Andy Ruiz Jr punched hole after hole in last nights supposed script and caused one of the biggest boxing upsets ever by stopping Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Gardens. Ruiz, who largely due to his body shape and almost cuddly appearance, was written off pre-fight got up from the canvas to knock down AJ on four seperate occasions in unbelievable scenes in New York. Ruiz now almost inconceivably holds the four heavyweight straps that Joshua had worked so hard to earn. And in doing so makes history by coming the first Mexican heavyweight champ ever.
After a stacked bill in New York, many saw the main event as a fairly straight forward defence of AJ’s titles that would enable him to begin breaking into the hugely lucrative US Market. And in hindsight it’s pretty clear that’s what AJ thought too. In fight week all the talk had been about who Joshua would face after Ruiz, with endless questions about Deontay Wilder and then Tyson Fury after Wilder confirmed on Twitter he wouldn’t be facing AJ until mid 2020 at the earliest. Many interviewers then threw in lazy questions of ‘what do you think of Ruiz Jr?’ essentially as a tag along to the click bait statement they were looking for in regard possible mega fights in the future.
And looking back now it’s hard to argue against Joshua being affected by this somewhat, as there were apparently no issues with his camp or preparation. He looked flat from the get go and once the going got tough AJ was unable to mentally adjust to an opponent he and the world underestimated. It could have been a completely different story if Joshua, who had started the fight quietly, had showed more composure when he knocked down Ruiz with a big left hand combination in the third. Instead, perhaps thinking Ruiz was far more buzzed than he actually was, Joshua decided to stand and trade to get the job done early in front of an expectant MSG ground but in doing so got caught badly by better timed shots and was rocked by a huge left hook to the temple that sent him tumbling to the canvas.
In a round that will no doubt be watched over and over online, Joshua was forced to hold for the rest of the round but couldn’t make it to the bell without facing another barrage of Ruiz punches that sent him stumbling into the ropes. Scenes that basically no one saw coming when sizing up the two men in the ring. The bell no doubt saved Joshua as he looked completely shell shocked in the corner. Many perhaps expected Ruiz to then throw the kitchen sink at Joshua but instead he took his time, looking to pick his punches with extremely impressive composure. Joshua looked to have recovered by the fifth but again looked weary towards the back end of the six. The fight had the aura of Joshua’s epic win over Wladimir Klitschko with him simply looking to mentally and physically recover from being badly hurt and it looked like Ruiz might be allowing Joshua to do so as the fight settled down in the middle rounds.
But there was to be no epic Joshua comeback this time, instead it was the pre fight huge underdog Ruiz who took the initiative in the seventh and in scenes that still seem hard to believe the morning after the night before, stopped Joshua on two more occasions before the fight was called off. The image of Joshua on one knee, looking completely shocked and out of ideas before spitting out his gum shield out will be one etched in boxing history. Some suggested that the fight was called off too early with Joshua looking bemused when the referee waved his arms in front of him. However it was clear his head and his legs were long gone and the writing that very few saw coming was on the wall.
And that was that, Andy Ruiz Jr was the new WBA super, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion of the world, an outcome that will no doubt take a while to sink in for AJ, his team and the boxing world. Before analysing Joshua’s performance and next steps, it’s only right to praise Ruiz Jr, who was completely fearless all night long and stuck to his task in front of the towering physical presence before him. Above everything he displayed a superb chin and didn’t seem too distressed even when knocked to the canvas. It was the ultimate underdog shocks world story and Ruiz Jr played his part magnificently and is a deserving world champion having taken the fight at five weeks notice. And off the back of a performance like that, he will have nothing to fear to regard a probable rematch last this year. Quite simply hats off to Andy Ruiz Jr and his team for believing they could do it and actually doing it on the sport’s biggest stage.
Though inevitably the deafening focus will be on fact that AJ lost not that Ruiz won. In terms of reasons for Joshua’s defeat, within the fight he was far too gung ho in the third perhaps expecting his game opponent to wilt after being dropped like essentially all Joshua’s former opponents have done. As stated above if Joshua respected Ruiz’s chin and heart a little more then his American fairy tale probably wouldn’t have turned into a nightmare. Obviously a change of opponent from Jarrell Miller to Ruiz wasn’t ideal and after the fiery press conference between Joshua and Miller you wonder if AJ’s aggression for last night’s fight was somewhat wasted on his scheduled grudge match with Miller.
Some might claim the huge expectation got to Joshua a little in his first US fight under streaming platform DAZN, however it didn’t seem like the location bothered him more the fact that he was in a fight he wasn’t actually mentally prepared for. With everyone saying he would bowl over the fat Mexican who loves snickers inside three rounds maybe he started to believe it himself. Whatever it was, something was off, Joshua was flat in the first two rounds, even in the ring before the fight he chose to lean back against the ropes and receive a neck massage, perhaps the intensity needed to win simply wasn’t there.
Whatever the reasons for his defeat, Joshua and his team will no doubt look to rectify the situation was quickly as possible and trigger the instant rematch clause in the fight’s contract. Eddie Hearn has basically already put his foot down and said the rematch will be back on UK soil, so we can look forward to a huge fight in front of an equally massive crowd on somewhere UK shores come winter time. Of course the pressure for that fight will be monumental as Joshua cannot afford to lose two fights in a row at this stage of his career to a fighter such as Ruiz. However, in some ways the pressure might be off a little bit. The worst thing imaginable has happened, you doubt it can get much worse for Joshua in terms of an embarrassing, humbling defeat versus an opponent you were supposed to walk through. He isn’t invincible anymore, for now he isn’t the number one heavyweight in the world anymore and now he has a real target to aim at. Getting his belts back, and you imagine he will do absolutely everything in his power to do so.
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