SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 7, 2019 – Fighting in the style that won him the 2012 Olympic gold medal, Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) will take his titles back to Great Britain to go with that medal after a smart, disciplined fight against Andy Ruiz Jr. of Imperial, California (33-2, 22 KOs). Joshua imposed a smart, technical fight at distance against the man who handed him his first defeat, winning in an overwhelming unanimous decision. Scores were 119-109 and 118-110. We also had a scorecard of 118-110. Joshua wins back the IBF, IBO, WBO, and WBA world heavyweight titles.
The reckless Joshua willing to trade with Ruiz Jr. was put away on the shelf. Instead, Joshua came in fleet of foot and fast with the fist, losing 10 pounds of upper body muscle to have the speed and stamina to stick with his game plan. Joshua’s best weapon the fight was his discipline, brought to life working behind a busy jab and boxing a beautifully measured performance.
“This is about boxing. I’m used to knocking guys out,” said Joshua after the fight. “I said to myself, I’m going to correct myself and come again. I respect Andy, his trainer and family so much. I just wanted to put on a great boxing master class and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport is about hitting and not getting hit.”
Joshua dismissed talk about a decline in his drive and his desire. “There was never a change of mentality. You know the staying – stay hungry, stay humble.”
“One day when I release a book, I’ll talk through my career. Careers are all about experience. There’s no losing, there’s no winning. It’s just about creating great memories in this game we all love. I took my L. I bounced back. Life is a roller coaster. What, do you want me to do, give up?”
Turning to Ruiz Jr. in the ring, Joshua called out to him. “Andy, are YOU ready to retire?”
“No!” declared Ruiz Jr.
“Please, respect us,” said Joshua. “This is what we love to do. Who wants to see the third fight?” After an appreciative roar from the 15,000 fans in Diriyah Joshua replied “Without a doubt. Listen, if you heard, we’re going to do a third,” laughing.
Wladimir Klitschko’s influence on display
Joshua said he saw the fight in June as a class exam he failed the first time. He went home, studied harder, and passed on his second try. His tutor? Former world champion Wladimir Klitschko, who helped Joshua prepare for the rematch. Klitschko’s imprint was evident. Although the Ukrainian was never known as a thrilling fighter to watch, he was a dominating champion.
“The first fight with Wladimir Klitschko (in April 2017) meant so much to me because I learned so much,” said Joshua. “I respect Wladimir so much. He gives me so much advice, that fight with Wladimir is what created this night here. That is why that fight will always rank number one.”
Joshua said it boiled down to him being the smarter fighter, not strength. “That’s why I prepared diligently. I put my head down, and I’m going to follow the same cycle when I left New York (moving forward). I’m going to stay on the bicycle I’ve been riding and say focused. I like the 70s fighters. They know how to box. Boxing is a science, you know.”
Joshua understands what the fans prefer. “At the end of the day I know my fans want to see me knock people out, and stuff like that, and I can do that all day. But sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter So with Andy, I just have to decapitate him in a different way.
Ruiz Jr. owns up to his poor preparation in the loss
Criticized for lack of preparation and putting on weight coming into the rematch, Ruiz Jr. acknowledged the criticism was fair. It was his night, man. I think didn’t prepare how I should have, I gained too much weight. But I don’t want to give excuses; he boxed me around. But if we do a third, believe me, I’m going to get in the best (f*****g) shape of my life.
Ruiz Jr. said he thought gaining weight, officially up to 283 pounds from 268 pounds in the first fight, would make him feel stronger. “I thought it was going to be better. Next time I’m going to be better prepared. I kind of tried to train myself for this preparation. No excuse, Anthony Joshua did a hell of a job.”
“I think I was chasing him too much instead of cutting the ring,” said Ruiz Jr. “I was hesitating too much. My arms felt like I couldn’t throw my combinations. You know what, the nest time I’m going to do a lot better. Who wants to see a trilogy fight, right here in Saudi Arabia?”
Based on Joshua and Ruiz Jr.’s comments, it seems the plan for the third fight is already in place. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn was coy about it for now. “The plans are to celebrate and celebrate hard.
“Tonight in Saudi Arabia, he becomes the two-time heavyweight champion of the world, and that is beautiful. They wrote him off, said he was all hype. He had to come back from humiliation in New York, and now he’s the governor. We’re boing to land at Heathrow tomorrow night. This is going to be one hell of a flight home.”
Status of the heavyweight division in 2020
When Joshua was pressed about his next opponent, whether Ruiz Jr. or another top contender, he refused to call anyone specific out. But he made it clear he would not duck anyone. “I’ve been speaking about these guys for a long time. When I had the time to focus solely on Andy, my head’s in the right place. So when Wilder, Fury, and Ortiz, Usyk are really, really ready, they’ll make the call. I’m not going to continue to call these guys out.
“I’m making my own history in my own lane … if these guys want to come and create a legacy, they can come step in the ring. I am willing to fight anyone as you can see. Come on, if you guys want to create history, you know where we are. I’m not going to shout an rave about Wilder and them,” added Joshua.
Despite the loss, Ruiz Jr. is still a desirable opponent, and he has the opportunity to fight his way back into contention. But he’s got some serious work ahead of him and he has to reach back and find the hunger for competition, not for a good meal. Boxing is a sport built on withstanding discomfort, both in training and in the ring.
Critics will surely point to Ruiz Jr.’s weight gain in opposition to the slimmed-down Joshua as the reason he lost. This simplistic view doesn’t give Joshua credit for the superb boxing skills he put to work, frustrating Ruiz Jr., who could never get inside on Joshua to wear him down. Ruiz Jr. could have spent more time in the gym, but it wouldn’t have made a difference Saturday night in Saudi Arabia.
Ruiz Jr. was the mousetrap, set but never sprung. Joshua never took the bait, staying clear of the power shots the former champion landed in their first fight. It wasn’t a Buster Douglas type performance, but a definitive loss nevertheless and a grave disappointment to the many fans of the Mexican-American turned folk hero overnight in June.
Undercard cheat sheet: Majidov, Hrgovic, Price, Whyte, Pacheco prevail; Hunter and Povetkin draw
American heavyweight Michael Hunter (18-1-1, 12 KOs) came right at veteran Russian foe Alexander Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KOs) from the opening bell. The pair proceeded to brawl back and forth, landing hard shots but unable to gain ground against one another through 12 hard rounds. Judges scored a split draw with scores of 115-113 for each man, and 114-114 on the third card.
“I don’t make the score, there’s nothing I can say. I’ve got to go back to the drawing board and keep working. I thought I did enough, but obviously the judges didn’t think so,” said Hunter.
“I think it was a 50-50 fight, it was close. I appreciate him for a good fight, a good rumble,” said Povetkin. “I didn’t expect he would go straight right from the first round.” Both Hunter and Povetkin agreed they’d love a rematch.
Britain’s Dillian Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs) struggled but took care of business with a unanimous decision win over Mariusz Wach (35-6, 19 KOs) in his return to the ring. Scorecards were 98-93, and 97-93 X 2.
“I boxed nowhere near my standard, I’ve been off six months. I came in with three weeks’ notice,” said Whyte. Referring to his recent disqualification and last night’s clearance of Whyte over a dirty drug test, Whyte had his say. “Everyone’s screwed me over, I’ve been through hell these last few months. I went from a hero beating Oscar Rivas to a nobody. Eddie and my team stuck by me.
“Sorry guys, I didn’t get the knockout but I feel great to even make it to the fight. Two, three months ago was a dark place, I thought about walking away from boxing,” said Whyte. His lackluster condition and performance won’t inspire much fear in any potential opponent among the top men in the division today – certainly not Deontay Wilder.
Rising start Filip Hrgovic (10-0, 8 KOs) had little trouble dismissing American journeyman Eric Molina (27-6, 19 KOs), retaining his minor WBC international title. “I hope some of these warriors will accept a fight with a young guy from Croatia.,” said Hrgovic after his win. “I can be a world champion in the next few fights. I may never become a champion, this boxing s a very dangerous sport. But I’m confident with my skills and my team.”
Former amateur world champion Mahammadrasul Majidov (2-0, 2 KOs) didn’t let fans get much of a look at him, blasting out American Tom Little (10-8, 3 KOs) in less than a round.
British super-bantamweight Hopey Price (2-0, 1 KOs) made a strong impression with his skilled TKO victory in a swing fight opportunity. “Most people would probably be in the school right now, and I’m in Saudi,” said the 19-year-old Price. “I hope all the fans enjoyed it. I was just taking my time, we’ve been doing six to eight rounds. I’ve just been breaking them down gradually. So when I step up, I’ll be ready. Just learning, bit by bit. I’m getting older and I’m getting better.” Keep your eye on this one.
Another teen, 18-year-old super middleweight Diego Pacheco of Los Angeles (8-0, 7 KOs) got some broadcast time as a swing fight co-main, but only needed 1:38 seconds to take out Selemani Saidi of Tanzania (20-16-5, 15 KOS). Pacheco decked Saidi with a right hook at the end of a nice combination series. Pacheco joins Price as a young talent to watch.
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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