In arguably the biggest upset since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in Japan some 29 years ago, Andy Ruiz Jr 33-1 (22) has scored a shocking seventh round knockout victory over Anthony Joshua 22-1 (21) to claim the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight championships at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday night.
The overwhelming underdog going in to the fight, Ruiz Jr, 29, had Joshua on the canvas four times in the bout including twice in the seventh round.
“I want to thank God for giving me this victory. Without him, this wouldn’t be possible,” said Ruiz Jr, who previously lost a majority decision to Joseph Parker in a battle for the vacant WBO championship in December 2016.
“I feel so good, I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true. I want to thank my whole team. The sky is the limit baby!”
The fight got off to a slow start with Ruiz Jr stalking the taller champion while Joshua worked cautiously behind his jab.
The third frame saw the fight catch fire, first with Ruiz Jr landing on the canvas, then with Joshua down twice.
“That was my first time getting knocked down, I just wanted it so bad,” said Ruiz Jr, who replaced Jarrell Miller as the challenger after the Brooklyn banger failed a drug test. “I have that Mexican blood in me, talk about that Mexican style? I got it. I didn’t want to throw everything I got, I wanted to hunt him down.”
Ruiz Jr, who at 268-pounds weighed in at his heaviest in almost five years, look relaxed and composed in the ring and appeared to be in control by the sixth frame.
In the fatal seventh round Ruiz Jr clipped Joshua with a left hook that hurt the champion and quickly followed up with a barrage of punches that battered the short-priced favourite to the canvas. Joshua was quickly back on his feet at the count of four but was blowing hard.
Ruiz Jr jumped on Joshua and let his quick hands go, again clubbing the 29-year-old Brit to the canvas. An exhausted-looking Joshua lost his mouthpiece before finding his feet at seven and walking toward his corner before referee Michael Griffin waved off the contest at 1:27.
“We pulled it off. [On the rematch], of course man! I just want to celebrate. I just made history. This is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was six-years-old,” a jubilant Ruiz Jr said.
A clearly disappointed Joshua apologised to his fans after the fight and promised to return.
“Sorry I let my fans down, I’ll be back again,” he said. “Boxing’s a tough sport. I trained hard, stayed dedicated. It’ll be interesting to see how he does. Fighter at heart, boxer by trade. He done well, everyone’s come out to a good night of boxing.
“When your legs are all over the gaff, you try to stabilise your mind. With me, they can’t box with me so they just look for the big shots. We put together a strong team and I’m the first to take a loss. We’ll bounce back. I’ve got to get that solid armoury.
“Congratulations to him, every fighter deserves respect. I respect every fighter. This is part of the legacy and story, I look forward to seeing where I went wrong. He’s the champ for now. I shall return.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, who said his fighter looked flat, immediately spoke of a rematch.
“AJ got sloppy,” Hearn said. “It’s a massive upset but tonight belongs to Andy Ruiz. We’ll make the rematch in November, December in the UK. At least we know who the next opponent is.
“[Joshua] looked flat, got hit on the top of the head. It was an incredible third round, a great fight. He’ll learn a lot from this, it’s a massive blow for him. Maybe this is what he needs. It’s a must-win fight now.
“AJ has to rebuild, come back stronger and let the fire burn inside him. Tonight goes down as a huge upset. He’s a true, true warrior. He will be devastated when this sinks in.”
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