Joshua prevails but bout fails to live up to the hype

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua poses with the three belts after his championship fight win against Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.. Image Credit: AFP

: If Anthony Joshua took Andy Ruiz Jr for granted the first time that they met six months ago in New York, then the Mexican generously repaid him the favour when the two warriors squared off for the second time on a historic night in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Historic, yes. Because it was the first time that a boxing match of such epic proportions was being staged in the country and the Middle East, with more major sports events guaranteed to follow in what looks a very exciting future for the region.

Unforgettable? No.

Given the massive hype in the build-up, Joshua vs Ruiz 2 was in many ways a huge disappointment.

Not for the Brit though, as he reclaimed all three of the belts (WBA, WBO and IBF) that he had lost to Ruiz in that first meeting at Madison Square Garden with an unanimous 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 decision victory.

But for most boxing fans expecting to see something explosive like in the first fight, it was a big let-down. There was blood, early, a lot of movement in the ring and the big, big punches you would expect from a heavyweight bout. But not much else.

Neither fighter was dropped, neither was genuinely hurt (egos apart), and neither was at any time in trouble through 36 minutes of flying fists adorned with white and golden 14oz gloves, which cost approximately $80.

But the now traditional white ones that Joshua wore on Saturday night fetched him a tidy $85 million.

Try that for size!

Ruiz, who had promised so much in the build-up to the fight, pocketed $13 million, which seems a suitable fee, considering that he didn’t use his hands the way that he should have.

Like in New York when he dropped Joshua to the canvas on five occasions and created boxing history.

Let’s get this straight, the only history that was made on Saturday was by the Saudi Arabian sports authorities who put on a great show, despite the intermittent drizzle.

For right from the opening bell and the early exchanges, the writing was on the wall — this was going to be Joshua’s night. The six foot six inch Brit, a high-pedigree Olympic champion with a orthodox boxing style, looked at his prime. Muscles ripping in the right places and the gloves landing in the right places as well.

Sport-boxing
Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, watches the Joshua-Ruiz fight late Saturday night. Image Credit: AFP

In contrast Ruiz looked woefully out of condition. He tipped the scales at a staggering 283 pounds, the second heaviest in boxing history behind seven-foot two-inch giant Russian Nikolai Valuev (308 pounds) vs Britain’s David Haye in 2009, and struggled to haul him around the ring in pursuit of a super-athletic Joshua.

Allied to the weight gain since the last fight, there were months of partying and lack of serious training in the Ruiz camp. It was hence no surprise to see him being overwhelmed and totally outpointed by a more focused Joshua and the Mexican was the first to admit that complacency proved to be his undoing.

“I should have trained harder. I should have listened to my team and coaches,” he said. “For this fight I was overweight. I didn’t move how I wanted to. There’s no excuses. The partying got the best of me. The next fight is going to be a lot different.

“For the trilogy I will be a lot better. If it’s here even better, I want to redeem myself in Saudi Arabia,” he implored.

Whether that fight materialises is a moot point. It’s Joshua’s call now and the Brit has a long line of high-quality fighters to consider.

Looking ahead to the future, the Briton told BBC Sport: “What can I say? I have been speaking about these guys a long time.

“You see this time, when I had the opportunity to just focus solely on Andy, my head is in the right place. When (Detonay) Wilder, (Tyson) Fury, (Luis) Ortiz and (Oleksandr) Usyk are really ready, they will make the call.

“Until then, I respect them. I won’t continue to call them out.

“I am making my own lane and if they want to be a part of that, they will call.”

Promoter-speak

“He’s responsible for the growth of British boxing. They wrote him off and said he was all hype. He came back from humiliation tonight. Tonight he is the governor of the sport, give him the respect.”

— Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter

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