By Neil Leverett

  • Britain’s Anthony Joshua suffers shock loss after being stopped in Round 7 of fight versus Andy Ruiz Jr. In New York
  • Joshua knocked down four times in bout, before referee stepped in to end the contest
  • Ruiz Jr. becomes first Mexican world Heavyweight champion
NEW YORK, NY – Following Anthony Joshua’s shock World Heavyweight title loss to Andy Ruiz on Saturday night, what did we learn from the Briton’s first defeat at Madison Square Garden?

 

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Joshua dethroned in New York

Saturday night in New York City was meant to be the night Anthony Joshua exploded onto the American stage in world boxing, as a fighter who despite his fearsome reputation and having held the unified World Heavyweight boxing crown since April 2017, could not truly say he was one of the best until he fought across the pond in front of the sport’s great and good.

For all the wrong reasons however, his evening under the lights of the Mecca of Boxing at Madison Square Garden turned into a nightmare, as Andy Ruiz Jr stopped the Briton in Round 7 of their fight in front of a stunned global audience, following referee Mike Griffin stopping the contest after Joshua’s fourth knock down – retreating to a neutral corner showing little sign of any fight.

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As shocks in boxing go it’s hard to argue it will go down as one of the most seismic in the sport’s history. The 29-year-old Mexican-American was going to be an awkward test due to his weight and his Latin American origins, but nevertheless to see the man that only five weeks ago was named as Jarrell Miller‘s replacement holding the IBF, WBO and WBA world titles draped around him, was a truly remarkable sight.

Though his first loss in his career – undoubtedly having put a large dent in his ambitions of becoming undisputed champion and becoming holder all the belts – the Briton was not knocked out, only stopped, which going forward has to be means for Joshua’s future redemption.

 

Briton has ‘Buster Douglas’ moment

Few can argue the magnitude of Joshua’ loss but it should be remembered that this is heavyweight boxing; shocks happen. As the dethroned Brit surmised bluntly in his post-fight presser, quoted by The Mirror:

 

“[Its] heavyweight boxing.”

 

Never have truer words been said. Before the third-round shot that led to his defeat, Joshua could have been confident of finishing the job having knocked down Ruiz second earlier, but in going in to finish the job got caught.

In no other division of boxing is the phrase ‘punchers chance’ more apt, and doing no disservice to Ruiz Jr whatsoever, Joshua got hit by a 19st fighter. It happens. The greats have all been caught off guard.

Compatriot Lennox Lewis suffered a number of sizeable upsets; Oliver McCall stunned the British fighter in front of his own fans at Wembley Arena in 1994, but most infamously was knocked out by American Hasim Rahman as the-then heavyweight circus traveled to South Africa in April 2001.

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Lewis was noticeably distracted that weekend in Brakpak, as was Joshua with the sights and sounds of the Big Apple around him, but importantly Lewis then won the rematch emphatically. The greatest correlation in fights can be drawn when Mike Tyson who was sensationally beaten by James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990 – also on foreign soil in Tokyo.

Comparisons have been made between the two fighters due to their raw power and ferocious ability to win contests, and both men lost in relying on the knockout power to finish a fight, forgetting to apply due patience.

On that night, Tyson lost his undisputed world title – much like Joshua – but it proves that anything is possible in boxing. Tyson won his two return fights via KO, and for Joshua that must now be the target. But the hanging question will now be, how does the Watford man respond.

 

Questions over focus

That said, the issue going forward now for the beaten Brit is what direction to take next. Joshua has a immediate rematch clause in his contract, but that must be taken up before September. Regardless, now the goal has to be getting back to what he does best, something that was noticeably absent on Saturday night.

Something seemed to be wrong all week with Joshua; the edge wasn’t there, the Briton seemed for too relaxed in the build up to the fight and in a party town like New York, that spelled trouble.

On fight night itself things were amiss also. As soon as Joshua came out of his dressing room late – leaving his opponent in the ring for a good ten minutes – things felt destined to go wrong. As did his playing with his mouthguard. The focus was not there.

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When is the past Joshua has been caught in a fight – messrs Dylian Whyte and Wladimir Klitschko will attest – it has been as a result of switching off. With Ruiz Jr ready to be put away at the weekend, the Briton forgot who he was fighting and got tagged on the side of his head.

Joshua’s defence has again been exposed which will be a problem going forward, but that has all been as a result of a sheer lack of failing to stick to the game plan. His mid-round bartering with trainer Rob McCracken was testament to that. Joshua needs to tweak his game.

 

Ruiz Jr is no chancer

The new unified champion may be coined a fluke, but as was documented beforehand, Ruiz Jr is no mug. Playing the role of grateful recipient of a golden ticket shot at the world heavyweight crown, the Mexican disarmed all and pounced to take his chance at boxing glory.

Credit to him. As one of the nice guys of the sport, the fellow 29-year-old fighter deserves his place in the limelight, and having only six weeks ago knocked out his last opponent, should have been given more respect than the 33/1 odds afforded him at the first bell.

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His Mexican roots should have also had had greater emphasis, as should his sheer hand speed for a man of such superior weight, which was something to behold. Knowing such as storied boxing nation yet to have won the heavyweight title was also a huge factor for Ruiz Jr, and he claimed his place in history and indeed folklore in his part native land.

 

Heavyweight division flung wide open

The events of this weekend in New York have further injected new life into an already burgeoning heavyweight division. Whilst plans for a superfight for Joshua with Deontay Wilder disappear into the distance for the time being, names around him will be queuing up for a shot at the new king.

Joshua will already gunning to get his crown back in the near future, but Wilder himself could target a multi-billion dollar bout with Ruiz Jr for all the marbles, but Tyson Fury could now step in to fight Ruiz Jr, if the Manchester fighter disposes of Tom Schwarz later this month.

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Whyte remains number-two ranked WBO contender and cannot be overlooked, and as the stars gathered to watch on this weekend, former undisputed Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk would have been a keen observer, and having made his division debut fight with Carlos Takam shelved due to injury, could be ready to show his hand.

Whatever the case, Joshua’s shock defeat will have shook the sporting world, but it may just have made an already explosive heavyweight division even more of a draw.

 

Tyson Fury faces German Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday 15 June

 

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