Ryan Garcia revived his career by recording one of the most remarkable of all victories to dethrone Devin Haney as the WBC super-lightweight champion.

He will not leave the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York with the title, because his being overweight made him ineligible to win it, but he enhanced his reputation by earning the most unlikely of majority decisions, via scores of 112-112, 114-110 and 115-109.

There had been concerns surrounding Garcia’s mental health since their fight was announced, on account of his ill-advised use of social media and increasingly erratic behaviour.

Throughout fight week he had looked far from fit to participate in a fight against one of the world’s finest fighters, looking consistently too heavy, distracted, and unsettled to the point of needing to be withdrawn for the sake of his wellbeing. 

It came as little surprise when on Friday he weighed in at 143.2lbs, which in turn served only to provide a further insight into his fragile frame of mind, given the previous afternoon he had agreed to a bet with his opponent of $500,000 per pound he was overweight.

He regardless showed how potent his impressive hand speed and explosive power remains, by not only becoming the first to knock Haney down, but doing so a further two times and hurting him repeatedly.

A left hook hurt Haney, like Garcia aged 25, in the opening round, and he hadn’t recovered from its effects by the time Garcia landed the second and forced him to hold on. The previously undefeated Haney had greater success in timing his long-term rival in the second, during which he landed both a straight right hand and a straight left, and when Garcia’s ineffective attempts to land left and right hooks were already making him look one-dimensional.

Haney then hurt Garcia with a left uppercut in the third, and followed doing so with a powerful left hook that buckled Garcia’s legs. 

That Garcia’s hands were so low and he was both neglecting his jab and showing so little defensive awareness was made it easy for Haney to counter him, and to march forward in a way that he rarely has. 

Garcia fell short with a wild left hook in the fifth. Haney, so balanced, timed him with a counter right hand. 

Garcia’s ineffectiveness contributed to him being booed towards the fifth’s conclusion, but he was competitive again in the sixth when he let his hands go to Haney’s body, and landed a hurtful right hand to his chin. The referee Harvey Dock then intervened when Haney was landing to Garcia’s body and Garcia started turning his back, and he became, for the wrong reasons, influential.

Haney landed a straight right hand at the start of the seventh, but the fight then transformed when Garcia knocked him down with a left hook. Haney, once back on his feet, may reflect that he was given too long to recover by Dock, but not to the extent that he was able to avoid being hurt twice more after Garcia was deducted a point for punching on the break.

In the eighth, Garcia, the underdog, hurt Haney again with another right hand and found the crowd, with chants of “Ryan, Ryan”, turning in his favour. 

He then hurt Haney again with a right hand in the 10th, dropped him again with another, and hurt him with a left hook once he had again returned to his feet.

Haney, his face swelling up – Garcia had long looked exhausted – was hurt once again with a straight right hand and then dropped by another of the explosive left hooks that were too regular and too fast for him to stay away from.

There was little question the scorecards ought to have been closer than they ultimately proved so Garcia appeared over-confident in the 12th when he showboated and finally landed a powerful left jab. 

After walking to the ring with the demeanour of a fighter wishing he were somewhere else his commitment to and faith in his power meant that, following three victories each across their six-fight amateur careers, he earned the most dramatic and unexpected of wins – and one that potentially owed much to his weight advantage.

In the aftermath of his defeat by Gervonta “Tank” Davis in April 2023 he was accused, repeatedly, of lacking heart. 

As the underdog in New York and battling for his mental health, he showed more heart than ever to defeat one of the finest active fighters and to provide a reminder of why he is considered one of the most exciting fighters in the world.