British-Nigerian boxer Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua banished the nightmare of losing his heavyweight titles to Mexican-American, Andy Ruiz six months ago by putting on a masterful display and reclaiming the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts via unanimous points victory in Saudi Arabia yesterday.
After being stunned by the underdog Ruiz in New York on June 1, Joshua risked seeing his career left in tatters with a second defeat, but served up 36 minutes of movement and well-timed punching to become two-time heavyweight champion of the world.
Joshua cut his Mexican rival inside the first round and never looked back, keeping Ruiz at bay with smart jabs and right hands throughout, to the delight of fans in the Diriyah Arena, in Riyadh.
Ruiz never looked close to landing a knockdown and the scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 confirmed that Joshua was in total control throughout.
After his victory Joshua said, “I want to thank God. I want to say that the first time was so nice, I just had to do it twice.
“Man, the first time was so nice, I had to do it twice!
“A man like me makes no excuses. This is about boxing. I’m used to knocking guys out but I had to correct myself putting on a boxing master class. You have to hit and not get hit. I got caught last time, no excuses, I gave him the credit. I respect Andy and his trainer so much. I wanted to show the sweet science of this lovely sport,” he said.
This is about boxing. I’m used to knocking guys out but I had to correct myself and put on a boxing master class. You have to hit and not get hit,” he said.
He certainly did. When Ruiz ripped the belts from Joshua’s grasp in New York in June he disrupted one of boxing’s most indomitable laws –that a good big fighter usually beats a good smaller one – by stopping Joshua in seven. This time around the natural order reasserted itself as the Briton used an eight-inch reach advantage and better side-to-side movement to keep his opponent off balance.
It was hard to dispute any of that. But he was certainly helped by Ruiz, his belly sagging over his shorts, being every bit as ponderous as his 20st weight had advertised.
As the final bell rang he beat his chest angrily and said “fight me”. But deep down he knew he had been outfoxed – and out-prepared.
It means that Joshua becomes only the fourth man in the 127-year history of the world heavyweight title to successfully regain their title in a direct rematch, from the 10 fighters who attempted it: Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson. That is the company the British-Nigerian now keeps.
With this comprehensive victory, Joshua has returned to reckoning as one of the world’s premier heavyweights and fans will demand blockbuster fights with WBC champion Deontay Wilder and former champion Tyson Fury in the near future.
However, judging by comments, there may be a third installment of Joshua-Ruiz.
In his post-fight comments Ruiz said: “It was his night. I didn’t prepare like I should have, I put on too much weight but I won’t make excuses. I want that third fight and I’ll be ready for that.”
The question in Saudi Arabia was whether Joshua could show the same mental fortitude after being knocked down multiple times by Ruiz in June. His answer was emphatic.
A downpour in a country that barely sees rain stopped moments before Joshua strode to the ring, prompting him to carefully dry his feet on the canvas.
From that moment on, his feet moved with grace. Seconds before the off, Ruiz was told “let’s go Andy” by his corner but he was rarely allowed to get close to his rival and inflict the damage he did in the first fight.
Ruiz, the bookmakers’ underdog again, was cut above his left eye in the first. He landed two jabs of his own in the second but took a left hook as Joshua moved with the lightness of a man at his lowest weight in five years.
He was burning energy but was slick and showed variety in working head and body in the third. A crowd unfamiliar with the sweet science at such close quarters offered audible applause and cheers as the smart work landed.
There was always tension given the speed with which Ruiz’s gold gloves can move, and in the eighth he served up a first scare. As the pair tangled, Ruiz made things ugly and winged in a hook.