In a dominant performance made up of skill, will, and one punishing left jab, Anthony Joshua restored some of the luster he lost after quitting in the ring against Andy Ruiz six months ago. Two cards came in at 118-110 and the third at 119-109, as the Brit Joshua used tactical superiority to better a too-heavy Ruiz in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
A notably lighter Joshua entered the ring against a notably wider (how?!) Andy Ruiz. At no point was Joshua in any real trouble. He married the skill we knew he had to a discipline we had not seen before. Whereas the always brave Ruiz never quit, he did not come to the fight anything close to in shape, and if there was a Plan B, he was unable to implement it, in a fight that screened on DAZN.
Ruiz admitted in the ring post-fight that he didn't prepare enough and was too heavy.
On to the rounds!
It’s clear Joshua got the memo in training. Box, use your height and reach. Not much happened in the first until Joshua landed a sharp right that opened a cut over the corner of Ruiz’s left eye.
Joshua reopens the cut early in round two. That could be a problem. Joshua is really using his jab. He’s being very smart. Can he continue to be? Ruiz opens a cut over Joshua’s eye that appears to be less significant than the one he gave Ruiz.
Ruiz is trying to impress his will on Joshua in the third. It’s not effective…yet. Joshua picks it up just a little down the stretch. Going to the body and putting together a couple punches. It’s not much, but seeing how Ruiz didn’t find Joshua at all in the round, it should be enough.
Ruiz gets in close and Joshua immediately clinches at the beginning of the 4th before Ruiz cab land anything. Very smart. Joshua’s jab is controlling the round and the fight. Ruiz finally throws something with force, but Joshua partially blocks it. Ruiz lands a chopping right hand at the end of the round. Joshua appears to take it well.
What Joshua is doing – jabbing, keeping distance, holding in tight – may not be sexy, but it sure is surgical. Joshua continues to control the fight through five.
Joshua takes a solid left hook from Ruiz to start the sixth. He responds with a hard right. They mix it up briefly, then Joshua returns to what’s working. Joshua lands a beautiful left hook and leans into a clinch, giving Ruiz no chance to reply in kind. Ruiz is clearly frustrated. Maybe if he hadn’t shown up 16 pounds heavier, he could cut off the ring.
The seventh starts out as more of the same. Ruiz can’t find Joshua to let his hands go and Joshua sticks to his discipline. The jab is winning this fight. Joshua lets his hands go a bit in the last minute of the round. Looking more eager. He gets the better of the exchange, but that’s a risk.
A minute into the eighth, Joshua lands a solid right hook to the jaw. Ruiz lands a questionable shot to the back of Joshua’s head during a clinch. Ruiz lands two solid rights. It’s the first time he’s gotten the better of even a single moment of this fight. Ruiz lands a couple more shots. They don’t land flush, but this is how Ruiz needs to fight. If you really wanted to give Ruiz a round, this would be your first chance.
At the start of the ninth, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Joshua loses as long as he stays ambulatory. Joshua’s jab is beautiful. On occasion he follows it with a right, but not so often as to create risk. Ruiz lands a decent chopping right, but Joshua holds up to it and goes back to work. Stick and move. Stick and move. It’s a hard stick, by the way.
Through ten, nearly every round is like the one before it. Ruiz can’t throw because Joshua isn’t there. And while Joshua is throwing mostly jabs, the red, puffy face of Ruiz tells you those shots are propelled by significant steam.
In the eleventh, Ruiz bulls Joshua into the ropes. Joshua holds and regains distance. Then jab, jab, jab. People overuse the word “clinic,” but this is exactly that.
Heading into the twelfth, Ruiz looks like he wants to beg Joshua into a scrum. The odds seem low. Hard lead right by Joshua sends flop sweat all over the ring. Then he goes right back to the jab. Brilliant.
The question going into the second Joshua/Ruiz fight was a simple one. Who is Anthony Joshua? Is he the highly skilled Adonis who ended the Klitchsko era, or the great pretender?
Because, make no mistake, Anthony Joshua should never lose to an out of shape journeyman like Andy Ruiz. Let’s be fair though. These things can happen. It’s what makes boxing the most unpredictable of sports. It has happened to the best of fighters. It happened to Muhammad Ali when he lost to Leon Spinks. Hell, it happened to Lennox Lewis twice with Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman.
What’s most important to note is both Ali and Lewis avenged those losses and fully recovered their reputations. Now, Anthony Joshua was never going to become Muhammad Ali – how could anyone? But he could become Lennox Lewis. And as consolation prizes go, that’s a pretty damn good one.
As revenge goes, Joshua did not claim his in emphatic fashion. But, if you look close, you see Lennox Lewis. And you don’t have to squint too hard.
HERE ARE QUOTES FROM THE PRINCIPALS:
On his performance: “Man, the first time was so nice – I had to do it twice! A man like me don’t make no excuses, my boy Dereck Chisora said I could do this if I am ready to D-I-E. And look, this is about boxing. I am used to knocking guys out. Last time, I hurt the man and I got caught coming in. I gave that man his credit. There was no excuses. I respect Andy and his family and his trainers so much. I just wanted to put on a great boxing masterclass and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport. It’s about hitting and not getting hit.”
On any mental changes: “Never a change in mentality. You know the saying, ‘Stay hungry, stay humble.’ I have stayed hungry and I have stayed humble. I am humble in defeat and I will remain humble in victory. Thank you again to Andy Ruiz and his family, to Saudi Arabia and all of the traveling fans, all of my supporters.”
On handling Andy Ruiz’s pressure: “It’s all about preparation. Like I said, one day when I release a book I will walk through my career’s experience. It’s just about creating great memories. I took my L and I bounced back. Life is a rollercoaster. I heard some people say that we should retire if we lose. Hey Andy, are you ready to retire? (Andy: ‘No way, let’s go again.’) Exactly, we are warriors.”
On a third fight: “Without a doubt. If you heard, we are going to do a third. He beat me fair and square the first time and I beat him fair and square the second time. So we will do it again. 100%.”
On where this win ranks in his career: “I just want to say I have the utmost respect for Andy Ruiz who beat me fair and square in the first exam. I failed the first time, but I came back and studied hard and passed this time. But this ranks second. The first would be my fight against Wladimir Klitschko. It means so much to me and I learned so much from that fight. I respect Wladimir so much and he gives me so much advice still. This fight ranks number two though.”
On being disciplined in this fight: “I know that my fans like to see me knock people out and I can do that but sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way.”
On fighting Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury: “What can I say? I have been speaking about these guys a long time. You see this time, when I had the opportunity to just focus solely on Andy, my head is in the right place. When Wilder, Fury, Ortiz and Usyk are really ready, they will make the call. Until then, I respect them. I won’t continue to call them out. I am making my own lane and if they want to be a part of that, they will call. Ruiz did it and created a legacy. If those guys want to do it, they can create a legacy too. Look at all I have done, come on. When I call them out and do all of that, I lose focus.
Andy Ruiz, Jr.
On his performance: “It was his night. I don’t think I prepared as good as I should have. I gained too much weight but I don’t want to give no excuses. He won, he boxed me around but if we do the third, best believe I will come in the best shape of my life.”
On the weight being an issue: “It kind of affected me a lot. I thought I would come in stronger and better. But you know what, next time I am going to prepare better with my team. This time I tried to train myself at times to get prepared but no excuses. Anthony Joshua did a hell of a job. Thnaks to everyone in Saudi Arabia who supported.”
On his pressure: “I think I was chasing him too much instead of cutting off the ring. I just felt like I couldn’t throw my combinations. But who wants to see this third fight?”
On what’s next: “We are going to celebrate. Anthony Joshua is an amazing ambassador for the sport. He has given everything to this sport. Tonight, in Saudi Arabia, he becomes the two-time heavyweight champion of the world and that is beautiful.
On his performance: It was an absolute master class. He was able to stay disciplined. People have doubted his boxing ability, his endurance. He was humiliated at Madison Square Garden. It was the American coming out party and it was ruined. He could have burshed himself down and went off. Instead he came back and put on that performance and it was beautiful. That’s the sweet science. That was like Picasso on a canvas, paining a masterpiece.”
On Anthony’s comeback: “They wrote him off. They said he was all hype. He had to come back from humiliation at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he is the governor. The governor of the division.”
On fighting in Saudi Arabia: “We got criticized for coming here but these people have been amazing. The vision they have for boxing in this region is incredible and they delivered.
On becoming undisputed: “Tonight is about becoming the two-time heavyweight champion of the world. We can talk about that later. We’ve wanted the undisputed for years and years. We will do what Anthony wants to do and he’s always wanted to be undisputed. People listen to rubbish that he doesn’t want it and you know what, we won’t give them this. We aren’t even going to give them the airtime. He is the king. They wrote him off and said he all hype but look, he’s back. He is the king again. He is the one who continues to step up – Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder’s resume don’t even stack up. They world stopped to watch Anthony Joshua become the two-time world heavyweight champion today and it was all live on DAZN, baby.”
On Wilder and Fury: “Anthony has been chasing them for years. Those fights will happen. Maybe they were right to walk away from those fights back then because the fight is worth much more now. AJ wants the legacy. He created that legacy tonight in Saudi Arabia. He sells out arenas around the world. He is transforming boxing. These other guys can’t lace his boots! He is only 24 fights in and he is only going to get better.”