Anthony Joshua beat Andy Ruiz Jr by unanimous decision in the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia to reclaim the WBA super, IBO, IBF and WBO belts in what was an entirely different contest to shocking night that was June 1st in Madison Square Garden. A trimmed down AJ, strictly drilled by his training team, boxed his way to in the end what was a comfortable 118-110 twice, 119-109 victory versus a fighter who simply couldn’t get near him for any significant amount of time over the thirty-six minutes. The epic drama of Joshua’s downfall in the face of Ruiz Jr’s vicious hand speed six months ago was this time juxtaposed by Joshua properly utilising his physical and boxing attributes to win a fight he simply could afford to not lose.
Much of the talk in the twenty-four hours leading up to the fight revolved around the weight of both fighters with Joshua slimming down to just below seventeen stone and Ruiz ballooning up to over twenty stone. With the latter weight raising many an eyebrow as most predicted that Ruiz would want to cut weight not gain more in order to retain his world championship champion status. The weight difference between the two was telling over the course of the fight as Ruiz struggled to get into mid range where he needed the fight to be and Joshua’s lighter weight allowed him to bounce around the ring, keeping his still game opponent at a jab’s length for the majority of proceedings. And when watching the fight and listening to the post fight press conferences, it’s clear that Joshua had half the job done before he even stepped into the purpose built ring in Diriyah.
Evidently, Joshua and his long time trainer Rob McCracken alongside newly picked up help in the form of Angel Ferdandez and Joby Clayton, had worked on the strategy used last night for weeks and weeks. Joshua was executing a very clear and clever game plan versus an opponent who stylistically is not well suited to him at all. It was a lot more than a glorified sparring session due to the immense pressure on Joshua’s shoulders however it’s clear that AJ was boxing to orders in order to reclaim what he dearly needed to reclaim. And an enormous credit must be given to AJ in carrying out such a disciplined performance in the face of such ridiculous amounts of pressure and fear of failure.
Conversely, Ruiz Jr’s comments post fight eluded to his awful preparation for the fight ,that was never revealed to the public. ‘Three months of partying’ and such quotes shocked the press room, as Ruiz Jr was brutally honest about how he had completely underestimated Joshua the second time around. Clearly Ruiz’s ridiculous rise in profile in such a short space of time had a severly detrimental effect on what made him so dangerous in the first fight. The classic narrative of the pitfalls of fame had ruined Ruiz’s preparation for what was his first defence as world champion. Ruiz even emotionally aplologised to his trainer Manny Robles sitting next to him and the regret in Ruiz’s voice was palpable. On June 1st, Joshua had underestimated him and for some reason Ruiz decided to do the same to Joshua the second time around, which from the outside, looks extremely naive at best.
The night was Joshua’s though as he answered the ridiculous amount of critics with what was a sensible and clinical performance. Of course some (in Twitter land particularly and maybe Alabama) will say he ran around the ring to his belts back but in truth what Joshua did went against everything he has shown so far in his career. In his post fight interview with the BBC he claimed that he can box but he loves to fight. |So to stick to the game plan and not clumsily attempt to fully banish all demons on June 1st with a showreel KO displays how he is maturing as a fighter. Many forget he only took up boxing at 18 and is many ways still learning his trade at the highest levels of the sport. After what was surely six months from hell for him and his team, Joshua should be proud of last’s night work and the quite frankly the UK should be too.
Though of course in the demanding society we live in, many will immediately ask what is next for Joshua. With fans of course wanting him to face the winner of Wilder/Fury II which will take place at the end of February next year. Though Joshua has a number of mandatory obligations that may take up the whole of 2020 if he chooses to keep all his belts. With the extremely skilled and dangerous Oleksandr Usyk Joshua’s WBO mandatory next. And Joshua hinted that it was chasing the huge unification fight with Wilder that had lead to his downfall on June 1st. He and promoter Eddie Hearn resisted questions about Wilder et al in Saudi and instead wanted to focus on the glory of Joshua’s elevation back to the top of the division. And despite the terrifying roller coaster that was Andy Ruiz Jr, Joshua looks to have learned the lessons he needed to before heading into the super fights that will no doubt grace his future.
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