You read things different ways, depending upon an outcome.
If Anthony Joshua had finished off Andy Ruiz after that first knockdown off a left hook in round three, then much attention would not have been paid to his behavior and demeanor pre-fight.
Whether it be the hobnobbing in the dressing room, pressing flesh and greeting celebs…
Or the look on his face as he came to the ring…even though some folks noted in real time on social media that he looked off, maybe nervous.
Yeah, if AJ had done what most expected, and went to 23-0, with 22 KOs, then the look back would not have been as intense, and we all would be in looking-forward mode.
What's next? If not Fury, then who? Whyte? Usyk? What's the plan?
Now, the plan is more so to get past the “WTF” stage.
AJ woke up this morning, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and it clicked in.
Oh shit, that wasn't a bad dream…That is painful reality.
I was knocked down four times by a guy not regarded by anyone, really, as a massive puncher.
Who am I? Am I fatally flawed, might he be wondering that? Are my best days behind me?
Should I fight on?
That has to at least ponder that last query, right?
The man has saved tens of millions of dollars. He could retire and live beyond comfortably for three lifetimes. If he doesn't want to box again, if he doesn't feel the need to get back into it, and prove to everyone that he is the sort of champion that many of his nation's citizens hoped and dreamed he was and is, he can walk away.
Anyone out there thinking he will walk away? Anyone else flashing on those words he shared with Carl Frampton, when he told Frampton that he'd decided after getting dropped and nearly stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 that he'd hang up the gloves if he was in such dire straits again? I mean, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, those were Dire Straits, Mr. Knopfler.
Let's take that quick look back, shall we. We started by hearing, if we watched on DAZN, Brian Kenny note that AJ looks like the Hollywood version of a heavyweight champ, 6-6, chiseled. And the other guy, he looks like, I don't know, Regular Joe. UPS driver…warehouse worker…something blue collar, right?…a cheery dude who likes his brew and his chow.
We heard AJ had an advantage in athleticism, and it looked it in round three. A long right softened Andy, backed him up, and a right uppercut-left hook combo dumped him on his rump. This thing ain't lasting much longer, isn't that what you thought? Maybe you did….but Andy didn't.
“A composed and ferocious finisher, watch this,” said Chris Mannix, echoing my thoughts. Indeed, watch this..THIS being the comeback kid, Ruiz, land his own left hook. The hook on the ear jumbled some synapses, and a right high on the head messed up more…down went AJ, onto his ass. Round 3, two knockdowns, one for each man. The game had changed…This one had gone from foregone conclusion, to a new zone of uncertainty.
And you were on the edge of your seat…AJ,Jjesus, he looked spent. Those massive shoulder blades did him no favors, as his gloves felt weighted. Left hand slung low, he offered listless jabs…Ruiz got some air, and dove in, flurried. Down goes AJ, for the second time in the third. Would he beat the count? Yes, but not in a manner that had you thinking this was but an aberration that he'd shake off easily. “Walk to me,” ref Michael Griffin commanded and you paused, not knowing if AJ would seem sober, or intoxicated by getting his chin checked. Griffin let him go, so they fought on. “And the bell saved Anthony Joshua,” said Sergio Mora.
Round 7, the breatlalyzer came out again. A barrage sent AJ to the floor. A left hook, solid, a right hand, more so, on the temple…Tem twelve shots, and buzzed Joshua collapsed. Three knockdowns, and in the deepest water, wearing a lead life preserver. Three minutes is at that time feeling like forever.
Up again, and down, after throwing his own bombs, not the caliber of the Cali boxers.'
To one knee, in round seven, would the ref pull that plug? Up at seven and the Brit walked to his corner, to buy time. One, two, three, four extra seconds to rest, a smart move.
Griffin said c'mon, this ain't coffee break time. “You ready to box,” the ref asked. Yep, AJ nodded. He I think said yeah, with as much conviction as his heart could muster. Loud enough for Griffin to hear? Maybe…But his body language spoke louder. He didn't put those hands up, he rested his arms on the top rope. And then Griffin decided, nah, this kid sorta wants to continue, but not as much as I'd like to convince me he can adequately defend himself. NO MAS, that's it.
Griffin waved his hands, signaling game over for AJ.
Wait, what? AJ protested, but again, with what level of conviction? His face said that the ref made the right call, as the chubby Snickers lover made every tubby fight fan feel a bit better about their own gut over spill. I will help myself to that tenth wing, and the diet maybe starts tomorrow, the chubbies side, while grinning, at looking at fearless leader Ruiz.
And so, we looked at the situation, at AJ's demeanor, through that new filter. Did AJ seem strangely giddy, almost, after losing? Why wasn't he demoralized? On social media, they asked. I enjoyed his sportsmanship, how he saluted Ruiz. But that doesn't mean I don't scrutinize the behavior, and ponder.
And then his promoter Eddie Hearn says that after, AJ seemed almost relieved, because being undefeated is so pressurizing.
We are left heaping praise on Ruiz…but yes, wondering about AJ. Was he over hyped? Is his chin now wrecked after being checked and found to be deficient.
And…will he fight again?
Did you hear what AJ had said to Frampton earlier in the week? “And also, lastly, I said to my coach, look, if I have another one of these fights, then I’m done with boxing. I said I should be good enough that I don’t have to go through, like, hell and back to win a fight. The fight, it should be a good competition, but I shouldn’t go through one of those fights to win,” Joshua said, about his 2017 fight with Wladimir Klitschko, and what he'd learned from it.
Now we will learn if he meant that. Now we will see how much he wants it. Will family impose their wishes upon him, convince him he doesn't have to prove anything, and it's better to be safer, than sorrier? His heart, it is immense and to be admired…but there are grades of warrior hearts.
AJ is now facing the highest hurdle of his entire fighting life. I do think it isn't out of the realm of possibility that on June 1, 2019, Anthony Joshua fought for the last time ever as a professional.
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