Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia: One Month Away

By Rory Hickey - 03/19/2024 - Comments

In a world where attention spans are shorter than ever, and media gets consumed in short video clips and bite-sized snippets of text, what happens when a fighter whose name and fanbase have blossomed because of social media uses those same platforms to exhibit erratic behavior to either promote his fight or document his meltdown in real time?

Las Vegas playing host to Super Bowl 58 last month was a phenomenal experience. The Super Bowl was exciting; Taylor Swift made it from Japan in time, and the NFL’s week in the mecca of sports gambling went off without a hitch. As it happened, some excitement in the boxing world came out of Super Bowl week in Las Vegas. Teofimo Lopez (20-1, 13 KO) had a spectacular ring walk before his fight against Jamaine Ortiz on Thursday, February 8th, that was worthy of “The Showman” nickname that Lopez bestowed on himself. However, that was the singular highlight of the night, as Lopez eked out a decision victory in a snoozer of a fight.

The real fireworks occurred when Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia met on Radio Row on Friday. Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KO} and Ryan Garcia (24-1, 20 KO) have agreed to fight on April 20th for Haney’s WBC junior welterweight championship. Garcia and Haney were trash-talking until a shoving match broke out, and the two entourages had to keep Garcia and Haney apart. Naturally, when the clip went viral, many wondered if it was a staged confrontation to build buzz for the fight. But there is a history between Haney and Garcia, the two split six matchups as amateurs, and their rivalry has been slowly simmering on social media during their time as professionals. Now that we are just one month away from this contest, how will this fight between two of boxing’s young stars play out?

In the leadup to the Haney-Garcia fight, the main talking point has been Ryan Garcia’s erratic posts on social media. There have been too many to document in a single article. In a later-deleted post, Devin Haney was not buying the legitimacy of Garcia’s antics. “Give Ryan an Oscar [award], please. This is all an act y’all. The fight is happening on April 20th. He’s just playing crazy to ‘sell it,’ which is weird because there are people out there who are actually crazy, but he’s just acting for attention.” The New York State Athletic Commission has now requested that Garcia undergo a mental health evaluation before the fight. Garcia threatened to sue the NYSAC and deactivated his social media accounts that day.

The complication here is that Ryan Garcia has previously stepped away from the sport of boxing to address his mental health. After winning a fight in January 2021 over Luke Campbell, Garcia did not fight again until April 2022. Garcia said he took that time off to manage his health and well-being. Is Ryan Garcia crazy, or is he crazy like a fox?

With the numerous amateur bouts and years of social media beef between the two, it is clear that Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia flat-out do not like each other. Haney did not mince words when discussing Garcia recently. “He’s a Tik-Toker. He thinks this s*** is a game…And that’s what I’m going to show him on April 20th, that this s*** is for real. I’m not here to play, I’m a real fighter. I’m not one of these guys that’s about to play the game with you. You’ll see.”

While the prior matchups were in the amateur ranks, Garcia does have a lot of experience being in the ring with Devin Haney. Both men are 25-years-old, and two of the most intriguing young fighters in boxing. Haney’s WBC championship is on the line, as well as bragging rights in a rivalry between Haney and Garcia that started in the amateur ranks.

A win by Devin Haney would strengthen his resume and quicken his climb up pound-for-pound rankings lists. Successfully defending his title against his amateur rival and perceived peer, Ryan Garcia, would be a dream for Haney. Haney has had more success as a professional than Garcia, with championships in multiple weight classes and his undefeated record still intact. But with a win, Garcia could boost his stock significantly, scoring the biggest win of his career. It would provide some legitimacy to Garcia’s claims that he only lost to Gervonta Davis last year because of the catch weight and rehydration clause that Davis insisted on before signing the contract. It would also feel sweet for Garcia to give his amateur rival Haney his first loss.

When considering Ryan Garcia’s career, it is informative to think of Teofilmo Lopez and Adrien Broner, and their career paths. Both Ryan Garcia and Teofilmo Lopez are young fighters blessed with immense talent who have utilized social media to build their respective fanbases. Like Garcia, Lopez has had many social media posts and erratic outbursts that have put his mental health in question. Before his recent fight with Josh Taylor, people wondered whether Lopez was mentally fit to compete in a prizefight against a man like Taylor. Once Lopez won to become the unified champion in a second weight class, conversations about Lopez shifted back to his talent.

Another man whose career has some similarities to Ryan Garcia’s is Adrien Broner. Like Garcia, Broner was a problem for his opponents early in his career. Broner had a falling out with his mentor/promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr., as Garcia did with Oscar de la Hoya. Once Adrien Broner began facing adversity in his career inside the ring, it seemed like Broner could no longer grapple with his problems outside the ring.

A victory or strong showing from Ryan Garcia would alleviate concerns about his mental state and career trajectory. If he wins championship gold or gets close, perhaps Ryan Garcia will feel driven to work harder and fulfill his immense potential. However, for Garcia, a loss to Haney, especially one in decisive fashion, could be devastating. The whispers that Garcia is just a social media creation would get amplified in volume. His quality wins as a younger fighter against Luke Campbell and Javier Fortuna would get buried at the bottom of the feed of his career narrative. If Devin Haney proves to be on a different level than Ryan Garcia within a year of his knockout loss to Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia will have to make some changes. Whether that change is in his training camp, social media usage, or elsewhere, this already feels like a career crossroads for Ryan Garcia at 25 years old.

Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia is an exciting matchup between two young, talented fighters, just what boxing needs. The two have a storied amateur rivalry and genuinely do not like each other, which means we could have a great fight on April 20th. Unfortunately, an intriguing matchup with two young stars in a premier weight class has been overshadowed by how Garcia has acted. Assuming this fight goes on as scheduled, it should be fascinating. Devin Haney can enhance his argument as one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best. Ryan Garcia can win his first professional championship, defeat his amateur rival, and silence all of his doubters. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be raucous.
Win, lose, or draw, both men should heed the words of one of Brooklyn’s finest, the Notorious B.I.G.: “If the game shakes me or breaks me, I hope it makes me a better man.”