Ryan Garcia's win over Devin Haney raises more questions than answers

What are you supposed to do with a pro fighter who insists, very sincerely, that he’s not crazy like everyone thinks but instead was merely drunk? And before you answer, consider whether it will change your opinion to know that he said this after winning the fight.

Ryan Garcia showed up for Saturday night’s fight against Devin Haney in New York as a 6-1 underdog. He also showed up several pounds heavy, towing behind him what seemed to be some heavy psychological baggage.

So when he dropped Haney three times en route to a majority decision victory, people naturally had questions. Those questions included but were not limited to “Wait, what?” as well as, “Hold up, was this all a ruse?” Because even while Garcia’s public behavior got stranger and stranger, it always seemed at least possible that he was running a long con. The wilder he acted, the more interested people seemed to get into the fight. And if it had the added benefit of convincing others — Haney included — into taking him lightly? Even better.

But the fact that Garcia came in heavy, ruining his chance to snatch the WBC super lightweight title with the win, suggests that it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors. When he rolled into the post-fight news conference to bask in the glory, he didn’t exactly dispel the idea that he’d been battling some demons prior to battling Haney.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20:   Ryan Garcia (white trunks) knocks down Devin Haney (gray trunks) during their WBC Super Lightweight title bout at Barclays Center on April 20, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Ryan Garcia stands over Devin Haney after knocking down Haney during their bout Saturday night at Barclays Center in New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

“I walked through the fire and still held it down and still beat f***ing Devin Haney and still drank every day and still beat him,” Garcia told members of the media. “I did everything. What the f***? Hey, what happened? False reality, right? Drank every single night, went out on the first Monday and Tuesday and drank and drank. What happened? I won. … Not necessarily am I proud of that, but I’m just saying. It was a statement to show you, you guys can’t really f*** with me. I do whatever I want, I still win.”

Again, I ask you, what do we make of a fighter like that? Because on one hand, it’s sure entertaining. Maybe the only thing we’ve never felt here, from the build-up to the fight itself to the immediate aftermath, is boredom.

Then again, is victory all it takes to transform what seemed like a bad idea into a good one? If Garcia had lost the decision, would we be sitting around today talking about how he had no business in there, considering the overall state of the man?

What Garcia managed to do against Haney was nothing short of remarkable, not to mention thrilling to watch. Haney went nearly 10 years and 31 pro fights without a loss. Then he runs into an online conspiracy theorist who says he was drinking every day.

When Haney wakes up the next morning, his undefeated record is gone.

That’s not the way this kind of thing usually goes. Which is, of course, what makes it so entertaining. It also makes it so that we’ll all be glued to the next chapter of the Ryan Garcia story. Even if everything we know about the world tells us that, without a dramatic shift in direction, these kinds of tales don’t tend to have the happiest of endings.