Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia fight: Garcia’s mental health, Haney’s breakout moment among top storylines

Two of boxing’s best young stars are set to clash when Ryan Garcia challenges WBC junior welterweight champion Devin Haney. The fight goes down on Saturday from Barclays Center in Brooklyn (8 p.m. ET, DAZN PPV & PPV.com).

Garcia is fighting for a world title for the first time in his career and is looking to continue to rebound from an April 2023 stoppage loss to Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a huge box office draw that served as a major setback for Garcia’s career. Meanwhile, Haney is making the first defense of the title he won with a dominant decision win over Regis Prograis in December.

There are plenty of major storylines entering the fight, from Garcia’s mental health to Haney’s struggle to become a superstar in line with his prodigious talent.

Let’s take a look at three big storylines you need to be aware of ahead of Haney vs. Garcia.

Is Ryan Garcia ok?

It’s unfortunate that Garcia’s mental health — or just his general mindset — has overshadowed this fight. When Haney vs. Garcia was first discussed, it was a fairly intriguing fight and one that showed that Garcia had the heart and desire to keep chasing huge fights despite having been stopped by Davis. It didn’t take long for the entire focus of the fight to shift to Garcia’s bizarre behavior on social media, which came with many calls that Garcia shouldn’t even be in the fight, especially considering Garcia has already taken time off in his career due to mental health issues.

Between rantings about the Illuminati and Bohemian Grove, to claims he was in possession of a photo of a real alien, to claiming popular celebrities are being influenced by Satan, the list goes on and on. Whether some sort of mental break or a cry for attention from those who occupy the worst corners of the internet, Garcia has seemed focused on anything other than his upcoming fight with one of the most talented boxers on the planet.

If Garcia’s tactic was a publicity stunt to drum up excitement for the fight, it isn’t paying off, with the arena far from sold out. The fight week buzz is also far lower than expected for a matchup that likely would have had the boxing world buzzing without Garcia’s bizarre behavior suggesting he’s not ready for the challenge in front of him.

Maybe Garcia is fine and will show up and put on a great performance on Saturday. But boxing is a dangerous game if you’re not there mentally. If Garcia gets seriously hurt, the sport is going to have to do some deep soul-searching on how he was allowed in the ring when something was so clearly wrong.

Can Devin Haney raise his profile?

There’s no doubt that Haney sits among the sport’s pound-for-pound elite. Despite his obvious talent, Haney has not established himself as a must-see attraction for many.

Some of that is Haney’s fault. At times, Haney has been labeled “boring,” and when he has stepped up his offensive output, he has often found himself in trouble. After a dominant but dull showing against Yuriorkis Gamboa, Haney decided to take a more aggressive approach in his May 2021 fight with Jorge Linares. Again, Haney was dominating but late in Round 10, Linares had Haney badly hurt and may have been able to get the stoppage had the charge not come at the very end of the round. By the end of a fight he had dominated, Haney was being loudly booed as he clinched and ran to survive the final two rounds.

After Haney became undisputed lightweight champion with two lopsided wins over George Kambosos Jr., he put his four world championships on the line against Vasiliy Lomachenko in what was the biggest fight of his career. The fight was a thrilling technical clash that ranked as one of the best of 2023. Haney emerged victorious but many felt Lomachenko had done enough to deserve the win, with the mild controversy somewhat eclipsing Haney’s accomplishment, and with others questioning why Haney had so much trouble with a fighter who seemed to be on the backside of his career.

Haney’s most recent outing was maybe the best of his career, as he completely dominated Regis Prograis to win the WBC junior welterweight title. To his credit, Haney fought like a man out to prove he can be exciting and dominant at the same time, and he seemed to like moving up to 140 pounds rather than having to cut to 135.

In Garcia, Haney has the chance to look dominant against a big name opponent and possibly raise his profile to new heights. If Haney can avoid a stumble, he could finally become a star more in line with his skills.

Another dud of an undercard lineup

In recent years, boxing has flirted with putting together better undercards for major events. Despite that, we are too often served up slop like has been put together for Saturday night.

There’s only one fight set for the undercard that carries any pre-event intrigue, with John “Scrappy” Ramirez facing David Jimenez for the interim WBA flyweight championship. Ramirez can be an exciting fighter and is certainly a big personality, but has been in plenty of fights where his showboating doesn’t align with excitement and he has been loudly booed as a result. Still, his fight with Jimenez is a legitimate fight between two men hanging around the fringes of the top 10 in the division and with the potential for excitement.

Beyond that, Arnold Barboza Jr. vs. Sean McComb at super lightweight seems to exist in case Barboza, who has been toying with taking a step up to contender status, is needed to step in for either main eventer. Bektemir Melikuziev seemed to be on the road to world championship fights when he was shockingly melted by Gabriel Rosado in 2021 and is now fighting Pierre Dibombe, who is the BoxRec No. 4 ranked super middleweight … in France.

Boxing fans deserve better when shelling out $80 for a pay-per-view. But the sport might have to fall further out of favor before promoters ever reliably come through with more meaningful undercards.

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