Ruiz Jr vs Joshua: A Night of Change
Those that demand blood and thunder for their pugilist entertainment will not have enjoyed what Anthony Joshua served us in Saudi Arabia. But that viewpoint lacks a certain understanding or appreciation of what boxing is, hit and not be hit, Joshua did what he needed to do, nothing else mattered.
I doubt many of us fully appreciate the pressure Joshua must have been under as he walked to the ring to face the only man to have beaten him. Andy Ruiz steadily and systematically dismantled him in June, confidence must have been fragile at best.
The ring walk had me thinking back to David Price has he walked to face Tony Thompson in their immediate rematch. That occasion was way too much for Price, and I wondered if Joshua would suffer the same fate. He too looked extremely nervous, worryingly so, perfectly understandable, but not ideal when you are entering the biggest fight of your life.
I heavily criticised the decision to take the fight to Saudi Arabia instead of Cardiff, but maybe it helped Joshua. Would the pressure of fighting in front of a stadium full of hometown supporters suffocated him with the weight of expectation.
Joshua was impressive, the discipline and the ability to change tactics, the execution of those tactics, the change in his body, the subtle but effective changes to his team. It would have been easy to write off the first fight as just a minor blip and change nothing or very little, credit should be given where it is due.
The fight was engrossing, despite it being heavily criticised by some. It brought back memories of Frank Bruno finally winning the world heavyweight title at the 4th attempt against Oliver McCall. On that famous night at Wembley stadium you were just waiting for Bruno to tire and unravel, and I had similar thoughts last night.
But other than maybe the 7th round, when he noticeably started to hold more and the 8th when there were tiny signs that he would start to fall apart, Joshua dominated the majority of the 36 minutes, it was simple but effective.
Ruiz rather hopefully asked for a 3rd fight, it is highly unlikely to come. Joshua will have mandatories to fulfil, and will obviously target either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury for true and undisputed heavyweight supremacy. The route back to Joshua will be a long one for Ruiz.
However, his promotional connections won’t do him any harm. Wilder is likely to grant Ruiz an opportunity if he defeats Fury in their much anticipated rematch early next year and a fight with Joshua fails to materialise.
Ruiz in simple terms blew it, he didn’t give himself the best possible chance of victory. We’ve seen it many times before, a fighter living the life and not living the life of a fighter.
Ruiz knew Joshua would come in lighter and therefore quicker, he came in heavier and slower, his chances of repeating were considerably reduced as a result, he can blame nobody but himself.
The former champion reminds me of several heavyweights from the 1980s, the likes of Tony Tubbs, Tim Witherspoon and others who all had immense talent but lacked the discipline and the motivation to fully reach their potential. Ruiz has had one very good night, time will tell if he has another.
Ruiz now finds himself in the very same situation Joshua was, the need for change is staring him right in the face. Some feared the immediate rematch would favour Ruiz, in reality it did the exact opposite.
Joshua had to conquer demons, a career to save, a reputation to recover, and a point to prove, to the critics and to himself. There are many challenges ahead, but for now Joshua should be allowed to enjoy his moment.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing