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Ryan Garcia scores 3 knockdowns in wild upset of Devin Haney

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NEW YORK – Ryan Garcia’s fitness to fight was called into question ahead of his fight with Devin Haney, a turbulent promotion highlighted by Garcia’s erratic comments.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) was a big underdog and was virtually eliminated on Saturday night. His blinding, powerful left hook turned the tide as Garcia scored three knockdowns to ease the upset via majority decision at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

One judge scored the fight 112-112, but was overruled by 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 for Friday’s 140-pound bout. Haney remains the champion in defeat, but it’s Garcia who scored the best win of his career by knocking out ESPN’s No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer.

“I don’t care what people say about me. I walked through the fire and still held it down and still beat Devin Haney and still drank every day,” said Garcia, 25. “I’m not necessarily proud of that but I’m just saying it was a statement to show you guys that you can’t really fuck with me.’

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

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 that Garcia had honored the bet, which would mean Garcia would pay Haney a total of $1.5 million.

In the opening minute of the fight, in a harbinger of things to come, Garcia was the one who made Haney pay with a ripping left hook that rocked the champion.

Haney (31-1, 15 KOs) recovered quickly and defeated Garcia in the next four rounds. He even wobbled Garcia with his right hand in round 3, as Garcia boxed off a back foot and looked for another left hook that would change the fight.

Garcia found it in round 7 when he floored Haney – the first time he had been on the canvas in 32 professional fights – but Garcia did not capitalize. Moments after the knockdown, as the crowd erupted, Garcia crushed Haney with a right hand during the break and was deducted one point by referee Harvey Dock.

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

‘They stole that from me. …And Devin held him and held him. …That was ridiculous. That was insane. I’ve never seen such things before.’

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

The next round, Garcia landed his money punch again, a left hook that had Haney’s eyes rolling as he was launched backwards onto the canvas. Somehow he got back up, his cheeks were very swollen and his mouth was bleeding.

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

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

Garcia often used a shoulder roll that exposed his back, a tactic he vowed never to use again after using it ineffectively in his eighth-round KO win over Oscar Duarte in December. The defensive method again didn’t work, but he was still able to neutralize Haney’s elite jab by countering over the top.

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

‘We are here now. That’s all that matters,” he said at the time. “The things he’s doing are not normal. It’s clear there’s something wrong with him. But what he does outside the ring doesn’t matter. It won’t change what I do to him inside the ring.”

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

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

Haney entered Saturday’s match at ESPN’s No. 1 ranking at 140 pounds. Garcia, meanwhile, lost in his only previous fight at the elite level, a seventh-round KO loss 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 is a high-end fighter capable of beating the best. Perhaps all the turbulence during the promotion has paradoxically helped Garcia.

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

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

He spoke openly about his past fears and depression. In April 2021, Garcia pulled out of a fight with Javier Fortuna to address his mental health.

“I’ve given up a fight before,” Garcia said last week. “I know when I really have a problem, and I don’t.”

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

The first time they met in the ring was in May 2012, months before they both turned 12. Garcia won that amateur fight by unanimous decision in Southern California. Before Saturday night, the last time they fought was January 2015. Haney won that three-round match in similar fashion. They were 16 at the time.

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

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