Six months ago, the boxing world witnessed one of the biggest upsets in history. Tonight, the person that lost that fight made sure that it would not happen again.
In Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia, Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) defeated Andy Ruiz, Jr. (33-2, 22 KOs) by unanimous decision to win the IBF, WBA, WBO, and IBO titles that he lost on June 1st in Madison Square Garden. He becomes a two time unified heavyweight champion and did it in dominant fashion, getting two scores of 118-110 and a score of 119-109 from the judges.
There was a lot of anticipation and questions coming into the fight on Saturday as Joshua was coming off his first loss in his professional career in shocking fashion as Andy Ruiz was able to knock him down four times en route to a 7th round stoppage. However, all of those questions were answered in his performance in Diriyah. The first round was a sign of what we would see for the majority of the bout as Joshua measured Ruiz and threw his jab with emphasis and speed. At the end of the round, Joshua threw a jab and right hand which gave Ruiz a cut beside his left eye. That was a message to Ruiz that it was what he would receive if he came towards him.
In the third and fourth rounds, Ruiz attempted to get at Joshua on the inside but Joshua saw most of the punches and tied him up when necessary. Afterwards Joshua went back to throwing his jab at a distance and occasionally throwing the right hand when it was open. In the fifth round, Joshua started to throw left hooks to mix in with the left jab and score while keeping Ruiz away from him for the majority of the round. Joshua landed with that hook once again in the sixth round which snapped Ruiz’s head back. Ruiz didn’t do much for the first half of the fight to throw off the pace that Joshua was dictating.
The fight was going at the same pace until the back half of the eighth round, when Ruiz started to throw hooks while in a clinch. He connected with a combination then threw power shots while in that clinch to throw Joshua off balance. Near the end of that round when Joshua attempted to clinch, Ruiz threw a left-right combination to get out of it. This forced Joshua to go back to the plan of jabbing at a distance, and then scoring with a three punch combination in the tail end of the ninth round.
With Ruiz making the adjustment to throw out of the clinch, Joshua continued with his strategy through the rest of the fight which frustrated Ruiz, who wanted to go toe-to-toe with the fighter from Watford. By the end of the bout, Joshua knew he had it in the bag and took it easy until the final bell. When the decision came down and the announcement of Anthony Joshua winning the fight became official, there was a jubilant reaction from him and his corner as he got back the titles that he lost in New York City earlier this year.
Joshua talked about his preparation for this fight and what was different than his approach against Ruiz in the first bout where he ended up getting stopped. ” I am used to knocking guys out,” Joshua stated after his victory. “Last time, I hurt the man and I got caught coming in…but I said to myself that I’m going to correct myself and come again.”
“(Ruiz) 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. I just wanted to put on a great boxing masterclass and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport.”
On the flip side, the now former unified champion talked about how he lost focus ahead of the rematch. “I don’t think I prepared as good as I should have,” Ruiz said after the fight.
The big news going into Saturday night was Ruiz coming in at 283 pounds at the weigh-in, which was 15 pounds heavier than he was before his win on June 1st. He brought up how that extra weight affected him in the rematch.
“It kind of affected me a lot. I thought I would come in stronger and better,” Ruiz said. “But you know what, next time I am going to prepare better with my team. He won, he boxed me around but if we do the third, best believe I will come in the best shape of my life.”
Joshua and Ruiz hinted at going at it for a third time against each other, as it would be the biggest fight to make at the moment for the both of them. However, it would be difficult given the situation with mandatory defenses that are due for the IBF and WBO titles. Kubrat Pulev is the IBF mandatory, and Oleksandr Usyk is the WBO mandatory. They will likely request to have those fights made in the first half of 2020, giving Joshua a choice to either fight or vacate one (or both) of the titles.
As of now, Joshua seems more interested in having a trilogy with Ruiz.
“If you heard, we are going to do a third!”
Cover photo by Mark Robinson