There’s been much talk about the first fight between Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr (33-1) and Briton Anthony Joshua (22-1), which memorably took place on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, and now the debate is heated to boiling point once more as they clash again tonight, this time in the Arabian Peninsula.
The unheralded challenger took away the undefeated champion’s WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts after a series of knockdowns that saw the fight stopped in the seventh round.
It was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, and what followed was a multitude of reasons, excuses, conspiracy theories and drawn-out debates as to why it occurred.
Still, to this day, fight enthusiasts are claiming that something was missing that night or that AJ wasn’t himself, which has resulted in Ruiz being overlooked once again in the rematch.
BBN’s Editor, Tim Rickson, tries to answer some of the circulating questions surrounding the mega-fight:
How did you score the first fight?
“I saw Andy Ruiz Jr start brightly, as I expected him to, and the champion second to the punch, with no answer to his counterpart's constant questions.
The challenger, ridiculed by most before the fight, started off on the front foot and established his range and dominance very early. He was throwing multiple shots from the first minute of the fight, landing to body and head. AJ hit the target perhaps just once with a sharp jab towards the end of the round, but Ruiz had already moved his head on the way in to take the sting off and won the first round comfortably.
Five punch combination! That’s exactly how the unsung challenger kicked off the second round. AJ was pawing out his jab with his left hand held low trying to find his range while a dominant Ruiz held the centre of the ring. The challenger didn’t do as much chasing, perhaps warned by his corner not to expend too much energy too early.
Then, in the third round, AJ threw his first power punch when he landed a strong right hand and, enthused by his success, he came forward with an uppercut and left hook which knocked the challenger briskly off his feet.
Ruiz rose, seemingly clear-eyed, and AJ came in for the kill. He landed a right hand that spun the Mexican’s head around 180 degrees, but he fired back and landed a left hook to the defender's temple that turned his legs to jelly.
AJ in trouble, Ruiz continued his attacks, pouncing in from out of range with such spite, and eventually had his man back down again on the canvas in the last few seconds of the round.
After being saved by the bell, the fourth round settled down a bit after the preceding fireworks. Ruiz always looked the more composed, confident and controlled of the two.
The fifth segment was a tepid affair with no drama to report other than AJ landing on Ruiz and immediately trying to capitalise on his success, but the excitement passed as quickly as it had started, as Ruiz used his vaster experience to ride the wave.
The champ came out aggressively in the sixth stanza but was soon forced backwards again. Every mistake he made was punished by Ruiz who was landing a lot of blows in the second half of this penultimate round on a fatigued champion, who looked way off his usual pace.
The seventh and final round started with both boxers throwing their jabs. An accurate left hook soon landed on the Brit’s chin and it was followed with an unceasing array of head shots until he went down for a third time. Another knockdown and the referee wasn’t convinced of his safety to continue and the fight was rightfully abandoned.”
Did the opponent change affect Joshua’s performance?
“A change of opponent is exactly that – a change. It means you have to change your game plan, your training, your sparring, your whole preparation. It’s an inconvenience, a disruption, and a bit of an obstacle you have to overcome, meaning your camp hasn’t gone as smoothly as you would have liked.
If he had won the fight, he could have said that he had adapted to the change well, like a true champion. But he didn’t win, which shows he didn’t adapt well. So, in short, the change in opponent affected him, definitely.”
Did AJ overlook Ruiz?
“No, I don’t think he did. AJ is a consummate professional, he is an Olympic champion and a world champion. You have to have a very disciplined mindset and professionalism to achieve that. To be the world champion at amateur and professional, you will have a world champion mentality and attitude and there’s no way he would ever approach any fight thinking it’s going to be a given.
Did he underestimate Ruiz? He says not, but the way that Ruiz dominated the fight, pressed the action and troubled Josh so much suggests that he was perhaps surprised by his superior skills when he got in there with him. I think AJ knew Ruiz was good, but didn't realise quite how good until that bell rung.
He addressed his fans after all the ridiculous conspiracy theories that rebounded around to say this himself – that he 100 per cent did not overlook Ruiz.”
What do you think of the plethora of conspiracy theories going around?
“It was pitiful to hear them all. AJ fans truly are annoying casuals who don’t have any clue about boxing. They simply couldn’t accept that he had lost to a better man and conjured up every excuse they could think of as a justification.
These same so-called fans are now saying absurd statements that AJ is going to “smash” Ruiz in the rematch. At what point during that fight, or in any of Ruiz’s career to date, could you possibly think that Ruiz could get “smashed” or “flattened” by anyone?! What are these people looking at?! I’d proffer that they are looking at his portly frame once again through AJ-tinted glasses. I guarantee that the AJ fans that have said this have never even watched another Ruiz Jr fight, not even his world title fight with Joe Parker.”
What do you think of the difference in weights?
“I was as surprised as anyone that Ruiz came in so much heavier than his first fight. The resulting reactions that have been widespread gets you thinking that maybe he wanted this response to get into AJ’s head. Could it all be a ruse, I just don’t know? What I do know is that Ruiz has been fighting as a fat person since he was six-years-old so I don’t believe there’s going to be much difference in his performance or stamina due to the weight gain.”
Lastly, who wins?
“I see the same result, I’m afraid to say. I obviously want Joshua to win, but I think it’s another Ruiz stoppage.
If it goes to points, then I can see a lot of rounds being very close, ‘swing’ rounds, that will all stack up in Joshua’s favour, being on the home show, and he is on a home show, moving the fight to ‘neutral ground’ in Diriyah is not impartial at all, it’s Joshua’s show and he will unquestionably get the nod if it goes to the scorecards. I seriously don’t believe Ruiz can win this fight on points, even if he wins every round hands down, I think he'll only be awarded a draw; he has to knock Joshua out again or he’s losing his belts.
Ruiz has the upper hand here because he knows he can hurt Joshua and he’ll be looking to land big right from the start. I believe that AJ will box better than before, keep to straight shots, just one-twos from range, and will be very, very disciplined, but Ruiz is intelligent and experienced and I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world that can keep him at bay. Just watch his footwork in that first fight, it’s masterful!
Regardless of getting inside, Ruiz can land at range anyway, so the only way to keep him off is with constant movement and I don’t believe there’s many heavyweights that can move for 36 minutes non-stop. Not without slowing down dramatically anyway.
My biggest fear for Joshua is when he is under duress. Ruiz can emerge from a firefight unscathed, whereas Joshua, I personally think, will always come out worse off. David Haye called it correctly when he said that Joshua has moved up levels too quick and has never experienced the tough, gruelling fights in amateur or pro where you get really hurt, banged up and have headaches for days after – the learning fights where you come back 10 times stronger and wiser. You can’t buy that experience and he can’t go back and get that, so he has to work with what he's got, which is a limited experience.
Ruiz’s amateur record was 105-5 and he very nearly became an Olympian, I think it was Dillian Whyte’s victim Oscar Rivas that beat him in the box-offs, so he has been fighting at the very top level during a 110 fights from the age of six to 20. Joshua started boxing late and was fast-tracked, so he has missed all that valuable experience that Ruiz and many other amateurs possesses.
If Ruiz gets hurt, he will draw upon his multiple years of boxing knowledge to get through the storm. I don’t believe Joshua has the ability or know-how to do the same. He has been saved by the bell quite a few times already in his 23-fight career against Klitschko, Whyte and against Ruiz in that third round.
I truly believe that Ruiz will win via stoppage again, maybe even faster than round seven this time, knowing that he can get to AJ and trouble him. If Joshua executes his game plan, then he'll win on points but I personally see Ruiz winning between 5-7.”