LOS ANGELES – Can a fight be lost at a news conference, more than one month before the first bell?

The fact that’s now a discussion point tells you all you need to know about the mental undressing that Devin Haney delivered to a wobbled Ryan Garcia late Thursday afternoon at Hollywood’s Avalon Theater.

The 25-year-old must have at least briefly regretted the enormity of his social-media fame as his scheduled April 20 foe Haney torched Garcia for posting a scene of him smoking a marijuana blunt, and then admitting to Haney and the viewing masses that, “I drink, and I smoke weed.”

“What kind of example are you for the younger generation?” Haney asked.

“Weed is legal, bro,” Garcia responded.

“The younger generation looks up to us. Why are you trying to publicize [that behavior] … There’s young kids watching us,” Haney, also 25, replied.

Former undisputed lightweight champion Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) will defend his WBC 140-pound belt at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center against a challenger in Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) who was previously humbled last April by a seventh-round body shot from Gervonta Davis that kept Garcia’s knee glued to the canvas as the referee counted to 10.

“Don’t quit again,” Haney seared Garcia at Tuesday’s opening news conference in New York.

Consider that the body blow.

What happened Thursday was an ongoing flurry that closed with Garcia rushing away from his face-off with Haney, pushing away his trainer Derrick James and blowing off media obligations to retreat to a safe underground place off stage, then to his luxury vehicle and onward to a nearby hotel suite.  

Garcia started the morning in spin control after the puffing selfie went public, going for a morning run in Hollywood beside a camera crew and dismissing the joint scene as an act of “trolling” Haney.

“You don’t have a six-pack [of abdomen muscles] if you’re drinking everyday, and smoking,” Garcia said into the camera. “Being an idiot doesn’t produce strength. Hard work does.”

Perhaps the post was disseminated, some of Garcia’s backers theorized, to goad Haney into believing he was facing a superficial media creation rather than a dangerous power puncher thirsting for his first world title.

Garcia’s co-promoter, Bernard Hopkins once infiltrated the mind of a favored foe, Felix Trinidad, by throwing Puerto Rico’s flag to the soil on a visit to Trinidad’s native land.

“You think I wanted to throw the flag down in Puerto Rico?” Hopkins asked. “I took a calculated chance. And it worked!”

Is smoking that joint the modern-day equivalent of the flag disrespect?

“It’s OK,” Hopkins cracked to reporters. “He didn’t inhale.

“It was a prop. Listen, I’m not in Ryan’s head. Neither are you. But I know for a fact if you’ve been in boxing long enough … I’ve seen the greats pull the shenanigans. Why would I consciously post something that seems like the opposite of what I’ve got to represent and be prepared for? To let all the world to see, let alone my opponent? For Devin Haney to think about it … I’m just saying, it possibly could be in [Haney’s] head that, ‘Oh, this is going to be easy … .’ Then [Garcia’s] in [Haney’s] head, and [Haney’s] going to become the victim. It’s part of the game.”

Guadalupe Valencia, Garcia’s manager, said as his fighter confronts this highly important bout for a belt amid the global attention and dollars he’s already amassed, what he did might’ve been in his role as “master marketer.”

“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Valencia said. “He’s smart. He’s gifted. He recognizes the task in front of him. Anyone who’s ever been around Ryan will tell you: One thing he doesn’t lack is discipline.”

Garcia trainer Derrick James said he doesn’t care about “the antics … as long as you give me what I need in the gym – constant and good, hard work – that’s all that matters.”

Yet, the demeanor exhibited by Garcia Thursday trended more closely to darkness than gamesmanship.

Garcia put himself on the defensive with a staggering string of opening remarks that began with him saying, “I want to clarify some things: I don’t do cocaine,” he said. 

That seemed like a first in a sport that has sunk to many lows.

Haney, and his father-trainer-manager, Bill Haney, seized upon the vulnerability, with the father going as far as predicting “the death of … the way you [fans] see Ryan Garcia.”

Devin Haney said he’s “lost a lot of respect” for Garcia in recent days, seconds before Garcia’s father, Henry, referred to Bill Haney as a “nappy headed [expletive].”

A similar reference by syndicated radio host Don Imus against Rutgers University women’s basketball players in 2007 led to Imus’ firing.

“That sounds like some racist (stuff),” Devin Haney replied to Henry Garcia. “In what world is that OK, to talk about a black man’s hair?”

“Let’s move on,” Henry Garcia urged. “You’re fighting Ryan. Stick to that.”

That’s what Haney spent all afternoon doing, jabbing away at the challenger who confronts daunting pressure to stand as a champion.

 “He must win this fight to not be [thought of] as not being able to win the big one,” Hopkins said of Garcia. “The big one is so important. The first time, you get a pass. The next time, it’s ‘hmmm,’ maybe not. And in baseball they say three strikes, you’re out. He doesn’t want to get to that third strike. He must strike now.”