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What is Ryan Garcia really selling us with his erratic behavior ahead of his fight against Devin Haney?


From strange social media posts to unconventional health claims, Ryan Garcia’s antics dominated the narrative ahead of Saturday’s fight against Devin Haney. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Have you seen what’s been going on with Ryan Garcia lately? This seems to be the central question ahead of his fight Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN) with WBC super lightweight champion Devin Haney in Brooklyn.

If you’ve heard the fight is happening, chances are you’ve also heard what Garcia has been up to while in the public eye. It may be the only reason you know about the fight. You almost can’t do that not hear about Garcia’s antics, and once you’ve heard it, you’ll be hard-pressed to ask another version of the same question:

Should this man really be put in a professional boxing match?

In recent months, Garcia’s behavior has been erratic, to say the least. He has used his social media to rant about the Illuminati and aliens, while also at times insisting that his phone and social media access had been taken away from him and that he was essentially a prisoner. He joked about being “kicked off coke” and emphasized (perhaps sincerely?) that cancer can be defeated with a combination of water, black coffee, and fasting.

He goes from praising Jesus to threatening to sexually assault people’s mothers – all in the same press conference where he agreed to a ‘bet’ that would force him to pay $500,000 for every pound he loses weight . (Garcia weighed 143.2 pounds as of Friday morning, meaning he would owe about $1.5 million if he were to stick with it.)

Garcia has spoken openly in the past about his struggles with depression and mental health issues, and much of his behavior lately has led people to wonder if he might be spiraling out of control. On the other hand, he also has a reputation as a savvy self-promoter of the social media age, so there’s also been a lot of speculation that he’s just pretending to be unhinged to drum up interest in the fight.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the latter is true. Say it’s all a clever ploy to sell the fight. The question then is what has he sold us, and what does that say about what he thinks we watch boxing for?

If it’s all an act, it’s not the kind that makes you think he’s going to do very well in a boxing match. Instead, it’s the kind that makes you think his performance could be a total train wreck. Is that the point? That if he can’t credibly promise victory and domination (Garcia opened as a 3-1 underdog and has since moved north of 7-1, per BetMGM), he might as well promise a momentous implosion?

That’s a bit of a weird sales pitch, because it assumes that we want a human to be destroyed, and we’re not too picky about whether it’s at the hands of his opponent or his own. What’s even stranger is that it might actually work.

Try to imagine this combination if both fighters played it by the book, pumping themselves up in all the usual ways, but without any flashy stunts. What you would have is a fight where it seems like the most likely outcome is Haney deftly clawing his way to a decision victory in a technical display that fits right in with his other recent performances. How much attention would that actually get, even if they still push each other on top of the Empire State Building during fight week? Selling us the possibility that one of these men might be mentally ill at least rekindles the old curiosity a little, if not in a different way.

But then there’s the other possibility, which is that it’s not an act at all. The weigh-in miss seems to support that theory, but what if what we’ve seen is a clear and accurate reflection of where Garcia is in his life? What if he’s about to face predictable destruction and everyone involved lets him do it just because it makes them money? This way it could actually make some of them significantly more money, so there is no incentive to intervene.

That would be a pretty sad turn of events. It is also one that does not seem entirely implausible. And once we know that, the question becomes: why are we really interested, and what does that say about us? Whatever we decide to do with our time and our online streaming dollar on Saturday night, we have to at least answer that part honestly to ourselves.

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