It’s been about a week and a half since Anthony Joshua’s stunning defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden and for many in the boxing world the result still probably hasn’t sunk in yet. Since Joshua’s already historic seventh round TKO defeat, which rocked the real world and the internet alike, countless opinions have been offered as to why he lost his unified world belts in what was supposed to be a ‘tick over’ fight to introduce ‘AJ’ to the US Market.
As we will discuss later perhaps it’s that very attitude to the fight that caused his shocking loss and nothing more however since June 1st there have been a JFK level of conspiracy theories circling online and beyond as to why Joshua is no longer the IBF, WBO and IBO world champ. From panic attacks in the dressing room to being knocked out in sparring in his camp, the rumours have led to many a video dissecting his every emotion as he made the short walk to the ring before the fight. The far fetched panic attack rumours were sparked by Joshua’s puzzling questions of ‘why am I feeling like this?’ at the end of the sixth round coupled with the fact that Joshua’s father looked like he wanted to KO Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn in the ring after the fight.
Since then Joshua, in what was a very politically correct official Anthony Joshua the brand YouTube video, denied the rumours and stated he simply had to take the loss ‘like a man’ and refused to trash his preparation, team or trainer. Eddie Hearn offered a deeper insight when he was tracked down by Kugan Cassius of YouTube boxing channel IFL TV, stating that Joshua’s dad was upset but mainly about the referee and his son’s set up before the fight. And also he added that Joshua told him straight up he had not been hurt in sparring in the lead up to the fight. Hearn went on to claim that as a sharp-tongued promoter, he wished he had excuses to give but simply felt Joshua subconsciously overlooked Ruiz. The Matchroom Boxing boss also stated that Joshua didn’t sleep or leave his New York dwellings for days after the fight and that the defeat had hit AJ extremely hard. A fact that has not been mentioned in mainstream media at all.
This last piece of information might quell some of the confusion to Joshua’s almost positive reaction to losing the fight however it’s pretty evident that Joshua’s usual PC and humble approach to the boxing media was simply a show for the cameras. You imagine it was only behind closed doors amongst people he trusts that AJ let his pain show. As always with life and sports, things are usually a lot simpler than most people make out them to be.
Putting the conspiracy theories aside when you look at the fight, it’s clear that the turning point was Joshua knocking Ruiz down with a left hook in the third. Looking back it’s plain as day that Ruiz was not too hurt by the knockdown but for some reason, Joshua decided to steam in and end proceedings early which lead to his dramatic downfall. Tony Bellew summed it up perfectly when he said that Joshua lacked a ‘fear factor’ when it came to Ruiz Jr, which lead him to being too aggressive in trying to end the fight. By recklessly closing the distance, Joshua gave the shorter man the opportunity to let his fast hands go and rest is history.
Though in truth the warning signs for his defeat have been rubber stamped across Joshua’s still fairly brief professional career. He does not like fighting shorter men and in Joshua’s last fight versus Alexander Potevkin back in September, his vulnerabilities when facing the smaller fighter up close where there for all to see. Some very hairy moments early in that fight were covered up by Joshua eventually using his athleticism and punch power to take Povetkin out. This time though versus Ruiz, who is the same height as Povetkin, Joshua perhaps didn’t respect the power and status of this opponent nearly enough, which is an extremely dangerous game to play in heavyweight boxing. If Joshua reflects further, he will no doubt admit that with all the Deontay Wilder talk, that he took his off the ball somewhat and in doing so has potentially thrown his career into jeopardy.
As now with the rematch clause activated he will throw himself back into the spotlight in what is suddenly the biggest fight in boxing. Not Joshua/Wilder or Joshua/Fury but Joshua/Ruiz II! Many fighters and pundits have advised Joshua not to take the rematch immediately, unfortunately though he does not have much choice as an instant rematch with Ruiz is surely best chance to get his belts back in the near future. Joshua scoffed at the idea of a ‘warm up fight’ to journalists after his defeat, his face telling the story of a man who is way too far down the road to try and rebuild his career in a more steady fashion. So instead, he and his team will roll the dice in what is possibly one of the riskiest fights in heavyweight history when it comes to potential earnings and legacy down the road after a win or a loss.
In truth, losing might not be an option for Joshua as if he does it would be hard to see where a fighter of his profile would go next. Losing being unthinkable might actually help him though. This time around there will be no distractions, no reported negotiations for future fights the day after his next fight. This is it. Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr in a ring with it all on the line in just his twenty-fourth professional fight. It’s surreal to write such a sentence when you think about the aura of invincibility AJ has carried for so long.
In terms of the rematch itself, Tyson Fury’s trainer Ben Davidson recently pointed out that Joshua can’t seem to decide to be a boxer or a fighter or something in between. Many with a steady head would tell Joshua to box like he did versus Joe Parker and simply use his reach and size advantage to jab his opponent to victory in thirty six minutes. However, as Davidson noted, something inside Joshua can’t seem to resist going to war.Whatever approach he and his team take, Joshua and his own trainer Rob McCracken will have to fix whatever went wrong in MSG very quickly as if they don’t it may inexplicably be the end of Anthony Joshua as we know him.
Nope, it still hasn’t sunk in yet.
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