Sunday, April 21, 2024

Opinions and Observations: Haney-Garcia

Haney-Garcia was the good stuff. It's why we watch – the theater of the unexpected, the element of surprise. It was a triumph for Ryan Garcia and a humbling experience for the Haneys (Devin and father/trainer Bill), as well as for boxing fans and observers, with so many convinced that the victory would be a formality for Haney, and that Garcia was on his way to an implosion in the ring. 

Garcia, who was a notable betting underdog entering the bout, was without a doubt the better fighter on the night, the one who dominated the second half, scoring three knockdowns. And Haney, for all his accomplishments in the ring, could not avoid Garcia's signature left hook. Haney displayed bravery in getting up from the knockdowns, but he was outgunned, and perhaps more concerning, outthought on the night. 

Photo courtesy of Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy

The first question that needs to be asked is why did Haney keep getting hit by Garcia's left hook? After the fight, Haney was asked about the punch and he acknowledged that he was certainly aware of Garcia's primary weapon. So, what happened? 

Garcia cracked Haney in the first round with the left hook and it's perfectly understandable that in the early part of the fight Garcia would have the element of surprise with the punch. It's one thing for Haney to see it on You Tube; it's another thing trying to defense it in the ring. Garcia whips his left hook with so much torque and can place it perfectly on the point of the chin. It's unlike most other left hooks in the sport. The trajectory, speed and power behind the shot is unique. It's not that Haney got hit with the shot early in the fight that's the major issue. Those things happen; the greats can make adjustments.  

My main issue with Haney's performance is how Garcia was able to land the shot later in the fight, after Haney had already seen it and had the opportunity to neutralize it. Haney, the supposed defensive master, continually got caught with the same left hook throughout the back half of the match. 

And this leads to the next question: Why was Haney still in range for the hook? Why didn't he try to make Garcia beat him with his right hand? Was it because of overconfidence? Arrogance? A lack of preparation? 

To be fair, Garcia's right hand was much better than advertised on the night and he had stretches of the fight where he created a lot of concern for Haney with his straight right. But none of the three knockdowns occurred from the right hand, and that was telling. At a certain point, a master boxer learns to take away a weapon. Recently, Shakur Stevenson did just this against Oscar Valdez. Stevenson was willing to get hit by Valdez's right hand to ensure that he stayed away from his left hook. On one hand Stevenson did get hit more than we are used to seeing, but he stayed upright and was able to win the fight comfortably because he understood the risk in front of him. 

The Haneys did not have a good night. Devin was in the pocket too much, in range far too often. Devin expected to grind Garcia down with volume and pressure. And although that initial strategy made sense when considering how badly Garcia blew weight and the legitimate questions about his mental state coming into the fight, why were there no adjustments from Haney when it was clear that Garcia remained a threat? 

With knockdowns in the seventh, 10th and 11th rounds, Haney continued to get pasted by Garcia's hook, and he let a victory slip away. Haney was essentially compliant in his own demise. He and his father were unable to get out of the same rut. 

Photo courtesy of Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy

Let's also take a moment to credit Garcia's other punches. Often called a one-trick pony, Garcia set up the first knockdown in the fight from a perfect hooking off the jab combination, where he landed the jab and immediately followed with the hook. The deception worked because of the effectiveness of Garcia's jab and his ability to throw both punches from the same arm slot; Haney didn't know what was coming. 

Garcia's right hand was a factor in the knockdowns in the 10th and 11th rounds. The tenth featured a multi-punch combination where he drove Haney back to the ropes with Haney eventually falling over from the onslaught. Garcia landed shots with both hands and it was a straight left in the exchange that did the most damage. In the 11th, Garcia was able to break free from a clinch (another subtle skill) and hit Haney with a cuffing right to the side of the head before unloading with a pulverizing six-inch left hook that had Haney's eyes rolling back before he hit the canvas. Without the right, I'm not sure that the left lands there. 

The fight contained all sorts of other goodies to discuss too. How about referee Harvey Dock's wild seventh round, where he might have missed two additional Garcia knockdowns (calling them slips after clean shots were landed), and rushing in to give Haney loads of extra time. He took a point away from Garcia for hitting on the break (which was certainly within his judgment to do so), but he took a massive amount of time to restart the action as Haney was reeling.  

Ultimately, I think that there are two key takeaways from the fight. First of all, you can never discount a guy with an A+ punch. It doesn't matter if a fighter is getting beaten from pillar to post or has all sorts of other disadvantages in a given matchup; the big-time punches are separators. There are so few legitimate A+ punches in the sport that we tend to forget just how rare and special they are. Ryan Garcia is live in any fight because of his left hook. He can drop or stop anyone with it. It is up to the opponent to neutralize the shot, because if Garcia is allowed to land his hook, the punch can and will change a fight. 

I think the other key is the poor strategic and tactical performance from Devin and his father. In the Kambosos fights, Devin was masterful in staying on the outside to win. Yet, Devin and his father never employed this approach at any time against Garcia. They were determined to be the hunter, to go after Garcia, and they suffered because of it. Was it a stubbornness that they refused to change, or did the moment get away from them? They were never able to regain control in the second half of the fight. 

The official ledger from the fight will say that Garcia won by majority decision. There will also be a note that he missed weight by three pounds, with the upshot being that Garcia did not win Haney's title belt. Yet none of that really encapsulates the fight. Garcia was the one who dug down deep and turned the fight around. In the process, he not only beat a pound-for-pound-level fighter, but exposed serious shortcomings with Devin and his corner. 

Overall, Haney-Garcia was a thrilling night of action. I certainly hope that there's a rematch and it will be fascinating to see what happens if the Haneys get their tactics right. But first, a big piece of humble pie needs to be consumed. They need to respect their opponents more. And they also must understand the concepts of fallibility and mortality in the ring. Every fighter can be gotten to, every fighter can be hurt, but the key question is what happens next? And this is where they failed. 

On this night Ryan Garcia was king. He had heard all the criticism; he even played his role in facilitating much of it! But he reminded everyone what he can do in the boxing ring. As long as he has his left hand, he is a threat. To anybody.

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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