World heavyweight boxing took a dramatic detour from the almost monotonous Wilder vs Joshua rhetoric we had endured for the last 2 years when Mexico’s first ever world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr burst the bubble of Britain’s hugely popular Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden on Saturday June 1st.
The shock win seems to have brought out the worst response by social media boxing fans, many coming up with theories of illicit doping, panic attacks, and mental health issues as reasons why the man some previously believed to be the best heavyweight on the planet lost to a less than physically threatening challenger.
Some very well-known boxing insiders have said that they believe Joshua quit, many of them current or former fighters, but haven’t we seen and heard this all before? The same inquest took place when Mike Tyson lost to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in Tokio, Japan in 1990 and yet here we are 29 years later and Tyson is held aloft as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Even the losses to Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Danny Williams, and Kevin McBride were not enough to tarnish the memories of the rampaging young Tyson that took the boxing world by storm in his heyday. A loss is a loss, it does not define a boxer’s career, it is the wins that do that, losses just diminish the final record.
There was no quit in Tyson, not in the boxing sense, not in any sense and yet the same accusations were tossed at him after his brave attempts to come through the systematic beating Douglas inflicted on him. Perhaps if you have never been inside the ropes against a world class fighter you should not be so quick to criticise, it is shocking that fellow professionals are also quick with the “he quit” theories.
Rocky Marciano is the only heavyweight that never met an opponent that ‘had is number’. Every fighter has one of these, only in Marciano’s case did he never meet him in the ring on fight night.
Does Andy Ruiz Jr have AJ’s number? It could be. Now we will find out.
Joshua has been the model pro since his defeat, even appearing after the fight and heaping praise and wishing good luck to his conqueror showed the man’s courage and class, there have been plenty of great fighters that could not face the world’s media so soon after such a calamitous, some might say embarrassing defeat, but Joshua did so with a smile and positivity, never once blaming anything or anyone but himself.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn will push to get the rematch at Wembley Stadium in London you can be sure. It is AJ’s home from home, the place that held his finest win and a fight that will go down in history for the drama it provided. The win over all-time great Wladimir Klitschko was career-defining even though it came in only Joshua’s 19th pro outing. AJ’s second visit to Wembley against Russian Alexander Povetkin could be his next best career win to date, only Klitschko managed to defeat the former WBA champion before Joshua.
The Ruiz Jr defeat does open questions as to whether Joshua travels well. He is used to huge media attention but the Miami, then New York legs of his build-up were hectic and intrusive as far as his normal routines are concerned, did this get his mind off Ruiz Jr? If so, then his management need to take a look at what they could have done to avert this situation.
My suspicion is that it was only when AJ was on his way to MSG or when he was warming up, he realised that he had not paid enough attention to his challenge that his mind was not clear as far as the game plan was concerned and doubt set in. It was easy to see that AJ was not himself before the fight and when he put Ruiz down in the 3rd he was almost desperate to finish him then and there.
From Ruiz’s point of view the rematch taking place in the UK may not seem the best option, but in hindsight it may turn out to be just that. How many boxers get to fight in front of an 80,000 – 90,000 crowd in a huge stadium, and of course get paid a career high purse for the privilege? Win lose or draw Ruiz Jr will never be involved in a bigger event than this. Only Manny Pacquiao’s bouts against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito at The Cowboys stadium in Arlington Texas in 2010 managed anything near those numbers.
As boxing fans we should enjoy Andy Ruiz Jr’s emergence on to the world stage and realise that a boxer with 110 amateur fights behind him of which he won 105, and who then took part in 33 pro fights with only one loss, and that in a world title challenge on the opponents home soil, is not someone we should overlook because they are not body beautiful. Andy Ruiz Jr can really fight.
So who wins the rematch?