Ryan Garcia has been “f***ing with everybody,” his former opponent Luke Campbell believes.

On Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Garcia will challenge the WBC super-lightweight champion Devin Haney, but does so at a time of growing concerns surrounding his mental health.

Since confirmation of his latest fight, against his long-term rival, his erratic behavior and ill-advised use of social media has contributed to questions of whether he will even make it to the ring.

Garcia’s latest outburst, at Thursday’s final press conference, led to Haney saying, “There’s something wrong with him; I don’t know what’s going on, but that s*** is not normal.” But while Garcia has previously spoken of battling for his mental health when he has suffered because of anxiety, as recently as at Wednesday’s media workouts he again insisted it has all been an “act.”

The retired Campbell spent time around Garcia after being stopped by him in what represented his final fight, in 2021. He was pleasantly surprised by how different the fighter he came to know was from the impression he had of him from afar, and also considers him far from a significant underdog on Saturday night.

“The build-up to this fight’s been absolutely mental,” he said. “I follow Garcia [on social media], and I’ve been watching all of his stuff, and everyone weren’t even expecting this fight to go ahead. I guess the only way we’re ever gonna know if he’s mentally OK is as soon as the bell rings, because everyone’s saying he’s got mental-health problems and everything else, but some of the things he’s been doing I’ve been finding quite funny.

“I can’t say I ain’t gone through some different times [while adjusting to retirement], but that’s all by evolving and adapting to something new.

“I think he’s f***ing with everybody. I think he’s on it. But he’s messing with it, and he’s making out like maybe he’s not; giving the impression to other people, saying his head’s gone, blah, blah, blah. But I don’t know.

“I think he’s used to social media. He’s had millions of followers for a long time on social media; he’s just playing it different this time. He could have been playing it where he’s only showing certain things – head down and he’s dedicated for this fight coming up. At the end of the day, perception is reality, and everybody’s got a perception of Ryan Garcia right now because of what he has shown you. 

“Everybody’s impression is of what he’s shown you. So maybe he’s showing you that for certain reasons. Maybe he’s just f***ing around. He’s said some strange things.”

Haney and Garcia, both 25, fought six times as amateurs and each won three fights.

“Afterwards really surprised me from what he was on social media,” recalled Campbell of his time around Garcia.

“He was completely different. That’s why I’m saying what I’m saying. Everyone hated him on social media and blah, blah, blah, and I thought he was an absolute d***head on social media. But when I met him face to face, he was a really nice guy.

“Boxing’s a hard enough sport as it is. I hope they come out of this happy and healthy.”