Garcia’s erratic behavior in spotlight before Haney showdown (2024)

One of the most unusual build-ups to a major prizefight in recent memory came no closer to normalcy on Thursday afternoon when Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia came together for the final press conference ahead of their intriguing but unsettling world super lightweight title fight in Brooklyn.

On paper it’s the caliber of event that’s all too rare in boxing today: a delicious matchup between two of America’s brightest young stars, both 25 years old and at the front of their athletic primes with ample top-flight experience. But it’s been almost entirely overshadowed by Garcia’s erratic behavior both in person and on social media, calling into question the responsibility of the New York State Athletic Commission in assessing a fighter’s mental fitness and whether Saturday’s fight at Barclays Center should even take place.

Any hope of reassurance over Garcia’s state of mind was quickly dispelled on Thursday, when he took the dais before the gathered media in a black flak jacket to spew a string of barely coherent, expletive-strewn remarks before ceding the microphone to Haney after 64 dispiriting seconds. That was before he unloaded a series of unprintable sexualized taunts at members of Haney’s team.

“Something is wrong with this motherf*cker,” Haney said moments later from the stage. “This sh*t is not normal.”

Somewhere beneath these disturbing extracurriculars is a compelling sporting contest. The promotion has largely been marketed around their rivalry in the amateurs, six bouts in all with each fighter winning three. But while Garcia may be the bigger star today – with upwards of 10.5m Instagram followers with 7.5m more on TikTok – there’s no question Haney is the more accomplished boxer and a hot favorite on merit. The Bay Area native, undefeated in 31 professional outings, unified all four major titles at 135lbs with a career-best win over Vasiliy Lomachenko in May, before climbing to 140lbs and becoming a two-weight champion with an impressive shutout of Regis Prograis to win the WBC’s version of the super lightweight title which is at stake on Saturday night.

At his mental and physical best, it was never going to be an easy night for Garcia, who like Amir Khan a half-generation before him is developing a commendable reputation for taking on challenges that appear a bridge too far. A taste for the fight. The Orange County native put his unbeaten record on the line against Gervonta Davis last year, making several unfavorable concessions to get the negotiations over the line. While he was stopped in the seventh round by a crunching body shot, with a seeming lack of urgency to beat the count that some critics decried as a business decision, Garcia was credited with making a crossover fight the people were clamoring for and a down-bad sport desperately needed.

But while he rebounded admirably from that first professional setback with an eighth-round stoppage of Oscar Duarte in December, Garcia’s highly volatile comportment over the past few months have almost completely diminished his status as the fresh-faced young face of boxing. Since the bicoastal press tour announcing the fight where Haney claimed to smell alcohol on his rival’s breath, Garcia’s once-polished presence on social media has descended into a disturbing blur of conspiracy theories and apparent cries for help, not least an X Spaces stream with Andrew Tate (and subsequent tweetstorm) where he claimed he was kidnapped by “the elites” at Bohemian Grove, the secretive Sonoma County club for the rich, and “forced to watch kids getting raped”.

Of course this is boxing and there’s not a small chance the Californian’s antics are a deeply cynical ploy toward directing eyeballs to the fight. Indeed, Garcia’s follower count across all platforms has swelled by at least 3m since it was announced, a spike no doubt fueled by rubberneckers curious about what has often given the impression of real-time mental breakdown. But if so, Garcia’s commitment to the bit would be worthy of an Academy Award. Whatever the case, he reportedly passed a NYSAC psych evaluation on Tuesday, clearing the way for New York’s most lucrative fight in years to go forward.

For Haney, whose domestic profile has yet to catch up with all he’s accomplished at such a young age, it’s been all business since the day the contract was signed. Dressed head to toe in black behind Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses, he spoke calmly on Thursday about the task at hand.

“The time is very close,” Haney said. “It’s been a long time coming. The talking is almost done. This is not an easy fight, but this is a fight that I will make look easy. Through all the antics, through everything, I kept my blinders on and I stayed focused. I have my tunnel-vision. On Saturday it will show.”

Garcia’s erratic behavior in spotlight before Haney showdown (2024)


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