I’ll confess up front – I’m an Anthony Joshua fanboy and I predicted that the British man-mountain would crush the rotund Andy Ruiz Jr. The shock of Saturday night gave me a hangover, but finally my heading is clearing and I’m ready to make some predictions. (Hopefully better ones this time.)
AJ won’t come back stronger. We’ve all seen the fight and that was clearly the worst version of Anthony Joshua to ever step inside the ropes, but maybe this performance has been coming.
Since AJ’s 11 round war with Wladimir Klitschko, the Watford man has been in four scraps: Joshua’s tepid performance against Carlos Takam was blamed on an awkward style and weight issues, Parker took Josh the distance for the first time and the scorecards flattered the Brit, Povetkin rocked AJ before getting flattened, and then Ruiz crashed the party.
It wouldn’t be the first time a boxer has been a shadow of himself after a hard knock.
The rapid reflexes and blurring combos that were a feature of AJ’s early fights have only appeared as cameos in recent bouts, and that might be down to better opposition. But there is a good argument that he is over-trained and that looking like Hercules isn’t always best for boxing.
The two biggest question marks looming over Joshua after his first defeat are his chin and his stamina. Ruiz is not a known puncher but he still joins the list of Povetkin, Klitschko and Dillian Whyte, of heavyweights who have wobbled or dropped the former champ.
AJ never recovered from getting hit high on the head in the third round against Ruiz and he looked absolutely spent by the seventh. He claims he was fit to fight but maybe he’s not right mentally.
Joshua wasn’t sparked out, he just didn’t want to continue and he seemed happy to take the loss.
Back Ruiz to win the rematch.
I’ve laid into Joshua, but I don’t think that Ruiz is an out-and-out favourite to win a rematch. Having said that, Paddy has already posted him as a 5/2 outsider and that seems like good value to me.
We didn’t learn a whole lot about Ruiz on Saturday – the Mexican-American former construction worker is probably a bit better than he gets credit for and his jaw held up well to the Joshua power. If the rematch happens, I don’t expect him to be any better or any more body-beautiful.
You would imagine AJ would come with a better game plan next time but when will he be ready to get back in the ring? The talk from AJ and Eddie Hearn in the immediate aftermath was all about setting up the rematch immediately, but on reflection the Olympian might want some time to get his head right.
There will be another new heavyweight champion in 2019.
If you’re still with me at this point, I am assuming you have more than a vague interest in the noble art, and you’ll need it because we are about to delve into the murky world of boxing politics.
Ruiz is now, presumably, the proud owner of three of the four major heavyweight world belts. But with titles comes responsibility, and the chubby champ has one mandatory challenger to entertain in September and one more at the end of the year.
Famous, good-looking titleholders get a bit of leeway with the mandatories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ruiz is forced to defend or vacant. Whyte is the top ranked guy in the WBO, although Oleksandr Usyk might get the shot as the cruiser-weight champ moving up a division, while the number one IBF challenger is Kubrat Pulev.
Even if AJ returns to face Ruiz before the end of the year, there is still a chance that one of the governing bodies decides that its nominated challenger deserves a shot – so Whyte against Usyk for the vacant WBO strap is a definite possibility at this point.
And then there’s a potential Wilder showdown. Ruiz is managed by the mysterious multi-millionaire Al Haymon, the same man who manages ‘The Bronze Bomber’. Al is known for pairing up his fighters and he has deep enough pockets that Ruiz could be tempted to abandon some of the titles and the AJ rematch.
I think my hangover might be returning.
*Prices correct at publication