Will Anthony Joshua drop the WBO title and avoid Oleksandr Usyk? Kubrat Pulev next?

Steve Wellings

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Anthony Joshua posted a tactical domination of Andy Ruiz on Saturday evening to reclaim his position as one of the top dogs in heavyweight boxing. Aided by trainer Robert McCracken, as well as some other additions to the coaching setup, Joshua remained disciplined throughout the contest, but his performance must also be assessed in the light of Ruiz’s virtual no show.

The main point of contention was clearly Ruiz’s weight gain since the first fight. Never the most body perfect specimen, Ruiz increased his bulk, amidst accusations that he had indulged a little too much in the party lifestyle in the intervening period between fights.

Trainer Manny Robles admitted that he had trouble getting Ruiz focused on a gym return and later tried to claim his charge was carrying an injury. Ruiz played up his associations with Snickers and pizza indulgences, while doing the circuits of American television rather than running the roads of America’s West Coast in a bid to shed the pounds.

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Joshua, meanwhile, already has a mandatory obligation to deal with as the WBO wasted little time jumping in and placing former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk as no.1 challenger to the newly-crowned champ. Usyk has only had one fight at heavyweight (a one-sided dissection of unheralded Chazz Witherspoon) but has credit in the bank from his cruiserweight reign to get a ratings bump. Whispers suggest that AJ might drop the WBO belt and let Usyk fight for the vacant title – possibly against Dereck Chisora.

Joshua could find himself defending the IBF belt instead against Kubrat Pulev. The IBF was the first world title Joshua claimed, when southpaw Charles Martin, an accidental titlist, was picked off the vine and destroyed. Pulev was supposed to box Joshua before but pulled out injured. The IBF seem happy to keep him around regardless and he has retained his lofty position.

The dethroned champion, whose reign was entertaining yet all so brief, cheekily crashed? the post-fight interviews to request a third fight. It’s the payday he’s seeking before he rides off in to the sunset. Signed to the PBC, Ruiz has zero chance of snaring a rubber match yet he will no doubt get offered a couple more opportunities before retirement given the fact that he can be marketed as a former world champion and holder of three major belts.

In reality, Ruiz cashed in his lottery ticket back in June, with full credit to him for being able to take advantage of a listless, unmotivated version of Joshua in New York. The Joshua of Saudi Arabia was a polar opposite. It was Ruiz, struggling to cut off the giant ring circumference, who ended the bout cut to the eye and listless.


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