By Paul Magno | April 22, 2024

There’s going to be the temptation to say that Ryan Garcia was crazy like a fox during the lead-in to this Devin Haney fight, that his bat-shit craziness was a shrewd ploy to throw the disciplined Haney off his game.

I don’t think that was the case at all.

In part, because Garcia was still pretty much saying the same bunch of bat-shit crazy shit in the post-fight interview and in the immediate aftermath of his majority decision victory on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

In other part, because, let’s be real, Garcia looked like dog shit. He was a stylistic mess and gave away huge portions of the fight to a seemingly hapless Haney, just because he didn’t seem to know what to do or where to go strategically. Even his vaunted left hook-- which dropped Haney on three occasions and hurt him every time it landed, starting with the very first time it landed just seconds into the bout-- was sloppy as fuck. So, he clearly wasn’t preparing doggedly and furtively between social media bull sessions, fine-tuning his style and working on pacing, footwork, and conditioning.

He just managed to clip Haney and Haney couldn’t handle it. 

I’m not going to say that I predicted this, but Garcia buzzing and beating Haney didn’t surprise me as much as it surprised others. In every piece I had written about this fight, I mentioned it as a distinct possibility. As a matter of fact, just this past Thursday in my Magno’s Bulging Mail Sack, I responded to an email with this:

“...Garcia has a better chance of scoring the upset against Haney than he did against Gervonta Davis. There are a few reasons for that. Haney is stiffer, less fluid than Tank-- when it comes to both style and mindset. Therefore, he’s more likely to be caught with something random. He’s also a fighter who is very orthodox, again, in both style and mindset. Fighters with orthodoxy drilled into them can sometimes be put off by an unorthodox (or more stylistically crude) opponent...Garcia may or may not have taken training seriously for this fight (my guess is...not), but he still has that rocket left hook of his, which, as I said in this week’s Notes from the Boxing Underground column, I still consider one of boxing’s best single-shot weapons. If he lands that punch at the right time/place, Haney could be in a bad place and all that good training and gym discipline will be out the window. In short, Garcia has a real puncher’s chance.”

The outcome of this fight begs the question of just how good Ryan Garcia could be if he took any of this boxing stuff really and truly seriously and if he dedicated himself to building a solid base of fundamentals around that left hook (and, actually, a not-that-bad right hand, too).

But good luck with that. Boxing people have been wondering aloud about that since Ryan first hit the main stage. It’s hard to convince someone that what’s worked thus far, bringing tens of millions of dollars and big-time fame, could work so much better. As I once wrote: “Garcia was a star in his own world well before fighting on any boxing main stage and it’s tough training a star to be a fighter.” If the mauling at the hands of Tank Davis last year didn’t serve as a “we gotta take this shit seriously” wake up call, nothing will-- and certainly this big win won’t dissuade him from changing a thing. That ugly-ass and wildly ineffectual, self-cock-blocking shoulder roll is staying.

As I wrote in the post-fight recap after his KO loss to Davis: “But none of that [his plan to move up in weight after being stopped by Davis] will matter if Garcia doesn’t let himself be trained properly. At 140 or beyond he’ll still be that guy who’s talented enough to beat the bottom 99% of fighters, but who’ll flounder against the top 1%.”

The upset also brings up a ton of questions about Devin Haney, who, maybe, was proven to NOT be in that top 1% mentioned above.

Questions about his chin and his ability to take a big punch have followed him throughout his career. They’ll be even bigger questions now.

There’ll be questions about his training as well. Like, for instance, if Haney and his father/trainer Bill Haney knew that Garcia’s only real weapon was the left hand, why did Devin look so utterly unprepared for it-- even when it was thrown wide and sloppy?

Haney will have a lot to address internally as he picks up his career and moves on (I question whether he’ll push to make a rematch, even if there’s big money in doing so). He’s still WBC junior welterweight champ, since Garcia missed the 140 lb. limit by three-and-a-quarter pounds, but he’ll have to take a full step back in terms of the kinds of fights he wants to be having.  

Garcia, meanwhile, has been enabled and encouraged to keep being who he is, whether we see that as good, bad, silly, corny, frustratingly dumb, or bat-shit crazy.

As I wrote on social media during the week, everything about Ryan Garcia screams of phoniness-- except that left hand. But, ultimately, all he needed was a few left hands to win this fight.

When the dust clears and the numbers start leaking out, I suspect that jaded boxing people will be very surprised at just how successful a manic Ryan Garcia was in pushing the sales of this event with his non-stop social media meltdowns and cringey teen-like angst. In a boxing world where promoters don’t really promote beyond press releases and press conferences for media, a lesson or two could be learned when it comes to using social media to drive your event directly into the collective consciousness of the public.

None of this is to say that Garcia did any of what he did with a marketing plan in mind. The kid is a 14-year-old in a 25-year-old body with a raging case of entitlement, a self-admitted case of ADD, and direct access to millions of people via social media. He did what comes naturally for someone with his assets and issues. In the non-boxing world, there are an appallingly large number of “influencers” who do the exact same shit, and worse. In the youtube/social media offshoot of the entertainment industry, where garnering attention directly translates into money, there’s an endless army of jackasses jumping up and down to get everyone’s attention, whether they have a product to sell or not.

In Garcia’s case, he DOES have a product to sell and we’re going to find out that his antics sold it well.

All of this is new for boxing, which is perpetually slow to embrace change and grab at new ideas. But, in “King Ry,” we may be seeing the sport’s first new age superstar in the age of social media. That idea – and everything that goes with selling fights to next-generation fans-- may prove to be extremely distasteful for boxing old-timers and “purists” who’ve mastered the art of pearl clutching on the periphery of a blood sport. But, oh well.

Like it or not, we’re stuck with Ryan Garcia.

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