Anthony Joshua 23-1 (21) delivered a near-perfect boxing clinic to regain the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight championships with a comprehensive 12-round unanimous points decision over Andy Ruiz Jr 33-2 (22) at the Diriyah Arena in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
The supremely conditioned Joshua came in 10-pounds lighter than in their first fight in New York six months ago, while Ruiz Jr stacked on an additional 15-pounds for the rematch.
The lighter weight worked a treat for Joshua, who stayed up on his toes and boxed effectively from the outside from the first bell to the last.
The 30-year-old Brit laid out his gameplan in the first round, circling and keeping the fight at long range as he pumped out the jab. Joshua drew first blood, opening a cut over Ruiz’s left eye with a right cross.
In the second and third frames Joshua continued to punish the cut with right hands while mixing in the occasional lead left hook. The fourth saw Joshua sit down on his punches more, with Ruiz coming on strong in the final 30 seconds to land a chopping right hand on the inside and bulling Joshua to the ropes.
Joshua was back up on his toes during the next three rounds, popping Ruiz with his jab and smothering the 30-year-old Mexican-American on the inside.
Ruiz had his best round of the fight in the eighth, landing a hard right hand behind a left hook with one minute to go. Joshua responded by trading on the inside but came off second best, with Ruiz landing a pair of jarring hooks just before the bell.
In the ninth Joshua got back on his bike, using his feet to create space and angles. Joshua landed a hard combination culminating with a left uppercut, but Ruiz responded with another hard, chopping right hand.
The 10th saw Ruiz start fast with another right cross, but Joshua stuck to his gameplan to snap the champion’s head back repeatedly with stiff jabs. At the bell Joshua jawed at Ruiz, telling him to “come on”.
The championship rounds saw Joshua continue to control the action at distance, sticking the jab and landing a jolting right cross in the 12th.
The scorecards were a mere formality. Judges Glenn Feldman and Benoit Roussel both scored the bout 118-110, while judge Steve Gray had it slightly wider at 119-109.
With the victory Joshua is finally able to put the nightmare in New York behind him, when he was dropped four times by late replacement Ruiz at Madison Square Garden en route to a seventh-round stoppage loss.
“The first time was so nice, I had to do it twice,” said Joshua, 237-pounds, in his post-fight interview with Sky Sports.
“This was about boxing. I’m used to knocking guys out, but last time I realized, I hurt the man and got caught coming in.
“I gave the man his credit, but I said I was gonna correct myself and come again.”
Ruiz, 283-pounds, cited a less than ideal preparation as the reason for his loss.
“It was his night and I didn’t prepare like I should have,” said Ruiz.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but next fight I’ll get more prepared, and work with my team a little more. I was chasing him instead of cutting him down.”
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