Amateur rivals Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia meet as pros. Overweight Garcia can’t win Haney’s belt

NEW YORK (AP) — There was a time when Ryan Garcia was a better fighter than Devin Haney.

Haney himself concedes that, though he figures they were around 10 years old at the time. That was at the start of an amateur rivalry that spanned six fights, with each winning three times.

Now both are professionals, and Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) is one of the best in the world. The former undisputed lightweight champion moved up in weight last year and captured a title in a dominant debut at 140 pounds.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) seemingly is on a different path.

His bizarre behavior in public and on social media leading into their fight Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn made it impossible to gauge how prepared — or even interested — he was. His inability to make weight means he can’t win Haney’s WBC title, even if he wins the fight.

But Garcia’s behavior had already made Haney even more determined to keep it.

“This is not an easy fight but this is a fight that I will make look easy,” Haney said. “Through all the antics, through everything, I kept my blinders on. I stayed focused, I had my tunnel vision and on Saturday it will show. All his antics and all the stuff that he’s been doing will betray him and it will show.”

A once-respectful rivalry between fighters from California, both now 25, has turned heated in a hurry. A face-to-face confrontation in Las Vegas before the Super Bowl managed to look tame during fight week, when Haney angrily shoved Garcia away as they exchanged words during a promotional event atop the Empire State Building.

Garcia followed a couple days later by letting profanity fly faster than his punches ever could during their final press conference. He spent so much time during the buildup to the fight on social media, posting about conspiracies, religion, celebrities and occasionally even boxing, that it seemed there couldn’t possibly be enough time spent in the gym.

Garcia had insisted that he was not only serious but better than Haney, whom he calls a mid-level fighter.

“I know he has a lot of skills, I fought him six times, but this is my time and I’m here to just stamp it,” Garcia said recently. “I finally just get that green and gold around my waste and then nobody can say anything about me.”

He can forget the belt, having come in more than three pounds over the limit the day before the fight. That cost him $1.5 million after betting Haney $500,000 a pound that he wouldn’t miss it, and meant the event could go on but not with Garcia being able to win the title, though he hardly seemed bothered.

Garcia was boxing competitively at an earlier age, which is why Haney said Garcia was the better fighter when they first met and got the better of him early on. Garcia then became a fast-rising and popular contender as a professional but he was beaten in his biggest fight so far, stopped by Gervonta Davis last April when he couldn’t get up from a seventh-round body shot.

That fight was contested at 136 pounds, below his normal weight, sapping Garcia of some strength. This one, which will stream on DAZN, was back at the 140-pound limit, though Haney didn’t see that making up for what he sees as a significant gap in skill.

“I know how much better I’ve gotten since we were kids and I don’t think Ryan has gotten much better,” Haney said. “He’s been doing what works for him and that’s been working for him, but we haven’t seen any real adjustments. We’ve seen the same Ryan Garcia time in and time out.”

Meanwhile, Haney looked as good as ever in his last outing, knocking down and shutting out Regis Prograis to take his super lightweight title in December.

Haney and Garcia could have had their tiebreaking seventh fight before that, when both fought at 135 pounds, but Garcia didn’t pursue it then. He said now is the right time for it to happen.

But he wasn’t able to make it count — though laughed it off on social media after missing weight.

“I feel great and I got a 3 pound advantage,” Garcia wrote on the social platform X. “Winners do what they have to do I’m still sharp.”

But at least for now, only Haney is a champ.


AP boxing: and

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