Watching Ryan Garcia Through Our Fingers Shouldn’t Be Made So Easy

To watch Ryan Garcia’s behavior over the past several weeks has been to peer through the fingers with your sweaty palms facing inwards.

It has not been comfortable watching Garcia yo-yoing from euphoria to distress, from sadness to shock, and for each day to spawn varying emotions and social media posts of unpredictability and chaos.

The overarching feeling, however, has been one of concern. 

Garcia is hurtling towards an April 20 clash with Devin Haney at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It seems there is a cliff not too far in front of him, and there is an Acme rocket pack strapped to his back.

The question is whether Garcia can slow down enough so that everything stops becoming a blur, and therefore can focus on the job at hand, which is an incredibly difficult and personal assignment in the ring.

Garcia and Haney have a rivalry that stems back to their childhood, when they boxed one another six times – the last time when they were 16 – and split the difference with three wins apiece. 

The stakes are high. Haney is the WBC super lightweight champion, but boxing’s image is, yawn, on the line. Again. More on this later.

The concerns surrounding Garcia are clear and obvious, yet some debate whether they are legitimate or the result of an actor playing a part to sucker in Haney. 

Garcia has taken us all on a two-week long rollercoaster of disbelief and horror. He’s made some heinous allegations, divided opinion, denied cocaine use, admitted to using weed and drinking alcohol, and generally appeared to have his mind on anything and everything with the exception of April 20.

The carnage has been unrelenting, with Instagram Lives, X Spaces and any number of posts – inflammatory and defamatory – coming from a seemingly confused and muddled mind.

But as uncomfortable as that all might have made us – and plenty doubtless revelled in the carnage – Garcia’s behavior has gradually grated and chipped away at Haney.

Whether he has taken some of the misguided bait or not, Haney is apparently riled.

Of course, in a world where fake “beef” permeates freely in the hope of making a big fight bigger, Haney has, at times, appeared agitated.

During the second press conference to announce their fight, the one at Hollywood’s Avalon Theater – when Garcia tipped up wearing white and riding a white horse – Team Haney closed the show by asking Garcia whether he would even make it to the fight.

Garcia did not reply.

Throughout that media day, Garcia gradually lost interest and concentration, and zoned out. He looked increasingly more dishevelled, while having to rebuff Haney’s claims that he used cocaine – and things only spiralled downwards after that.

Garcia’s unpredictability means that those even in close proximity are circling on a similar whirlwind, and it’s created enough uncertainty – real or otherwise – that Arnold Barbosa is waiting in the wings on the undercard to step up if Garcia doesn’t make it to Brooklyn.

But there are still some who believe this is part of a masterplan from Garcia rather than Garcia being a troubled fighter who needs protecting.

This is the same fighter who in 2021 took 15 months off citing mental health issues. Now he’s under a brighter spotlight, and therefore under more pressure.

That version of Garcia did not need to feel isolated or alone, and he clearly did not need to fight – and perhaps now is not the time for him to be isolated or alone with one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters charging at him from the opposite corner of a boxing ring.

Watching it all unfold, and Garcia unravel, has not been a guilty pleasure, but it does make one consider feelings of guilt. It is one thing to see a man going through everything Garcia seems to be going through, but it is another to be complicit in it. Does writing about it make us that? Does rubbernecking? Does fans clicking “like”, or registering views on his content make them complicit, too? 

Is Haney? Are the promoters? Is the whole boxing circus to blame, and if it is, can the boxing circus stop it now? Should it? And if so, when? 

Is everyone just crossing their fingers and hoping for the best? That is one of the modus operandi of boxing.

Some might wonder if any of it even matters – separating what goes on inside the ring from what happens inside it – but surely to be at one’s best, you must be of sound mind, and focused fully on the task at hand.

Boxing has a long history of making huge mistakes, and the biggest fool is someone who refuses to learn from them. There are warning signs, here– red flags left and right – and the sport can stop and listen or charge forward unabated. 

There have been cautionary tales of fighters going into the ring while beset with out-of-the-ring issues. 

Ricky Hatton was annihilated – blitzed in two rounds – by Manny Pacquiao in 2009 with his mind firmly elsewhere. Oliver McCall could not cope with being in the ring at all for his rematch with Lennox Lewis and was finally recused, in tears, by the referee Mills Lane in the fifth round of their regretful clash in 1997.

The ring is no place for the feint hearted or the insecure, and with Haney and Garcia there are already seeds of doubt sewn into the plot given the amateur rivalry that will have caused feelings of doubt, risk and danger to permeate through their minds. 

The ring is also not a place for those who might be firing off distress flares left and right – especially when the stakes are so high, the stage is so grand, and the potential for calamity so great.

Of course, the spell at the Avalon was not the first juncture where Garcia expressed his discomfort with the fight. He wrote on X last month how the Haney fight should be taking place on the West Coast and not in New York, but he later backtracked – in New York – during the press conference, and conceded he was happy for it to take place in the city that never sleeps. 

With the fight signed and sealed, he still seemed instead to want it in Las Vegas a couple of weeks later, in early May.

The press conference to announce the fight, confirming the date and venue, is a strange time in the negotiations to make a point of it.

Was it just a case of Garcia not wanting to be there geographically, or is there more to it, and is it a case of him not wanting to be there at all?

There are other elements to this – not least the physical consequences of someone who’s exhibiting symptoms of psychological stress being hit on the head in a sport that we know has the ability to change moods, tempers and the process of the individuals, through trauma and concussion, whether in sparring or in a fight.

But who would be in a position to stop Garcia, if all really was not well?

This is not a compassionate sport, until something bad happens, when so many pile on to the GoFundMe bandwagon – a virtual whip around – before piling back off and racing towards the next pay-per-view bonanza.

The well-being of Garcia – the talented, 25-year-old speedster with the awesome left hook but without the detailed repertoire to match – represents just one of boxing’s many ills.

In a sport that has lost an entire weight-class under a tidal wave of sportswashing – increasingly a very active heavyweight division – heads have been turned and eyes have rolled at the announcement that a 20-something influencer will take on a near-60-year-old boxing icon in the summer.

In fact, the announcement that Jake Paul and Mike Tyson will fight – in some way, shape or form, in Texas, on July 20 – was just part of an orgy of high-profile names throwing their respective hats into the ring for their pieces of boxing’s most casual financial pie.

As we age, our brains shrink and the risk of damage becomes greater. 

Tyson boxed as a pro from 1985 to 2005 and was an amateur for several years before.

He has collected plenty of trauma that will not stand him in good stead and that, frankly, does not need to be added to just a few weeks after he turns 58.

As the build-up to Anthony Joshua-Francis Ngannou climaxed we were informed of Tyson-Paul, that Terence Crawford’s next fight could be at middleweight against “stablemate” Chris Eubank Jr, and that Manny Pacquiao was in negotiations for a fight with Conor Benn, likely in Saudi Arabia.   

Boxing has so many significant issues it is hard to know where to really start without revisiting the ever-needed one body of governance to control the zoo and keep its ringmasters in check.

One would certainly help, and it would certainly stop fighters from trying to claim their innocence after failed PED tests by presenting science – via the scientists they have hired – to claim they are innocent without going through stringent processes to prove their claims or, indeed, to have them disproved. 

The chances of everyone eventually singing from the same hymn sheet? We know the egos involved do not view the sport through a greater-good prism. They all have their agendas.

Yes, there are positives in the sport at the highest level – not to mention at grassroots and community levels and the difference it makes in the lives of those who are involved with it around the world. But that does not mean blind eyes should be turned, and we should not have to watch one of – if not several – of the biggest nights of the year through our fingers. 

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