What’s Ryan Garcia really selling us with his erratic behavior ahead of his fight vs. Devin Haney?

What's Ryan Garcia really selling us with his erratic behavior ahead of his fight vs. Devin Haney?

From strange social media posts to unconventional health claims, Ryan Garcia’s antics have dominated the pre-fight narrative ahead of Saturday’s bout versus Devin Haney. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Have you seen what’s been going on with Ryan Garcia lately? This seems to be the central question of the build-up to his fight Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN) with WBC super lightweight champ Devin Haney in Brooklyn.

If you’ve heard that the fight is happening, there’s a good chance you’ve also heard what Garcia has been up to while in the public eye. It might be the sole reason why you’re aware of the fight. You almost can’t not hear about Garcia’s antics, and then once you’ve heard you almost can’t not ask some version of the same question:

Should this man really be put into a professional boxing match right now?

Over the past couple months, Garcia’s behavior has been erratic to say the least. He has used his social media to rant about the Illuminati and aliens, while also insisting at times that his phone and social media access had been taken away from him and he was essentially a prisoner. He’s joked about being “coked out” and insisted (maybe sincerely?) that cancer can be beaten with a combination of water, black coffee and fasting.

He’ll go from praising Jesus to threatening to sexually assault people’s mothers — and that’s all in the span of the same news conference wherein he agreed to a “bet” that would force him to pay $500,000 for every pound he misses weight by. (Garcia weighed in Friday morning at 143.2 pounds, meaning he’d owe about $1.5 million if he were to actually stick to that.)

Garcia has talked openly about struggling with depression and mental health challenges in the past, and a lot of his behavior lately has led people to wonder if he might be spiraling out of control. Then again, he also has a reputation as a savvy self-promoter of the social media age, so there has also been plenty of speculation that he’s merely pretending to be unhinged to drive interest in the fight.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the latter is true. Say it’s all a clever ruse to sell the fight. The question then is what has he sold us, and what does that say about what he thinks we watch boxing for?

If it is all an act, it’s not the kind that makes you think he’s about to do very well in a boxing match. Instead, it’s the kind that makes you think his performance might be a total train wreck. Is that the point? That if he can’t believably promise victory and domination (Garcia opened as about a 3-1 underdog and has since moved north of 7-1, according to BetMGM), he might as well promise memorable implosion?

That’s a little bit of a weird sales pitch since it assumes that what we want is to see a human being destroyed, and we’re not too picky about whether it’s by his opponent’s hands or his own. What’s even weirder is that it might actually work.

Try to imagine this pairing if both fighters were playing it by the book, hyping themselves up in all the usual ways but without any headline-grabbing stunts. What you’d have then is a fight in which it seems as if the most likely outcome is Haney deftly boxing his way to a decision victory in a technical display that blends right in with his other recent performances. Just how much attention would that really get, even if they’re still shoving each other atop the Empire State Building on fight week? Selling us on the possibility that one of these men might be psychologically unwell at least piques the old curiosity a little more, or in a different way.

But then there’s the other possibility, which is that it’s not an act at all. The weigh-in miss would seem to bolster that theory, but what if what we’ve been seeing is a clear and accurate reflection of where Garcia is at in his life? What if he’s about to walk face-first into predictable destruction and everyone involved is going to let him purely because it makes them money? In fact, this way it might make some of them considerably more money, so there’s goes any incentive to intervene.

That would be a pretty sad state of affairs. It’s also one that seems not entirely implausible. And knowing that, the question then becomes: Why are we really interested, and what does that say about us? Whatever we decide to do with our time and our online streaming dollar Saturday night, we should at least answer that part honestly for ourselves.


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