Ryan Garcia stuns boxing world, defeats Devin Haney

Ryan Garcia spent the last three months leaving analysts and pundits far more concerned for his personal well-being than impressed with his boxing prowess.

With a handful of explosive left hooks, he reminded the boxing world why he’s “King Ryan,” defeating WBC super lightweight champ Devin Haney by majority decision on Saturday night in what may have already wrapped up the discussion of the best bout of 2024.

“Come on y’all, you really thought I was crazy?” Garcia yelled after the win.

Haney entered the night as the heavy favorite, the king of multiple weight classes and an untouched record. He exited the night with a dented legacy.

Garcia’s readiness showed immediately in the first minute of the first round, as he rocked Haney with a pair of explosive left hooks to wake the crowd up. He won the opening round with ease, landing nine power punches.

From there, Haney gained the upper hand with an adjustment to ramp up the pace and keep the pressure on Garcia. Haney’s peppering jabs kept Garcia on his back foot and it appeared the champion was on his way to a straightforward defense against the enigmatic powerhouse.

And then the seventh round came.

With a similar opening-round burst that he displayed in the first, Garcia’s power connected thunderously, this time wowing the crowd by flooring Haney with a hook, handing Haney the first knockdown of his career. A stunned Haney beat the count, but was caught again and again and again as Garcia unleashed the power that rose him to prominence.

But the round turned utterly chaotic soon after, as Garcia was deducted a point for punching on a break as Haney’s legs wobbled like jelly. After fielding months of concerns about his mental wellbeing, a midfight mental lapse was threatening to ruin his momentum.

Garcia bided his time in the eighth and ninth rounds before proving in the 10th that his bursts were far more than adrenaline dumps. “King Ryan” again knocked Haney down, swinging the bout entirely in his favor and making an impossibility suddenly seem realistic.

If that wasn’t enough, Garcia smashed a cherry on top in the 11th round with a third knockdown, drilling Haney with yet another left hook that put the champ back down on the mat and sent Barclays Center into pandemonium.

While Haney rose to his feet and beat the count for a third time, the night was clearly over for the stupefied champ, and Garcia closed the conclusive 12th round by jumping on the corner ropes to soak up the praise of a bewildered crowd after the fight of his life.

“I would love to rematch, I gave him a shot and I’ll take a shot right back,” Haney said after the loss.

After weighing in 3.2 pounds over the pair’s agreed-upon limit of 140 pounds, Garcia was ineligible to win Haney’s super lightweight title, but that strap may be the only piece of dignity Haney left Brooklyn with.

Garcia entered the night with simply a puncher’s chance, which was a far cry from his days of riding his explosive style into becoming a household name just a few years earlier.

The social media sensation looked like the in-ring real deal as he topped Luke Campbell to earn the WBC interim lightweight title in 2021 and had the potential to become the future face of the sport in the post-Mayweather era, but then saw that hype get snuffed out after losing his undefeated mark in a superfight with fellow phenom Gervonta “Tank” Davis in February 2023.

In that bout, Garcia was first knocked down in the second round, then was floored again by Davis in the seventh round by a brutal body shot. Garcia failed to beat the 10-count, resulting in his first career loss, and was later criticized for quitting, as he rose shortly after the bell rang.

He next took on Oscar Duarte in September and struggled initially with the inferior fighter, and was belted with boos from the Houston crowd before bouncing back with an eighth-round knockout. After fighting at 140 pounds in 2022, Garcia fell to Davis after agreeing to a catchweight of 136 pounds, then he struggled to beat Duarte — a career 135-pounder — at 143 pounds.

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Those scales caused Garcia far more trouble against Haney. On Friday night, Garcia weighed in at 143.2 points and opted to strike a revised deal to keep the fight on rather than try to lose the extra weight. Under the revised deal, Garcia lost $600,000 of his purse and was ineligible to win the super lightweight title.

In a show of boisterous indifference, Garcia later Friday came out to the ceremonial weigh-in chugging a beer and yelling at Haney amid a heated faceoff.

On Thursday, Haney predicted Garcia would miss weight, and asked Garcia to pay him $500,000 per pound missed. A Golden Boy Promotions statement Friday said Garcia will “honor the handshake made at the final press conference yesterday.”

But Friday night’s debacle came as a scant surprise to anyone who has followed Garcia’s social media posts in the buildup to this fight, making Saturday night’s result even more bewildering.

In recent months, Garcia has claimed he was kidnapped by the Illuminati, accused Logan Paul of worshipping Satan, tossed out accusations about Haney’s father, said he was under spiritual attack, said he has proof of alien existence and called Elon Musk the Antichrist, among a slew of other concerning claims and allegations online and in podcast appearances.

Garcia also announced the birth of his second child and his divorce from his wife on the same day in January. In March, Garcia accused Haney of using banned substances, said he was going to bite Haney’s ears off, then later tweeted, “My intention is to Kill Devil Haney.”

All of those antics shrouded both his and Haney’s boxing ascension in the buildup to Saturday night.

With the loss, Haney is 32-1 and his case for being considered among the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers alongside with the likes of Terence Crawford and Canelo Alvarez is crushed.

In 2022, Haney defeated George Kambosos Jr. in a lightweight title unification match to become the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker in 1990, and the first in the four-belt era. In December, Haney moved up to super lightweight to battle champion Regis Prograis, whom Haney dominated with a masterclass performance to become a two-division champ.

Prior to Saturday night’s stunner, a rematch bout between Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko, whom Haney defeated in a thrilling fight last May to defend his lightweight title, was thought to be in the champion’s future, as Haney’s unanimous decision victory was disputed by many.

But now, a rematch bout with Garcia ought to be Haney’s next order of business as he attempts to get his career back on track. Saturday night’s defeat revealed plenty of holes in Haney’s game, and left the champion with serious questions about the fortitude of his chin and the legitimacy of his previously untarnished record.

In the hours after his win, Garcia was right back on social media, arguing that the ref should have stopped the bout in the seventh round and clowning Haney for losing to him.

“I know people are so mad,” Garcia posted on X with a pair of crying emojis. “Imagine just imagine a guy that trolled non stop Beats a p4p fighter and then is just chilling bruh that’s hilarious Muhhahahahahaha.”

In the co-main event, underdog Sean McComb was seemingly robbed by the judges as he fell by split decision to Arnold Barboza Jr., who remains undefeated. McComb appeared to dictate the pace of the bout with his slippery defense and unreachable length, while also outlanding Barboza, per the broadcast statistics.

Barboza put together enough momentum in the final frames to squeak out the victory, but wore the story of the bout on his bruised face. The first announced judging scorecard read 98-92 for McComb, but the next scorecard shockingly read 97-93 Barboza. The final scorecard gave Barboza the edge and the bout with a score of 96-94, but there wasn’t a peep of celebration from the favorite.

In the postfight interview, Barboza said he wasn’t surprised by the results, but the crowd voiced their dissenting opinion with a chorus of boos.

Barboza entered the night tabbed as the replacement fighter in the main event if Garcia didn’t show up and with an eye on a future headlining fight with Shakur Stevenson. Barboza may have exited with his perfect record intact, but also with bruised cheek and a blemished reputation.

Required reading

(Photo: Al Bello / Getty Images)

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