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Oscar De La Hoya urged Ryan Garcia to 'stay focused' heading into his world-title fight against Devin Haney… now the Golden Boy chief's cautionary advice holds even more weight after his disturbing online rants

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A boisterous press conference to unveil Ryan Garcia‘s world super-lightweight title bout against Devin Haney has just drawn to a close when Oscar De La Hoya sits down with Dailymail.com in New York City.

A former six-weight world champion, De La Hoya, 51, releases his adrenaline on the other side of the ropes these days, having reinvented himself as a promoter after launching his Golden Boy outfit long before hanging up the gloves himself in 2008.

Now, nothing gets the juices flowing quite like one of his star fighters daring to be great, and that is exactly what Garcia – the 25-year-old he has managed since his teenage years – will do when he takes on WBC champion and former amateur rival Haney in Brooklyn on April 20.

Yet as he opens up on next month’s fight, little does De La Hoya know that his cautionary advice for Garcia will hold even more significance less than a week later.

Oscar De La Hoya sat down with Dailymail.com after the opening press conference for Devin Haney's world super-lightweight title defense against Ryan Garcia

Oscar De La Hoya sat down with Dailymail.com after the opening press conference for Devin Haney’s world super-lightweight title defense against Ryan Garcia

Tempers had flared between both camps in a boisterous press conference in New York City

Tempers had flared between both camps in a boisterous press conference in New York City

De La Hoya then had some cautionary advice for Garcia, his fighter of the last eight years

De La Hoya then had some cautionary advice for Garcia, his fighter of the last eight years 

‘Ryan has it in him, but he must stay focused,’ the Golden Boy chief insists. ‘He works hard, he trains hard, he has the mentality to become one of the greats. 

‘All he has to do is stay focused.’

Just under three weeks on from our conversation, De La Hoya has almost jinxed it.

His insistence on what Garcia must do to achieve greatness now rings even truer given the events of the past 18 days – when the American has sparked major concerns over his mental health with a series of bizarre outbursts online.

After first sharing a disturbing, cryptic video which claimed he was dead, Garcia has since embarked on several worrying rants that have included; 

  • Allegations that he was raped by a family member at the age of two
  • Frequent satanic references
  • The religious ritual of speaking in tongues
  • Predictions of an earthquake ‘destroying’ Hollywood and Las Vegas
  • Unproven claims that he witnessed child rape after being kidnapped and tied up in the woods by ‘the elites’
  • Unproven claims that he has proof of UFOs existing 
  • Threats to bite Haney’s ears in their fight on April 20

De La Hoya’s words have aged like milk over the past month. As he continues on his troubling tirades, many are calling for Garcia to be pulled out of the fight against Haney amid fears he is not in the right state of mind. 

Dailymail.com initially reached out to Golden Boy Promotions and a representative for De La Hoya just days on from our interview for clarity on whether the bout will still go ahead, as well as for a comment on Garcia’s concerning online activity. Those respective requests were ignored and refused before De La Hoya addressed the media to play down the situation.

Garcia has raised concerns over his mental health with a series of disturbing recent outbursts

Garcia has raised concerns over his mental health with a series of disturbing recent outbursts 

He first posted a cryptic video to his social-media accounts claiming he was dead and that his 'throat had been slit'

He first posted a cryptic video to his social-media accounts claiming he was dead and that his ‘throat had been slit’

The 25-year-old then alleged that he was raped in a disturbing rant 48 hours later

The 25-year-old then alleged that he was raped in a disturbing rant 48 hours later

But De La Hoya confirmed last week that Garcia is in training camp and the fight is still on

But De La Hoya confirmed last week that Garcia is in training camp and the fight is still on

Many are calling for him to be pulled out of the fight vs Haney amid fears over his mental health

Many are calling for him to be pulled out of the fight vs Haney amid fears over his mental health

‘All I know is that [Garcia] left for camp yesterday and he’s with [trainer] Derrick James and his whole team,’ he said last week. ‘He will be in tip-top shape and the shape of his life come April 20.’

As De La Hoya confirmed, Garcia’s training camp is now underway over in Dallas, Texas, where esteemed coach James is putting him through his paces ahead of next month’s bout. Despite his erratic and unusual online activity showing no signs of slowing down, it now appears to be full steam ahead in the gym, with no current plans to pull him out.

Last Friday, Garcia then threatened to sue the New York State Athletic Commission after claiming the board sanctioning the fight are demanding a mental-health evaluation for him to step into the ring with Haney. Yet he and De La Hoya remain adamant that it will still go ahead as planned. 

Whether Garcia is merely acting up to promote the fight remains to be seen, though doing so in such extreme fashion seems an ill-considered move at this point in his career.

As much as he may be generating greater interest in his upcoming world-title challenge, Garcia will in turn be placing even more pressure on his already-heavy shoulders. That is the last thing he needs heading into battle with Haney, a two-weight world champion and top-ten pound-for-pound fighter.

A year on from his first professional defeat – when he was knocked out by bitter rival Gervonta Davis – ‘King Ry’ can ill afford another humiliating loss on the big stage, especially following his recent internet antics. It will almost be an impossible road back to world-title contention.

However, further on in our conversation three weeks ago, De La Hoya details the ease at which Garcia was able to put his maiden defeat behind him. ‘Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to pick him back up,’ he reveals. 

‘He asked for a comeback fight [against Oscar Duarte], which is justified obviously. You want to come back and look good, get your bearings in place and move on to the next one. 

Garcia was handed his first professional defeat almost a year ago against Gervonta Davis

Garcia was handed his first professional defeat almost a year ago against Gervonta Davis

In the biggest fight of his career to date he was knocked out by his bitter rival with a body shot

In the biggest fight of his career to date he was knocked out by his bitter rival with a body shot

But De La Hoya says it was not difficult motivating Garcia to pick himself up and go again

But De La Hoya says it was not difficult motivating Garcia to pick himself up and go again

‘But Ryan had a good showing against Duarte and now he’s back against the best fighter at 140lbs. It’s very commendable.’

He then adds: ‘There’s one thing to lose and one thing to win. When you win everybody’s happy, everything’s great. You don’t see the mistakes, you don’t see what’s lacking, what combinations you didn’t throw, what you must work on in the gym. 

‘But when you lose, it teaches you who you are. It teaches you to get off the canvas, to look within yourself and at what was missing. 

‘What did I do wrong? Why did I not wake up early in the morning to go run my five miles? You start asking those questions, and that’s only if you lose.

‘So this loss for Ryan really woke him up, it woke up that lion. And I strongly believe April 20th we will see a different Ryan, an aggressive Ryan and a Ryan that has history with Devin Haney.’

At just 25, Garcia’s life has been a whirlwind both inside and outside the sport. He already has enough material to pen a best-selling autobiography, and maybe even a second instalment. That’s before even fulfilling what De La Hoya believes is his true potential in the boxing ring – winning world honors and going down as a great.

Countless love scandals, an infamous fallout with former stablemate Canelo Alvarez – who has since wished him well amid his apparent breakdown – and their mutual trainer Eddy Reynoso, battles with his mental health, some explosive knockouts and that high-profile loss against Davis have made his story a fascinating one so early into his career. And it is how he responds to the latter that is important.

‘You become unstoppable in your mind [when you’re undefeated], you become invincible,’ De La Hoya continues. ‘You think that you know it all and you set yourself at a certain level that when you’re training, when you’re fighting, you’re only fighting at maybe 85 percent.

The Golden Boy chief is backing his charge to use the pain of defeat to his advantage

The Golden Boy chief is backing his charge to use the pain of defeat to his advantage

‘So when you lose, then you figure out that there’s 15 percent more to go. It’s a blessing in disguise, and I think his loss is a blessing in disguise.’

In the wake of that humbling against Davis, Garcia added another dramatic chapter to that story when he began warring with De La Hoya and Golden Boy.

After threatening his promotional team with legal action for not accompanying him to a press conference, and then receiving a lawsuit of his own in return, the former WBC interim lightweight champion memorably took aim at both De La Hoya and his co-promoter Bernard Hopkins while on stage together promoting his comeback fight against Duarte.

‘Last time I checked, he said he’d never lose to a white boy, then Joe Smith Jr. knocked him out of the ring,’ he said about Hopkins in the most personal of the jibes. ‘Last time I checked, Joe Smith Jr. It’s white. So they are lying.’

On the back of that public spat, all three men were left on icy terms for the next three months, leading to speculation over Garcia’s future as a Golden Boy fighter. Though in the early stages of 2024 they were able slowly repair that fractured relationship.

On the eve of the New York press conference for his fight with Haney, De La Hoya even went out for a one-on-one dinner to fully squash the beef with his world-title hopeful. 

‘It’s social media and the whispers in his ears, that’s the bottom line,’ he says about his fallout with Garcia. ‘We patched things up and we need one-on-one time more often. Communication is key here… and good luck telling a kid that!

‘I made that point last night and he was able to absorb it. It was just a matter of having face-to-face time together and him knowing that I have his back.’

For a fighter with ambitions of becoming a great, all while raking in as much income and attention as possible, there are not many better mentors for Garcia than De La Hoya, one of boxing’s first true pay-per-view superstars. He has been there, seen it, done it in that regard, capturing 11 world titles across six weight classes while earning more than $500million in the process.

Garcia has had a frosty relationship with De La Hoya and Golden Boy over the past year, memorably laying into his boss while on stage at a press conference in November

Garcia has had a frosty relationship with De La Hoya and Golden Boy over the past year, memorably laying into his boss while on stage at a press conference in November

He also took aim at De La Hoya's business partner Bernard Hopkins (center) on the day

He also took aim at De La Hoya’s business partner Bernard Hopkins (center) on the day

But all three men have put their differences aside in the lead-up to the fight against Haney

But all three men have put their differences aside in the lead-up to the fight against Haney

Nevertheless, particularly in light of his recent dispute with Garcia, how would Oscar De La Hoya the fighter have liked working with Oscar De La Hoya the promoter? 

‘Having a legendary fighter guide your career… Look, I’ve been in this business now for 20 odd years and we’ve built champions,’ De La Hoya stresses. ‘We’ve discovered champions, but we’ve also built and discovered superstars, like Canelo, like Ryan Garcia.

‘So my mantra is the best fighting the best, but it’s calculated. Everything has its time and place, when you’re gonna fight somebody all depends on your last performance.

‘There’s a lot that goes into it. I don’t want to say scientific, but it’s very calculated. I know the fight game. I’ve been in this game for all my life, I know every style, I know what every fighter’s gonna do in the ring. I know their psyche, their focus, and that’s why I think we’ve been very successful.

‘Not just because I’m an ex-fighter, but the fact that I study the game and I’m a historian of the game – which I love. I love comparing today’s fighters and past fighters, I literally break down fights second by second, minute by minute and compare every style. 

‘It gives me a little advantage, but the fact I was a fighter and I know exactly what it takes to get into the ring… I think fighters respect that.’

Over 15 years have passed since De La Hoya last laced up the gloves himself. A one-sided beatdown at the hands of future great Manny Pacquiao was enough to convince him to call time on his glittering 45-fight, 16-year career at the age of 34.

Over 15 years have passed since De La Hoya last laced up the gloves himself, signing off with a heavy defeat against Manny Pacquiao

Over 15 years have passed since De La Hoya last laced up the gloves himself, signing off with a heavy defeat against Manny Pacquiao

A fighter of his stature is never short on offers to make a comeback, something slowly becoming the uncomfortable norm for past greats seeking one last payday and rush of euphoria.

Earlier this month, a 57-year-old Mike Tyson announced his fight against Jake Paul – the YouTuber-turned-fighter 30 years his junior. 

When I ask if he ever gets the itch to return himself, De La Hoya poses the question to girlfriend Holly Sonders, sat behind us on an adjacent sofa in his dressing room.

‘Every single day,’ Sonders insists.

Though despite the dangerous current trend of ex-fighters risking their health for a blend of nostalgia and fortune, De La Hoya has no such plans himself. Firstly out of reluctance to ruin his expensive cosmetics. ‘I spent too much money on this,’ he laughs while pointing to his face.

And more still, the challenge of mapping out paths for the likes of Garcia to achieve greatness is just as satisfying anyway.

‘I’m getting my thrills off being a promoter,’ he adds. ‘It keeps me in the game and it’s a lot of fun.

But contrary to what girlfriend Holly Sonders (right) says, he has no plans to return himself

But contrary to what girlfriend Holly Sonders (right) says, he has no plans to return himself

The 51-year-old is fueling his adrenaline on the other side of the ropes as a promoter

The 51-year-old is fueling his adrenaline on the other side of the ropes as a promoter

‘To this day I still feel I can get up there and kick some ass. But I strongly feel that once a fighter, once an athlete – always an athlete till the day you die.’ 

And as for his new calling on the murkier side of the hurt business, De La Hoya has ambitions to leave a lasting legacy.

‘My goal is to be the only fighter inducted into the Hall of Fame, but also as a promoter. That’s my goal.

‘I think I’ll be the first and the last.’