Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia fight for title in New York not Las Vegas

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Devin Haney (L) and Ryan Garcia at square off during their press conference at the Palladium Times Square on February 27, 2024 in New York City. Haney will be defending his WBC Super Lightweight title against Garcia when they fight at the Barclay Center on April 20, 2024 in New York City Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

NEW YORK — Ryan Garcia wanted his fans to know his title fight against super lightweight champion Devin Haney belonged on boxing’s biggest stage.

“This is a MGM Vegas fight, doing everything we can to bring this to Vegas and giving this fight what it deserves!!!” he wrote Feb. 23 on social media.

One problem: Oscar De La Hoya, his promoter, had already announced two days earlier that the event was headed to Brooklyn.

So perhaps the fighters themselves were just as confused as fight fans as to why two Californians would go across the country for their April 20 showdown.

“I want this fight to still be in Vegas. I’ve been on the record saying that anyway, but I don’t want to get too into it,” Garcia said Monday at his New York hotel, a day before the fighters will have their opening press conference. “Wherever this fight is going to be it’s going to be, so I’m happy to fight in NYC. I have no problem. I’ll bring the energy and it’ll be great.”

Boxing’s biggest bouts have long been in Las Vegas, and both fighters had one last year. Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) was stopped by Gervonta Davis in April, a month before Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) defended his titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko in his final fight at lightweight before moving up to the 140-pound limit.

But with Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s biggest draw, expected to fight there May 4, De La Hoya said there was a risk that fans wouldn’t pay up for tickets to two events so close together. Besides, he thinks there’s a need to bring Garcia, already with a huge social media following, to a new audience.

“The greats, the best, fought in New York in order to become a world champion,” De La Hoya said. “Not a Vegas champion, not a California champion, but a global world champion, and so I’ve always thought that fighters who want to be superstars must fight in New York. This is why we’re here.”

READ: Haney dominates Prograis to grab WBC super lightweight title

Haney seems to have less problem with it. He fought once as a pro in New York, in the smaller Theater at Madison Square Garden, and hoped to return to the city before a bigger crowd — even though Las Vegas is now home for the San Francisco product.

“I just knew it would be in Vegas, but I’m not mad about New York,” he said. “This is a great opportunity, the media capital of the world. There’s so many eyeballs, so we can make this thing as big as it should be and I think it’s going to be great. I think it’s going to be just as good as if it was in Vegas.”

Garcia, who has fought once as a pro in New York, has gotten over his original apprehension, though still questions the logic.

“My thing is, when I come to the East Coast I want to fight somebody that has ties to the East Coast, that is from New York. Like maybe fight Teofimo here,” said Garcia, referring to Teofimo Lopez, who also holds a 140-pound title. “He’s from Brooklyn, that would be great. But fighting Devin Haney, it’s two West Coast fighters. I know we could do it, we could sell it out, but it just didn’t make sense to me.”

It does to De La Hoya, though he concedes they will make less money than in Las Vegas due to the higher costs associated with contractors working the event. But he says it will still attract the biggest live gate in New York history.

“And guess what, your future fight, you’ll make up for what you didn’t make here. You’ll make it up 10 times,” he said. “Your popularity, with your endorsements, you’re a global star now. It’s all common sense.”

Barclays Center seems eager to have it after sitting out the fight game since hosting Deontay Wilder’s first-round knockout of Robert Helenius in October 2022. The arena had previously been active in staging boxing since opening in 2012 and an arena spokesperson said it intends to continue pursuing future events, adding that scheduling conflicts prevented Barclays from having any last year.

De La Hoya fought three times in New York and his Golden Boy Promotions has done events in Brooklyn, so he sees only upside. He added that Garcia does better numbers in New York than California on DAZN, which will stream the fight.

So why would Garcia fuss about the site? Perhaps, Haney says with a smile, it’s because his rival from their amateur days in California isn’t certain he wants it anywhere.

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“One foot in and one foot out,” Haney said. “But hopefully he shows up here April 20 and if he does show up, when he shows up, he’ll see that I’m levels above him.”

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