A Heated Rivalry Boils Over: Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia Preview

A Heated Rivalry Boils Over: Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia Preview

by Everlast
Contributed by David Greisman

This Saturday’s main event featuring Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia is as much a fight about their shared past as it is a fight for their individual futures. Haney and Garcia are meeting for the first time as professional prizefighters, though it’s far from their first meeting in the ring. They competed against each other six times as amateurs. Garcia won three times. Haney won three times. That was years ago, a different era. Since then, each has sought to make an impact in the pros. Each has done so in contrasting ways. Haney has proven himself in the ring far more than Garcia has. And yet Garcia has been far more popular with ticket sales and pay-per-view purchases than Haney. The stakes for each, and the personalities involved, have taken their past rivalry off the backburner, turned the heat up as high as possible, and boiled things over. Their fight will headline at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, streaming on DAZN pay-per-view and PPV.com.

Haney, once on the receiving end of criticism, has earned respect over the past couple of years. There was a time from 2019 onward that he was derided as an “email champ,” back when Vasiliy Lomachenko was upgraded by the WBC, going from its titleholder to something called the “franchise champion.” Haney, the WBC’s interim titleholder at the time, received an upgrade and had his first world title.

It otherwise didn’t help Haney’s case that he was still taking on the second and third tiers of 135-pounders, guys like an aging Yuriorkis Gamboa, a declining Jorge Linares, and Joseph Diaz Jr. Haney won them all, though he did get wobbled by Linares. Meanwhile, the other world titles, and the recognition that came with them, went from Lomachenko to Teofimo Lopez, and then from Lopez to George Kambosos Jr.

And so Haney did what too few fighters are willing to do. He traveled a long way, to hostile territory at that, for an opportunity. He flew in 2022 from the United States to Australia, not once but twice, beating Kambosos to become the undisputed lightweight champ — the owner of all four world titles, and the man who beat the man (Kambosos) who beat the man (Lopez) who beat the man (Lomachenko).

For his final act at 135, Haney met Lomachenko in May 2023. Their fight was close and competitive and continues to be debated. To the official judges, at least, Haney triumphed with a unanimous decision.

At the end of last year, Haney moved up to junior welterweight. He had put his body through enough. And there were more opportunities to be had at 140. Haney took on world titleholder Regis Prograis in December, dropping Prograis early and triumphing with a complete shutout on the scorecards. That brought the 25-year-old to 31-0 with 15 knockouts.

A sizable crowd in San Francisco came out to watch Haney, who is originally from there. Now Haney wants to continue growing his fan base. Beating Garcia will help. And getting past Garcia also will set Haney up for fights against the many other notable names at junior welterweight.

Garcia, meanwhile, has had plenty of eyes on him for years, far more than is typically the case for prospects. There was plenty of sizzle. We were waiting to see about the steak.

Much of that popularity can be attributed to Garcia’s youthful good looks and his embrace of social media, where he’s built a tremendous following. In the ring, Garcia went from dispatching Romero Duno and Francisco Fonseca in a combined three minutes to taking on his biggest challenge to date when he met Luke Campbell.

Campbell, an Olympic gold medalist, showed his pedigree when he downed Garcia in Round 2 of their 2021 bout. Garcia showed his grit, and his potential, when he got up, fought back, and went on to stop Campbell in Round 7.

Two more wins against other foes followed. And by April 2023, Garcia finally stepped up against Gervonta “Tank” Davis, a very talented fighter who is one of boxing’s biggest stars in the United States.

Alas, Garcia was knocked down in the second round and then hurt badly by a body shot in the seventh. Garcia took a knee and listened to the count, rising only after the referee reached 10. Garcia admitted afterward that he’d come in with a rib injury.

But after all the talk on social media and in interviews, the way Garcia had suffered his first loss meant that plenty of people had plenty of doubt about him. Following a bounceback win last December, the 25-year-old is coming into this fight with a record of 24-1 (20 KOs).

Garcia needs this win. It would validate him as something more than a hypejob, as someone beyond a person who spends far too much time acting out (much of it to his detriment) on social media and in real life. A win also means his first world title and the possibility for more.

Shared pasts. Individual futures.

The consequences — the aftermath of winning and losing — should be the most important motivation for the fighters involved. That, more than their history from years ago, more than their back-and-forth in recent months, will drive the action on Saturday night.

It’s not just about the man standing across from them. It’s about what else waits ahead of them.

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