Ryan Garcia scores 3 knockdowns in wild upset of Devin Haney

NEW YORK — Ryan Garcia’s fighting fitness was called into question ahead of his fight against Devin Haney, a turbulent promotion that was highlighted by Garcia’s erratic comments.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KO) was a major underdog and was all but shut out Saturday night. His blinding, powerful left hook turned the tide as Garcia scored three knockdowns to pull off an upset via a majority decision at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

One judge scored the fight 112-112 but it was overturned with scores of 114-110 and 115-109 for Garcia. However, Garcia was ineligible to win Haney’s WBC junior welterweight title after weighing in at 143.2 pounds Friday for the 140-pound contest. Haney remains the losing champ, but it was Garcia who scored a career-best victory by knocking out ESPN’s No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer.

“I don’t care what people say about me. I’ve been through fire and I’ve still held it down, I’ve still beat Devin Haney and I still drink every day,” Garcia said, 25 years. “I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I’m just saying it was a statement to show you that you can’t really make fun of me.”

Haney was a -900 favorite earlier in the week, according to ESPN BET, but he closed at -575. Garcia pretended to drink a beer at Friday’s weigh-in and paid Haney more than $600,000, sources told ESPN, as part of the deal to keep the fight going.

A day earlier, Garcia made a bet with Haney and agreed to pay him $500,000 for every pound he weighed over 140. Haney later said Garcia honored the bet, which would mean that Garcia allegedly paid Haney a total of $1.5 million.

In the first minute of the fight, in a harbinger of what was to come, Garcia was the one to make Haney pay with a gut-wrenching left hook that shook the champion.

Haney (31-1, 15 KO) quickly recovered and dispatched Garcia over the next four rounds. He even had Garcia reeling in the third round with a right hand while Garcia boxed a back foot and looked for another counter left hook that would change the fight.

Garcia found him in Round 7 by flooring Haney – the first time he’s been on the canvas in 32 professional fights – but Garcia didn’t capitalize. Moments after the knockdown, as the crowd erupted, Garcia crushed Haney with a right hand on the break and was deducted a point by referee Harvey Dock.

“He was a horrible referee,” said Garcia, who fights out of Southern California. “(Haney) was holding on to me for dear life, and I felt an opportunity to keep swinging while my hands were free and I cracked him. And then he took a point when I cracked him , but (Haney) held me and then I should have knocked him out in the seventh round.

“They stole that from me. …And Devin held and held and held. …It was ridiculous. It was crazy. I’ve never seen shit like that.”

What should have been a two-point advantage for Garcia was wiped out. It didn’t matter. Garcia floored Haney again in round 10, this time with a terrific right hand, the same punch he used to send Haney reeling in round 6.

In the next round, Garcia landed his punch again, a counter left hook that caused Haney’s eyes to roll as he was launched backwards toward the canvas. Somehow he got up, his cheeks very swollen, his mouth bloody.

Garcia went for the finish, but Haney managed to fend him off and heard the final bell in one of the most surprising and dramatic fights in recent memory.

“He caught me early while I was sleeping on him,” Haney, 25, said during his post-fight interview. “He surprised me. I fell asleep on the left hook. We trained for that, but I walked in there and fell asleep. And he caught me with it.”

Garcia often used a shoulder roll where he exposed his back, a tactic he vowed to never use again after deploying it ineffectively during his eighth-round knockout victory over Oscar Duarte in December. The defensive method didn’t work again, but he still managed to neutralize Haney’s elite shot by counterattacking from above.

Haney told ESPN on Thursday that he sometimes wasn’t sure during training camp if the fight with Garcia would even happen.

“We’re here now. That’s all that matters,” he said then. “What he’s doing isn’t normal. It’s obvious there’s something wrong with him. But what he does outside the ring doesn’t matter. It won’t change how I feel do to him inside the ring.”

Haney had plenty of reasons to be confident. He retained his undisputed lightweight championship with a unanimous decision over future Hall of Famer Vasiliy Lomachenko in May.

Subsequently, Haney, who fights in Las Vegas, moved up to 140 pounds for a December fight with Regis Prograis. Haney won by shutout on all three cards in his junior welterweight debut and even dropped the champion en route to a second division title.

Haney entered Saturday’s fight ranked No. 1 by ESPN at 140 pounds. Garcia, meanwhile, lost in his only previous fight at the elite level, a seventh-round knockout defeat to Gervonta Davis in a superfight in April 2023. A body shot put Garcia down for the count.

But a year later, Garcia proved that he too was a top fighter capable of beating the best. Perhaps all the turmoil that occurred during the promotion helped Garcia in a paradoxical way.

“There are fighters who need that chaos,” Garcia’s promoter, Hall of Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya, told ESPN. “There are fighters who do much better when there is chaos. It almost blinds you from reality.”

Garcia had to undergo a mental health evaluation by the New York State Athletic Commission last week and passed it, but he previously said he felt the decision was unfair and had ” belittled.”

He has openly spoken about his anxiety and depression in the past. In April 2021, Garcia withdrew from a fight with Javier Fortuna to address his mental health.

“I’ve already given up on one fight,” Garcia said last week. “I know when I actually have a problem, and I don’t.”

Garcia and Haney first crossed paths when they were 11 years old, plying their trade in the amateurs.

The first time they met in the ring was in May 2012, a few months before their 12th birthday. Garcia won this amateur fight by unanimous decision in Southern California. Before Saturday night, their last fight was in January 2015. Haney won that contest in three rounds in similar fashion. They were 16 years old then.

Nine years later, Garcia broke the deadlock and won the only fight that really mattered between them.

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