a concern to many – even if it apparently isn’t to those around Saturday’s fight – so the cheerleader (one of the many) among the Haneys’ entourage knew what he was doing when he interrupted Garcia speaking to shout something about his mother Lisa. 

BoxingScene was already wondering what that cheerleader, and the many others around him, would have been doing on a Thursday afternoon had they not had a press conference at which to shamelessly express their sycophantic responsibilities when Garcia responded: “Where is your mum at? I’m gonna flirt with your mumma.

“She fine as f***. I want your mum now. Your mum is probably in my DMs. F*** you motherf*****, don’t talk about my mum.

“I will f*** you up, that fear is coming in your mouth like a b****.

“I put my d*** in your mouth, you b****. Pause no diddy.”

What “pause no diddy” means remains unclear, but a year on from Garcia’s role as the boy next-door in the build-up to his fight with the menacing Gervonta “Tank” Davis, it was the latest demonstration that his restless, distracted and hyperactive mind should not be preparing for a high-profile fight.

“There is something wrong with this motherf*****,” said Devin Haney – who of the Haneys consistently speaks with the most reason – in response. Unfortunately for Garcia he is perhaps the only one central to Saturday’s fight who’s willing to acknowledge or say it.

Friday April 19

BoxingScene was interviewing Matchroom’s exciting new signing Jaron “Boots” Ennis when the entirely unsurprising news broke that Ryan Garcia was overweight.

Friday afternoon’s “weigh-in” at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where on Saturday Garcia will fight Devin Haney, was another that was “ceremonial.” Both fighters had weighed in behind closed doors earlier in the day.

At Thursday’s final press conference, BoxingScene – for the very first time – asked permission to attend the private weigh-in, because Garcia not making weight seemed an inevitability. Unsurprisingly, the representative of Golden Boy Promotions – the promoters of Garcia and Saturday’s fight – said no, and proceeded to suggest that the one unlikely to make weight was in fact Haney, the WBC super-lightweight champion whose title Garcia is no longer eligible to win.

Garcia had appeared on course to fight at welterweight on both Tuesday and Wednesday, when he was consistently topless and apparently making little or no effort to make 140lbs. The contrast from his fight in April 2023 with Gervonta “Tank” Davis – when 24 hours before weighing in at a catchweight of 136lbs his cheeks looked hollow, he was walking slowly and he was licking his lips – suggests he actively sought to be overweight.

BoxingScene was told on Friday morning that Garcia had lost 11lbs on Thursday evening. But that was hours after he agreed to a bet with Haney to pay him $500,000 per pound he was overweight. Both fighters claim that the $1,500,000 bet has been honored, but it is instead understood that Garcia – who was 143.2lbs – paid $600,000.

All of which provided the latest uncomfortable insight into Garcia’s psyche. His irrational, racing mind and, no doubt, pride contributed to him agreeing to a bet he knew would cost him heavily. He, apparently, was making no effort to make 140lbs, and on the eve of weighing in decided to work his way down to just over 143lbs. At Friday’s weigh-in, he was frantic to the point of being beyond the hyperactive state he has been in all week – if he was close to being in a healthier place, the nervous energy he is no doubt burning up would leave him exhausted before he even makes his way to the ring.

Derrick James, Garcia’s respected trainer, has declined each of BoxingScene’s requests for an interview. Oscar De La Hoya, the figurehead of Golden Boy Promotions, continues to plaster on his Hollywood smile – not unlike Garcia’s when he has been in a healthier place – and maintain that there is nothing to see. Officials from the New York State Athletic Commission have also been out of reach.

Haney, like Garcia aged 25, also appeared to have struggled to make 140lbs, but to compare him to his long-term rival and opponent is to see a picture of near-complete serenity. James has had weeks to intervene, and for reasons known only to him, he hasn’t done so. However, Golden Boy – the context of Garcia being not only the promoter’s highest-profile and most marketable fighter, but one it has long been in conflict with and who appears almost certain to leave it as soon as his promotional agreement allows, is relevant – appears guilty of sacrificing his health for its own financial gain.

Saturday, April 20

In an attempt to do credit to the extent to which Ryan Garcia is responsible for, unquestionably, one of the most remarkable fight stories and triumphs of the modern era, it is perhaps necessary to revisit the hours before the fight.

Since Saturday’s date with Devin Haney was announced, widespread concerns surrounding his mental health have justifiably grown. Even the fight poster again seen throughout the Barclays Center in Brooklyn gave the appearance of a fighter who looked almost dead behind the eyes.

When he arrived, wearing a t-shirt that read “Murder on the mind”, it did little to inspire confidence that he was any closer to being in a suitable headspace to fight. That he had a string quarter in his dressing room was a further demonstration of how increasingly strange the evening was about to become.

But it was when he was finally making his way to the ring that the sense of foreboding for what was to follow was unavoidable, and to the extent it made BoxingScene feel uncomfortable. It felt, simply, cruel that so presently vulnerable an individual was being encouraged to fight a world-class fighter on so high profile a platform when – once again – everything about his demeanour suggested he’d prefer to have been elsewhere. 

One respected member of what in the US is known as “press row” told BoxingScene at that moment that it reminded him of when he’d attended a bullfight. BoxingScene found it similarly unsettling to observe what appeared to be, across Garcia’s face, an unhealthy looking sweat not unlike that someone produces when in intense physical pain or physically unwell.

Regardless Garcia – the wider picture considered perhaps one of the most unenviable underdogs in history – proceeded to transform his career and to shock the world.

What those who had – from BoxingScene’s perspective rightly – repeatedly written him off had perhaps overlooked was the benefits to him of, from his and Haney’s time as amateurs, their six fights. It was regularly mentioned that they had won three fights each, but not the belief that those wins could potentially allow Garcia to take into the ring.

As a consequence what Garcia – who all week so admirably refused to be bullied by the Haneys – fought with was the conviction that he had the speed and power to hurt Haney. He did so, and repeatedly – perhaps only poor officiating from the referee Harvey Dock denied him a stoppage victory in the seventh round.

When Haney could be seen in his dressing room and on his way to the ring he looked a considerably more at ease and healthy fighter. The benefit of hindsight also suggests that he and those around him had become complacent as a consequence of Garcia’s conduct, and maybe that they previously didn’t even believe, like so many others, that Garcia would make it as far as the ring.

That Haney returned to his feet after three heavy knockdowns and continued to fight on proved that there was little wrong with his conditioning and also proved – not that there had previously been cause to doubt it – his fighter’s heart. But the quality of his preparations – he oddly seemed under-prepared for the left and right hooks Garcia would inevitably target him with, and at times to believe that he could walk the bigger, heavier fighter down – are in doubt.

It would not have helped Haney, nor his father, trainer and manager Bill, that he so recently lost his supportive grandmother to cancer. Yet as a fighter at his best on the back-foot, and one who only consistently fought going forwards against Vasily Lomachenko – a considerably naturally smaller fighter – it defied logic to watch him so regularly attempt to do the same against an opponent in Garcia he sometimes made look one-dimensional, and who had come in overweight at 143.2lbs.

At the conclusion of the seventh round, when both fighters returned to their corners, it became difficult to avoid the conclusion that Garcia had already enhanced his reputation to an all-time high. If he had proceeded to lose on points or even be stopped by Haney he had been consistently exciting and competitive with someone recognised as one of the world’s finest fighters. After recording so remarkable a victory, it’s far from unthinkable that his career will never again reach the same heights.

It was in April 2023 when, at a catchweight of 136lbs, he was stopped by Gervonta “Tank” Davis and accused of lacking heart. BoxingScene was among those present that night in Las Vegas who believed he had chosen not to fight on after Davis’ body punch – even when it was apparent that making weight had made him vulnerable – but on Saturday in New York he proved that, for all of his marketability and profile, he has an abundance of heart.

Victories of that nature often have far and wide-reaching consequences. Matchroom were already in talks with Haney to extend their two-fight promotional agreement with him, but it is unlikely that their plans will change.

Garcia spoke, post-fight, of his intention to move to welterweight. It had remained a mystery what he had weighed on fight night and the potential advantage he had on Haney, who weighed in at 140lbs – the super-lightweight limit they had agreed to – so BoxingScene asked Garcia just before he departed, and he responded “around 155″.

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