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  • Writer's pictureRichard Jimenez

The Haney vs. Garcia Home Stretch

The commute from the Empire State Building in Manhattan to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is a short one. As soon as you step out of the New York landmark, you head west one block and hop onto the B, D, N, or Q. Driving can take longer, with the traffic that inspired the country's first congestion pricing scheme snarling the approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

For Devin “the Dream” Haney and Ryan “KingRy” Garcia, their stop on the 86th floor observatory deck on Tuesday was an emblem of a much more complicated commute. It exemplified the tumultuous promotion leading up to this Saturday's main event, a fight for the 140-pound WBC championship belt presented by Golden Boy Promotions PPV on DAZN. It is also among the last stops before the promotion, which has been jammed up with doubts, arrives at its final destination on Saturday night.

As a boxing fan, the official announcement for this fight back in early February hit me like a cool breeze. Regarded as among the best in their generation and weight division, a possible fight has been called for by avid fans for years. Garcia and Haney had just come off of clear victories two months prior. Haney debuted at Super Lightweight and earned the WBC 140-pound belt in convincing fashion against Regis "Rougarou" Prograis. Garcia bounced back from his loss against Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a blockbuster PPV event last April with a thumping of the hard-hitting Oscar Duarte in a 143-pound catchweight fight. While the boxing public waited for years for the Ryan-Tank fight to materialize, this fight was agreed to with relative expediency (even after Garcia's original opponent, former champion Rolando “Rolly” Romero, fell through). An eight week turnaround for such an intriguing fight is what I hope for as a fan, and a brief skirmish (staged or otherwise) in Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend gave me more reason to follow along. 

Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia face off ahead of their championship fight
Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia face off ahead of their championship fight

Photo: Golden Boy Promotions / Cris Esqueda

The first tilt in this promotion came just before the opening conference. After the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York was announced as the venue, Garcia protested the location, and said it should be held in Las Vegas instead. While he backtracked that assertion and proceeded with the kickoff events, this would fold into a month full of public speculation due to his online behavior. 

Since the two-city press run after the fight’s announcement, Garcia’s social media activity have included pseudo-contracts that obligate his sobriety, conspiracy theories about the mass kidnapping of children, and claims of catastrophic predictions manifest. It has ranged from the ridiculous to the disturbing. There’s too much to recap here – you can read Bryan Murphy’s recap on Sporting News – though what’s important is that it spurred concerns across the industry. Many wondered whether Garcia lacked the mental fitness to proceed with the fight. Mauricio Sulaiman, the President of the World Boxing Council, the belt commission overseeing this fight, went so far as to comment on his communications with the New York State Athletic Commission about a potential mental health evaluation, though this never seemed to have materialized or been mandated. The widespread speculation has arguably impacted ticket sales and could impact viewership.

Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia face off ahead of their championship fight  at the the Empire State Building in NY

Photo: Golden Boy Promotions / Cris Esqueda

With all of this having occurred in the weeks prior, their Grand Arrival signaled something important – the fight is still on. Garcia arrived shirtless and talkative, with a backpack on and in distressed cargo pants, while Haney arrived with a steely demeanor, in a leather jacket and hooded sweater combo. When they met at the top of the Empire State, they immediately began to jaw at each other before Garcia taunted Haney about his mother just inches from his face. This sparked Haney to throw his open right palm into Garcia's neck and face, shoving Garcia with both arms into his entourage while the gaggle of media captured the fracas against the backdrop of the midtown skyline. The tension grew as Haney’s trainer and father Bill Haney issued Drago-style death threats to Garcia – “if he dies, he dies.”

The confrontation was short and frenetic, and was just another display of the emotional and physical climate the buildup has created. After a failed effort to toss a ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's Mets game in Queens, both fighters will continue their press obligations in Brooklyn, holding a media workout at the world famous Gleason’s Gym, before settling into the Barclays for the weekend. The home stretch for this fight will continue to be a heated one, and observers will now be mindful of the typical issues that hinder a fight from moving forward on the week of – weight, injury, adverse drug test results, and other commission interventions. In their commute to the first bell, can Haney and Garcia stand clear of the closing doors, please? Bing bong.

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Luis Alvarez
Luis Alvarez
Apr 18

"If he dies, he dies"= I'm gonna box cautiously to a 12 round decision.

Reminded me of what Larry Merchant said about Floyd once.." he's the most exciting fighter in the world before the fight."

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