Thursday, April 18, 2024

Haney-Garcia: Preview and Prediction

Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) and Ryan Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) enter Saturday's fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn as familiar opponents. They fought six times as amateurs with each winning three times. But as they fight for Haney's junior welterweight belt on Saturday, those old amateur bouts will no longer matter in the squared circle. A new history will be written. 

As far as matchups go, this is one where both will think that they have advantages and opportunities to exploit. Garcia will like that Haney isn't a pure pressure fighter or a one-punch-knockout artist. He certainly will have periods of the fight where he will have space to operate. Garcia has better power and might have the advantage in hand speed. And he also doesn't have to worry about being perfect in the same way that he did against Gervonta Davis, who had the fight-ending power to punish mistakes – that was Garcia's only loss of his professional career; he didn't make it to the eighth round. 

Haney during his open workout
Photo courtesy of Chris Esqueda/Golden Boy Promotions

Haney will try to capitalize on Garcia's being left-hand dominant and his often-clumsy footwork. Haney has a decided advantage in foot speed and he certainly understands how to take away weapons. If he plants himself on Garcia's right side, he would favor his varied offensive arsenal against Garcia's right hand. Haney also has an advantage in experience in the professional ranks. He's been twelve rounds against current and former champs and won those battles. He has persevered.

But let's not make this fight so reductive; there are other vital considerations in play that can mean much more than who can establish his jab. It's no secret that there's a lot of bad blood between the two and that could manifest in the ring in different ways. Despite being a terrific boxer on the outside, Haney is often far more daring in the ring than his reputation suggests. He took the fight right to opponents such as Jorge Linares, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Regis Prograis. Instead of playing it safe, he often operated at mid-range and closer. And although he's not a standard pressure fighter per se, his volume and effectiveness at mid-range give opponents a lot of trouble. 

But that does create opportunities. Linares was eventually able to crack Haney with a big left hook late in their fight and Lomachenko turned the tide in the second half by pushing Haney back to the ropes; in that fight Haney's energy did flag during some of the later rounds. And with Ryan Garcia's left hook, he doesn't have to land too many of his best ones to change the direction of the fight in his favor. 

Emotion can play the other way as well. After his knockout loss to Davis, Garcia admitted that he stopped listening to his corner and went for the knockout, even if he did so recklessly. Those decisions ultimately got him stopped in the fight; he provided Davis with too many openings. 

Garcia getting gloved up
Photo courtesy of Chris Esqueda/Golden Boy Promotions

Ultimately, this fight may come down to psychology as much as tactics or technical proficiency. Garcia can lose focus in the ring. He can junk a game plan when he's not satisfied. He often will give off bad body language when things aren't going his way, which can buoy an opponent even further. But Haney is a risk taker, and he doesn't necessarily have the big punch to bail him out of trouble. He often fights as if he has a point to prove, which can be to his detriment.  

Garcia's physical and mental well-being will be significant factors in the ring. Throughout the promotion, Garcia has repeatedly trafficked in strange and even offensive behavior. And it's not even what he was saying was adding to the the promotion of the fight; much of it was just bizarre. Furthermore, he wound up missing weight on Friday by over three pounds, not a sign of a fighter who's locked in at the moment. That could lead to desperation in the ring, which could play out in a number of different ways.    

I think that there are two distinct periods of the fight that will ultimately reveal the winner. The first three rounds will probably be the most intriguing. Haney will want to make an immediate statement and let's face it; Garcia doesn't really want to be boxing for 12 rounds. He's going to fire off some bombs and test Haney's chin. 

It's vital for Haney to make it out of the first quarter of the fight unscathed. If he does get dropped or hurt badly early in the match, Garcia will gain even more confidence. And if Garcia can damage Haney early in the fight, he must try to end it. There's an old saying in the sport that a wounded animal is often the most dangerous one, but that's also one of those aphorisms in boxing that doesn't always stand up to the bright lights of scrutiny, such as skills pay the bills or styles make fights. Sometimes they can be true; sometimes they aren't. Haney doesn't have the one-punch power to turn everything around if he's hurt. If there's a diminished Haney, Garcia has to go for it. 

If the fight makes it to the second half, that's when Haney needs to turn the screws to Garcia. By that point, Garcia would have tried his Plan A, which was to end the fight with a left hook. He hasn't often displayed a viable Plan B in many fights. Haney will have to continue to pepper Garcia with volume and psychological pressure, because there's a legitimate chance that Garcia could wilt. This is not the fight for Haney to chill on the ropes for a spell, play with his food, or take a round off. He needs to remove Garcia's will to fight, his self-belief; Haney wants doubt to creep into Garcia. And that won't happen by itself. 

For my pick, I'm going to side with Haney's experience and temperament in the ring. I've seen him prevail against tough opponents and in trying circumstances. I believe that Haney will have enough defensive responsibility to survive the perilous opening rounds with his faculties intact. Although he has had to navigate through a scare or two in the ring, he has survived those moments, and he has that experience in his back pocket. Eventually he will start to bank rounds, especially as he feels more comfortable incorporating additional facets of his offensive arsenal. I like Haney to pull away in the second half of the fight. 

I have very little confidence in what version of Ryan Garcia we will see in the ring. His power always needs to be respected and the possibility of a Garcia knockout can't be dismissed. But if he is losing as the fight goes to the second half, I've yet to see him pull a rabbit out of his hat. I'm not sure how resilient he is in the ring. Although Haney isn't a one-punch knockout guy, I think that he's a very solid body puncher, which could be vital in weakening Garcia, who likely will burn off a lot of energy early in the fight going for the knockout, and trying to calm his nerves.  

I'm picking Haney by 10th round TKO. I think that a body shot knockdown will cause significant damage and remove Garcia's will to win. Haney's intelligence, multiplicity of tools, consistency and positive big-fight experience will ultimately be the determining factors that lead to his glory. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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