Anthony Joshua was focused, disciplined and in supreme condition. In other words, he was everything Andy Ruiz Jr. was not.
In regaining his three heavyweight world titles on Saturday by masterful one-sided decision, Joshua stamped what happened on June 1 in New York as nothing more than an off night, when Ruiz got lucky with a big right hand he landed perfectly in the third round that ultimately earned him the win a few rounds later. Joshua said the shot concussed him, and I believe he has never gotten the credit he deserves for lasting into the seventh round before the fight was stopped.
But six months later, Ruiz admitted after the fight that he had spent much of his time since their first matchup partying, spending lavishly and ignoring training. Now Joshua has the belts back around his waist as he showed why he is the elite fighter of the two.
Joshua never made excuses about the loss. He never blamed anyone but himself. He simply said he would go back to work and be better for the rematch.
He and trainer Robert McCracken — also vindicated even though some wrongly called for Joshua to fire him after the loss — devised the perfect game plan and Joshua executed it to perfection. It may not have resulted in an action-packed fight, but Joshua did exactly what he needed to do to win. He got in better shape, dropping 10 pounds, and had outstanding stamina to simply box, move and jab for the entire fight. Only from time to time did he stand flat-footed and launch his big right hand, and one of those punches cut Ruiz’s left eye in the first round.
The poise and intelligence Joshua showed in sticking to the plan was admirable. He had taken heed of the advice former rival and good friend and former champion Wladimir Klitschko had given him in recent months, when Joshua turned to him for counsel. In fact, Joshua looked very much like the technical fighter Klitschko so often was during his historic second title reign.
England’s Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) also showed tremendous class in winning just as he had in defeat.
“I have the utmost respect for Andy Ruiz, who beat me fair and square in the first exam,” he said. “I failed the first time, but I came back and studied hard and passed this time.
“I know that my fans like to see me knock people out, and I can do that, but sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way.”
That Joshua was able to change his style so dramatically reminded of the way the great Marco Antonio Barrera, a one-time straight-ahead brawler, altered his style so completely and routed monster puncher Naseem Hamed to win the lineal featherweight crown in 2001.
Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing is prone to exaggeration, like every promoter, but he was on point about Joshua’s win.
“It was an absolute master class,” Hearn said. “He was able to stay disciplined. People have doubted his boxing ability, his endurance. He was humiliated at Madison Square Garden. It was the American coming-out party and it was ruined. He came back and put on that performance and it was beautiful. That’s the sweet science. That was like Picasso on a canvas, painting a masterpiece.
“It was win by all means necessary, and Ruiz’s job to stop it. What got Joshua in trouble the first time was engaging in a firefight when he could have won by popping the jab and circling away. It’s a simple strategy that you would think Ruiz would have planned better for. He didn’t. Anthony Joshua would have been a fool to stand and trade at any point with Ruiz. He absolutely had to win this fight and used his physical advantages to do so. Ruiz didn’t learn how to cut off the ring nor did he attempt to find a creative way to get inside.”
As brilliant as AJ was, Ruiz (33-2, 22 KOs), 30, was the opposite.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Ruiz was compared to one-hit wonder Buster Douglas in the lead up to the rematch and said he’d prove he wasn’t, but made no real effort to do so. Instead, Ruiz, who has never really been in great physical condition for fights, was a career-heavy 283.7 pounds, nearly 16 heavier than in June. He’ll regret that for the rest of his life because had he been in better shape, better conditioned to really go after Joshua for 12 rounds, he might have won again.
Instead, he showed up for the roughly $10 million payday and admitted after the fight he hadn’t trained diligently.
Ruiz said he didn’t want to make excuses at the postfight news conference, and then spent the next 15 minutes doing just that, apologizing to trainer Manny Robles and father Andy Ruiz Sr. for not listening to them and for being lazy in training.
“There was always tomorrow, tomorrow,” Ruiz lamented. “I should have taken this fight more seriously. Three months of partying and celebrating affected me.
“Being bigger and heavier, I thought was going to benefit me. It didn’t. Being overweight, I thought I was going to be stronger. I should have trained harder and listened to my team.”
Then Ruiz had the audacity to call for a third fight.
“I know I will be ready for the next one,” he said. “The partying and all the stuff got the best of me.”
While Joshua focused on redemption and did all the work necessary, Ruiz didn’t. Both will live with their decisions for the rest of their lives.
Charlo needs competition
As expected, Jermall Charlo retained his middleweight title in one-sided fashion, knocking out Dennis Hogan on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Yes, Charlo looked good and made it exciting. But raise your hand if you are tired of seeing Charlo face weak opposition.
I can’t blame Charlo. He seems like he wants to face quality opposition. During his junior middleweight tile reign, two of his three defenses were against top opponents in former titlist Austin Trout and Julian Williams; Williams would go on to win a unified title.
However, unlike the Premier Boxing Champions welterweights, who have a plethora of quality opponents to face, that is not the case at middleweight. Charlo is much like welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, who is outstanding, but has no top foes to face in the Top Rank universe.
Despite middleweight being filled with top names, who fight for other promoters and networks, Charlo has been relegated at middleweight to facing Jorge Heiland, Hugo Centeno Jr., Brandon Adams and Hogan, who had moved up in weight to fight him. The only upper-echelon foe Charlo has faced in the division is Matt Korobov last December, and many thought Korobov deserved the decision.
Houston’s Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) is in his prime at 29 and it’s time his team gets him a major fight.
Prospect of the weekend: Filip Hrgovic
Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic (10-0, 8 KOs), 27, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Croatia, looks to have everything you want in a prospect: skills, power, solid defense, ring IQ, a big amateur background and a professional team behind him (co-promoters Matchroom Boxing and Team Sauerland and trainer Pedro Diaz). He’s getting better and better and he’s going places.
On the Ruiz-Joshua II undercard, he notched his most notable win, tearing apart former two-time title challenger Eric Molina (27-6, 19 KOs) in a third-round knockout. Hrgovic pounded him throughout the fight and scored two knockdowns.
If you could buy stock in a heavyweight, he’d be one you’d grab a few shares of.
The next step: Hrgovic is on the fast track without question. I’d expect to see him back in the ring in the first quarter of next year and in some sort of serious fight by the end of 2020.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Montreal: Super middleweight David Lemieux (41-4, 34 KOs) W10 Maksym Bursak (35-6-2, 16 KOs), scores: 94-94 (twice) Lemieux, 94-93 Bursak
Former middleweight titlist Lemieux, 30, of Montreal, made the official move up to super middleweight after so many issues making weight at middleweight. But Lemieux, in his first fight in 15 months, struggled mightily in the split-decision win over former title challenger Bursak, 35, of Ukraine. Bursak dropped Lemieux twice, in the first round and again in the fifth round. Lemieux scored a knockdown in the sixth round of a fight he won, but this victory does not seem to bode well for Lemieux having a serious future in this division.
The undercard included a pair of long-faded former heavyweight titleholders getting knocked out in Samuel Peter and Sergei Liakhovich. Arslanbek Makhmudov (10-0, 10 KOs), 30, a Russia native based in Montreal, blitzed Peter (38-9, 31 KOs), 39, a Nigeria native fighting out of Las Vegas, in the first round, to drop Peter to 2-6 in his last eight fights. Simon Kean (18-1, 17 KOs), 30, of Quebec, stopped Liakhovich (27-8, 17 KOs), 43, a Belarus native fighting out of Scottsdale, Arizona, in the 10th round to drop him to 2-5 in his past seven.
Saturday at Puebla, Mexico: Junior bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22 KOs) TKO6 Miguel Gonzalez (31-3, 8 KOs), retains a world title. Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Ancajas, 27, a Filipino southpaw, retained his 115-pound belt for the eighth time via dominating showing against Gonzalez, 30, of Chile, in the Navarrete-Horta co-feature. Ancajas, more aggressive than usual, kept a steady attack on Gonzalez’s body. He steadily wore Gonzalez down until badly hurting him with a left uppercut in the sixth round and continuing to pound away until referee Wayne Hedgpeth stopped it at 1 minute, 53 seconds. Hopefully, Ancajas can stop spinning his wheels and get a serious opponent in 2020.
Saturday at Mashantucket, Connecticut: Light heavyweight Peter Manfredo Jr. (42-7, 23 KOs) TKO4 Milton Nunez (37-23-1, 32 KOs)
Former two-time world title challenger Manfredo, 38, of Providence, Rhode Island, who ended a 3.5-year retirement Nov. 23 and blew away journeyman Melvin Russell in 79 seconds, returned to action two weeks later to face Nunez, 32, of Colombia, who was a step up from Russell. Nunez wobbled Manfredo twice with right hands in the first minute of the fight before Manfredo got himself together. From there Manfredo took over, avoided Nunez’s right hand and really began to take it to him in the fourth round, prompting Nunez’s corner to throw in the towel at 1 minute, 39 seconds.
Friday at Sydney, Australia: Junior middleweight Tim Tszyu (15-0, 11 KOs) TKO4 Jack Brubaker (16-3-2, 8 KOs) Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Australia’s Tszyu, 25, the son of Hall of Famer and former undisputed junior welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu, is a fighter on the rise. He looked sharp dismantling countryman Brubaker, 28, with relative ease. Tszyu landed many strong straight right hands to the head and body and dished out a beating to Brubaker. When Tszyu continued to tee off in the fourth round, Brubaker’s trainer, Hall of Famer Jeff Fenech, threw in the towel and referee John Cauchi waved off the fight at 1 minute, 31 seconds.