Anthony Joshua is once again one of heavyweight boxing’s top players after a resounding points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last night.
Joshua regained possession of the WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO belts he conceded in June when replacement opponent Ruiz scored a shock seventh-round KO victory over a listless AJ in New York.
Joshua left nothing to chance in this return fixture, coming in lighter on his feet, popping a stinging left jab on Ruiz and taking advantage of every inch of a huge 22-foot ring. Ruiz had the faster hands but his slower feet were unable to satisfactorily close the distance on the challenger. Despite cutting Ruiz over the left eye early on, Joshua never got greedy, never allowed micro successes to break his focus. Every solid right hand or left hook he landed was followed up by a skip out of range and back to the jab.
Ruiz’s weight is a point of contention. Coming in at a portly 20-stone-plus did not help the American of Mexican descent. Entering the biggest stage with a belly draped over his shorts was not a good look. Ruiz finally enjoyed some success with the left hook in the eighth although his overall joy was short lived as Joshua returned to his range finder to ride the waves and box a safe route home.
Judges Benoit Roussel and Glenn Feldman both scored it 118-110 to the new champion. Steve Gray could only find a single round for Ruiz, handing in a 119-109 total. Some argued they were too wide. Maybe you could find an extra round to Ruiz but precious little beyond that. The right man clearly won the fight.
“Andy Ruiz is a real danger and he is very quick and heavy-handed,” said Joshua’s trainer Robert McCracken after the contest. “There were a couple times Josh went into mid-range and came unstuck but he settled back down in the corner and got back on it. His weight was great and his jab was tremendous.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn added: “”He taught himself to box like that – the discipline was incredible. All the things no-one thought he possessed. That’s because he’s getting better. What heavyweight has a resume like him? Give him respect; he has changed the face of boxing. A great individual with a big heart.”
Ruiz admitted that excessive partying after the first fight had got to him.
Everyone loves a comeback story and it is possible that the British boxer might be more popular than ever after turning the tables on Ruiz.
Talk of future challenges is already circling. The winner of next February’s proposed rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder (for the latter’s WBC title) would be the optimal option as the winner would hold all of the titles and reign supreme as the undisputed king of the heavyweight division. WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk is also waiting in the wings for his big opportunity. Kubrat Pulev or someone of that ilk might be drafted in for a coffer-boosting stadium fight in the UK before Eddie Hearn and his team target the danger men of the division.
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