Ryan Garcia evokes Michael Jackson, The Beatles and Justin Bieber, vows to beat Devin Haney bad

The buildup to Devin Haney‘s WBC super lightweight title defense against Ryan Garcia, which takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 20, has been thoroughly unique.

The challenger’s unpredictable behavior on social media has dominated the headlines throughout and traditional shoulder content has taken a backseat. Just a few weeks out from the biggest fight of his life, Garcia admitted that he’d been drinking and taking drugs, and then things got much darker when, in a series of bizarre posts, the young Californian made outlandish statements, including that he had “died” and claiming to have been a victim of child abuse.

However, despite everyone’s concerns about his state of mind, Garcia is extremely confident in his physical ability at 140 pounds. While he was far from his best in a 143-pound catchweight bout against Oscar Duarte in December, Garcia did score the eighth-round knockout, halting a durable opponent who had never been stopped before.

“The energy levels were much different,” Garcia told The Sporting News. “I was extremely focused and my brain was there. There’s a lot that was much better in the Duarte fight and now it’s even better. That should tell you what to expect.

“Those extra pounds, when you’re cutting weight, they matter. It’s a very delicate thing and I’m just happy that I’m fighting at a weight that I’m comfortable with.”

WATCH: Devin Haney vs. Ryan Garcia, live on DAZN

In his only career defeat, last April, Garcia succumbed to a knockout loss at the hands of Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a bout that was contested at 136 pounds. Following an aggressive start, the Los Angeles star was decked in round two before being halted by a single body shot in the seventh.

Ahead of that fight, Garcia was supremely confident of overwhelming Tank with his speed and power. I asked the challenger if he was planning the same kind of aggressive approach on April 20.

“As an elite-level athlete, there is no way I’m going to give you any indication of what I’m gonna do in that ring,” snapped Garcia. “There is absolutely no way….”

When I interjected to point out that Garcia told the world that he would knock out Davis in two rounds, he explained that making weight for that fight left him with no choice.

“I told Tank what I was going to do,” admitted Garcia. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not gonna be able to do this for 12 rounds. I’m just going to have to go for the kill because I have no energy. It’s either I knock him out early or I end up dying out.’

“If you’ve got no food, carbs or water, you’re not gonna do s___. You won’t be able to play ping-pong. How do you expect me to box for 12 rounds? (laughs). It’s actually crazy that I stepped in the ring. I should have passed out. My lips were blistered up, I was shaking in bed, heat flashes. I don’t even know how I survived.”

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Despite the odds being overwhelmingly against him, a Garcia win against Haney wouldn’t qualify as the biggest upset ever. The challenger’s speed is electrifying and his left hook is a serious kill shot. The problem Garcia will have against the defensively adept Haney is landing flush.

MORE: SN’s Top 12 best pound-for-pound boxers

But what if? What if “King Ry” finds the punch to take Haney out?

“I don’t even think I could comprehend how big it would be,” said Garcia with a smile.

[At the press conference], I felt like Michael Jackson or The Beatles. I was terrified. They were running after the car, banging the windows. I can’t even imagine what it’s gonna be like after I knock out Devin Haney in front of the world.

“This is a whole different level. I walk outside and I’m viral because I’m walking. I’m tying my shoes and I’m viral. I comb my hair and I’m viral. I feel like Justin Bieber right now.”

MORE: Haney vows to make Garcia quit on April 20

The only difference is that Justin Bieber doesn’t have to punch swap with Devin Haney. Fights are won with fists, not with likes and views on social media. Is Garcia ready to take down arguably the best pure boxer in the sport?

“Devin is gonna get it… bad,” offered Garcia with confidence. “I don’t feel bad about it right now, but maybe I’ll feel bad after the fight. I can already see what’s gonna happen to his ribs… to his face. Oh my God, it’s gonna be bad!”

If talking wins fights, then Garcia is already the new champion.

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