Weight and see: Garcia’s Haney win isn’t all that it seems

 | 22nd April | 

4 mins read

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Ryan Garcia shocked the world on Saturday night, knocking WBC super lightweight champion Devin Haney down three times en route to winning a majority decision. The victory has seen ‘KingRy’ anointed as the future of boxing in many quarters. It is easy to see why. An underdog victory against one of the pound-for-pound best fighters on the planet will do that for you. But these grandiose proclamations seem to be omitting an asterisk or two from Garcia’s career-defining win.

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Garcia weighed in at 143.2 pounds for the scheduled super lightweight contest, over three pounds above the weight limit. This meant that the 25-year-old did not win Haney’s WBC belt despite his victory. While a casual observer may note that such a small weight differential would not have impacted the outcome, that simply isn’t true.

While 3.2 pounds of weight doesn’t sound like much, the fact Garcia did not shift it, or arguably even attempt to, could be critical. The fact Garcia has bragged that he drank throughout his training camp, even slugging from a beer bottle at the weigh-in, backs up that he made little genuine attempt to cut down to super lightweight.

But Haney did. ‘The Dream’ had struggled with boiling down to lightweight previously, necessitating his move up in weight after lifting the undisputed championship. He dutifully hit the 140-pound limit for this title contest. The very literal sweat required to do so puts a real strain on boxers. Haney opted in, Garcia opted out.

This is not to denigrate Garcia’s achievement. He boxed brilliantly and the fact his triumph was via majority rather than unanimous decision looked vaguely treasonous. ‘KingRy’ out-fought his man in every department. Against odds that many deemed impossible, Garcia confounded his opponent, his critics and those who had questioned his mental state.

The thorny issue of Garcia’s mental state was a constant topic in the build-up. But history is written by the winners and the fighter’s bizarre pre-fight behaviour has been waved away as ingenious Conor McGregor-like histrionics in the glow of victory. Garcia’s unusual, lax attitude to the whole affair, including making weight, has secured him a victory. From concerning to inspired, simply because he won the fight. 

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The worth of the victory depends on who you speak to. Most seem happy to file it in a drawer only unlocked for the most deserving triumphs. The hyperbole reached as far as some outlets deeming this the greatest upset of the modern era. Andy Ruiz Jr, George Kambosos Jr, Kiko Martinez and Ismael Barroso would all have varying degrees of something to say about that.

Kambosos and his next opponent, Vasiliy Lomachenko, both know Haney well. ‘The Dream’ beat both during his lightweight pomp. They scrap over one of Haney’s vacated belts next month, the IBF lightweight title. We may look back at his victories over this pair of accomplished ex-champions as a prime that Garcia ended.

Make no mistake, despite the weight casting a shadow few seem willing to acknowledge, this defeat was a damaging one for Haney. Despite the closeness of the scorecards, there was no argument. What’s more, the fact he was knocked down three times means the WBC super lightweight belt-holder can really have few complaints. To his credit, he hasn’t offered any. 

A rematch would seem like the most logical conclusion, particularly when Garcia’s most appetising option has just accepted another fight. Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis, the only man to defeat ‘KingRy’ as a pro, has signed on to defend his WBA lightweight title against Frank Martin this June. You have to think that rematch is likely, particularly if both men keep winning.

But for now, Garcia owes Haney. He won’t see it that way and neither will Oscar De La Hoya, Golden Boy or anyone else in the Ryan Garcia business. But after practically refusing to make weight, the least ‘KingRy’ can do is allow Haney to come for the throne. Whether that is at the troublesome super lightweight limit or up at welterweight remains to be seen. But before a rematch with ‘Tank’, Garcia has some other unfinished business to attend to with Haney.

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