Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has issued a stark warning to Andy Ruiz Jr over the current king’s smack talk. Ruiz is stalling over their proposed December 7 rematch in Saudi Arabia, demanding more money and dismissing locations. None of this impresses the Matchroom boxer who says that Ruiz is “digging his own grave”.
Spanning the whole spectrum of talk shows and YouTube channel interviews, Ruiz has certainly been enjoying his moment in the limelight, as he is perfectly entitled to do given the magnitude of his June 1 upset victory.
The more Ruiz talks, the more Joshua seems to have the bit between his teeth, which is exactly what is needed for a man who may have been close to losing his hunger for the hustle. Letting Ruiz hold the belts and pose for photos in the week of their first fight suggested a complacency had set in, ahead of a supposed routine defence. Ruiz, meanwhile, was busy hoodwinking all onlookers. Playing the role of the chubby challenger, happy to be on the biggest stage, content with playing his part for a few rounds and folding early. It was all an act, and Ruiz played it perfectly.
For all of the rhetoric, philosophical musings, and talk of visions and projects, the real work for Joshua and his training team will be done behind the scenes. Public image and perception needs to be fixed, no doubt, but sharpening the technique and working on a fight strategy to deal with Ruiz’s troublesome style is what is really required.
Joshua has also been embroiled in a war of words with another former heavyweight world champion, Lennox Lewis. “AJ” responded angrily to implied criticism from the outspoken ex-champ by calling Lewis a clown. Joshua will be looking to replicate Lewis’ ability to right the wrongs of his own career. Lennox lost to Oliver McCall in a second-round upset back in the early ’90s. Lewis was able to defeat the Texas native in their 1997 return; albeit in bizarre circumstances when McCall had a mental breakdown in the ring during the fight.
Lennox also famously lost to Hasim Rahman in South Africa in 2001 when he was dramatically knocked out in the fifth round. The champion was busy filming movies at the time (Ocean’s 11) and took his eye off the ball. There was no such complacency ahead of the rematch, seven months later. Lewis was fit and focused, dominating and knocking out Rahman in four rounds in America.
Joshua will need to put aside all verbal sparring and follow the lead of his compatriot if he is to reclaim his belts against Ruiz. Grave digging comments may be in poor taste for some observers, but they represent the exact kind of mindset needed if he is to scramble back to the top of boxing’s most lucrative division.
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