SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 1, 2019 – If you didn’t know Saturday’s world heavyweight championship title fight was taking place at Madison Square Garden, you would have assumed the bout was taking place in London. The Garden was packed with British fight fans to see their hero, unified champion Anthony Joshua, deliver a sure victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. of the U.S.
They will go home disappointed after one of the most stunning upsets in boxing history. It ranks with Mike Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas in 1990. Ruiz Jr., a late replacement as Joshua’s opponent, becomes the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion with a definitive seventh round TKO win over the previously undefeated Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs). Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs) is now the unified IBF, IBO, WBA, and WBO world heavyweight champion.
“It feels so good, man,” said Ruiz Jr. “This is what I have been dreaming about, this is what I have been working so hard for, and I made my dream come true. The sky’s the limit, baby!”
See video highlights of Ruiz Jr.’s upset victory here.
Coming in as an understudy only weeks ago when original opponent Jarell Miller was disqualified for the use of performance enhancing drugs, Ruiz Jr. and his trainer Manny Robles executed their game plan with cool-headed perfection, using hand speed and power fueled by impressive confidence to overwhelm an overly cautious Joshua.
Ruiz Jr. stays cool, confident, and determined
Joshua started slowly with his jab, knowing Ruiz Jr. is a classic Mexican style counterpuncher. Ruiz Jr. stepped right to the champion without hesitation, looking to make it a fight.
In the third round, Joshua hit Ruiz Jr. with a crisp left hook, causing the challenger to sit down hard on the canvas. It was the first time Ruiz Jr. had been knocked down. He popped right back up. Joshua must have assumed the challenger was rocked. He didn’t seem prepared for Ruiz Jr. to immediately fire back. Less than a minute later, Joshua went down, as stunned as the spectators. In an instant, the narrative changed.
“I don’t know man, that was my first time getting dropped on the floor. But it just made me stronger, it just made me want it even more,” said Ruiz Jr.
Joshua got up on unsteady legs, and Ruiz Jr. came right back at him. He scored a second knockdown to Joshua courtesy of a right hook to the temple in front of the astonished British fans at The Garden. Joshua barely stood up at the end of referee Michael Griffin’s count. Griffin asked Joshua to walk to him, and he would not have made it out of the round if the bell hadn’t sounded.
The fight settled down in the fourth and fifth round. In the corner, trainer Manny Robles told Ruiz Jr. not to give Joshua the mid-range. Joshua’s trainer Robert McCracken urged him to get busy with the jab again and with his head movement. “Get back in the game!”
Would Ruiz Jr. make the mistake of allowing Joshua back into the fight by being too patient? As it turned out, no. Joshua was too shaken and too afraid of getting hit again to fully recover. Joshua did connect with several good power punches, but the challenger’s size and fortitude allowed him to walk right through them. Ruiz Jr. was now in control of the fight.
“It’s because of the Mexican warrior that I am, I’ve got the Mexican blood in me. Talk about the Mexican style, I jut proved it. I didn’t want to throw everything I got, I wanted to hunt him down more, work the body, work the head. Work the plan of my trainer, Manny Robles,” explained Ruiz Jr.
Joshua’s team implored the champion to box from the outside. Ruiz Jr. wouldn’t let it happen. In the sixth round, Ruiz Jr. scored again with powerful right hooks to the head and solid body shots. Joshua didn’t seem to know exactly what to do. There was no playbook for an opponent like Andy Ruiz Jr.
In the seventh round, Ruiz Jr. loaded up on hooks to both the left and right of Joshua’s head, and he was knocked down for third time in the fight. Joshua barely rose to his feet as referee Griffin counted to ten. Standing there, Joshua was already psychologically beaten, and Ruiz Jr. knew it. Now, he would make it stick. Ruiz Jr. went forward with only one thought in mind, ending it. Again, his power shots found their mark to both sides of Joshua’s head.
On the canvas for the fourth time, Joshua spit out his mouthpiece, and rose off the canvas, turning his back on Griffin. As he turned, Griffin asked Joshua, “Do you want to continue?” When no answer came, Griffin did the responsible thing and waived off the fight at 1:27 of the seventh round.
An elated Ruiz Jr. threw his hands to the sky and jumped for joy, then embraced trainer Manny Robles in celebration.
“Right now, I just want to celebrate, I just made history for Mexico. It means everything man, it’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I was six years old,” said Ruiz Jr.
Other than both being heavyweight boxers, Joshua and Ruiz Jr. couldn’t be much different. Joshua has the chiseled physique of a Greek statue. Ruiz Jr. describes himself as a “chubby kid” with little worry he ever took any PEDs. He admits to a liking for Snickers candy bars. Joshua lives a glam celebrity life in Great Britain. Ruiz Jr. comes from an agricultural region along the U.S. – Mexican border where more people speak Spanish than English.
Joshua offers no excuses, only congratulations
Joshua led the Madison Square Garden crowd in a round of applause for Ruiz Jr., apologizing for letting his supporters down.
Asked if he thought Griffin stopped the fight too soon, Joshua said, “Listen, I don’t do his job. My job is to fight. It’s a shame, but I don’t want anyone to drown in their sorrows. It’s about the long game, not the short game. No excuses. It’s my fault. I got caught.”
Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, said, “AJ just got sloppy, he got caught and he never recovered. It’s a massive upset. AJ will be back, 100 percent. We’ll make the rematch in the UK.
“I know he’s got the heart of a lion, he’ll be back. Now we have an opponent for the end of the year. Ruiz deserves it tonight,” said Hearn. Hearn called Joshua “flat” and said they learned a lot from the defeat. “It’s a massive blow for him, but he’ll be hungry now. Maybe this is what he needs … AJ needs to rebuild and come back stronger. Tonight goes down as a huge upset. AJ will rebuild, he’s a true warrior.”
Speed kills in boxing
In the battle of power versus speed, it turned out both power and speed were in the hands of Andy Ruiz Jr. His acknowledged asset before the fight is his surprising hand speed. He was able to deliver his power shots with accuracy on top of his quickness.
Joshua has solid power, but not enough to do real damage to the tough as nails Ruiz Jr. Joshua can be hit and he certainly can be dropped, as both Dillian Whyte and Wladimir Klitschko discovered. But in both cases, Joshua kept his wits about him, weathered the storm and came back to win. He did not have this resilience on Saturday.
If you weren’t aware Ruiz Jr. was a late replacement, and you weren’t thrown off by his less than chiseled physique, his confidence in his ability to beat Joshua was convincing. Before the bout, Ruiz Jr. said, “I’m not scared of anyone apart from the man upstairs. There’s a lot of doubters out there but I don’t care, they only give me more motivation and confidence.” You’re welcome, Andy.
Rematch location and date TBD
Ruiz turned out to be the most dangerous type of opponent: someone easy to overlook, and someone with nothing to lose. On the other side of the coin, Joshua’s customary brash confidence didn’t make it into the ring Saturday.
Promoter Hearn said he doesn’t think reality will sink in right away for Joshua. It won’t be easy, but Joshua can bounce back and recover if he takes time to learn from this defeat. Boxing fans love a redemption story; it’s part of what makes the sport so appealing.
Hearn confirmed there is a rematch clause at the post-fight news conference. But it would be a mistake for Joshua to get right back in the ring with Ruiz Jr. He needs to rebuild his shattered confidence with a tune-up fight. Ruiz Jr. is in the driver’s seat after throwing the heavyweight division into chaos. If he agrees to fight Joshua in Great Britain, he should hold out for a substantial payday. Tonight, there’s going to be a hell of a fiesta in New York.
READ MORE: Escape from New York: Katie Taylor becomes undisputed champion in disputed decision – plus all undercard results
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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