You kicked Joshua when he was down, now give him the praise when he’s back on top.
Anthony Joshua received stick in the build up, criticism on June 1 after his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr, but now it’s time to salute him for making even more unprecedented history, after regaining his WBA ’Super’, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on a wide points decision against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia and for getting his career back on track when many didn’t believe he could.
During fight week in New York for his first battle with Ruiz, the focus was not on Ruiz but rather on the potential of an undisputed world title fight with WBC king Deontay Wilder, assuming a victory over the Mexican was nothing more than a formality.
Yet, six months later in the desert of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia there were whispers of retirement and despite Joshua being the betting favourite many had turned their back on him, within the boxing scene and heaps of his previous ardent array of fans.
Ruiz’s razor fast hands, his unwavering belief and question marks over where Joshua’s mental state was at following a dramatic and crushing defeat at Madison Square Garden had many convinced that it would be repeat on Saturday night, but it couldn’t have been further from what had unfolded at the 15,000 purpose-built Diriyah Arena.
It was a completely one-sided affair. The Brit staying out of range, like many advised as the best tactic to keep the dangerous Ruiz at bay and negating the champion with a piston-like jab, which was rarely displayed in New York.
Joshua detonated a huge right hand in the first round, causing immediate and painful damage; a rush of blood came gushing down his opponent’s face. However, the 30-year-old former unified champion learnt from his mistakes and rather than rushing in for the finish, he instead continued to keep distance from an increasingly frustrated Ruiz, who realised the fight and belts were drifting away from his grasp.
In all honesty, it was hard to give the Mexican any more than two or three rounds, as the judges concurred with two scoring the bout 118-110 in Joshua’s favour, whilst one had it even more conclusive at 119-109.
Ruiz could have no complaints although he admitted afterwards his lifestyle had to change and cost him dear in this highly-anticipated rematch. The pendulum arguably swung in Joshua’s favour before the first bell, as early as Friday when ‘The Destroyer’ stunned the boxing world by weighing in at over 20 stone; over a stone heavier than his first fight weight.
He cited heavy partying and not taking camp seriously enough as contributing to his defeat on Saturday and whilst Ruiz’s chunky physique made it awkward for him to close the gap, he was ultimately beaten by a fighter in ‘AJ’ who had prepared diligently for months, stuck to a gameplay and executed it to perfection.
The sweet science of boxing, ‘hit and don’t get hit’ was demonstrated purely and whilst the fight never really exploded into action like many anticipated, in Joshua’s defence that could have proved the worst possible outcome. He now has the belts back in his control and deservedly so.
The shoe is on the other foot now and there is as element that Ruiz perhaps believed that he was unstoppable and had become complacent, as his victor was six months earlier.
Realistically though the chances of a trilogy, for now are slim and Joshua will press ahead with his career. The Watford man will have no choice but to face either IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev or WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk in March or April, with the former more likely in a homecoming bout with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium an early favourite to host another colossal world heavyweight title fight.
I want to congratulate AJ and Eddie on regaining the title and look forward to facing AJ in his next bout, as the IBF has ordered. The result is going to be different this time, I guarantee it! pic.twitter.com/8d9LifQGLw
— Kubrat Pulev (@KubratPulev) December 7, 2019
The gamble paid off and Joshua joins illustrious company in becoming only the fourth heavyweight to win an immediate rematch alongside Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and Floyd Patterson.
He showed courage, bravery, discipline and mental strength in abundance, whilst growing his global brand in a ‘Clash On The Dunes’ battle in the most obscure of locations; a catalyst for many more in the region.
Just as his rival Tyson Fury managed to do in Dusseldorf to Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, Joshua produced arguably the grittiest performance of his career and has put himself in line once again for career defining fights against Fury and Wilder, who are expected to face each other in a huge rematch in February.
The man who has reignited British boxing in recent years is back on top of the pile and who knows where beyond.