One man burned for the win, needed it and acted like it, after taking it for granted last time. One man opted against working as hard as he should have, after originally fighting like a man who had no expectations of winning, nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Heavyweight Anthony Joshua turned the tables Saturday on Andy Ruiz, rather easily defeating his historic conqueror from June. The betting crowd got it right, despite how much some of us doubted Joshua could make the necessary adjustments against a stylistic nightmare that became real life in the summer.
The much larger Joshua fought like the larger man: jabbing, staying out of range, avoiding most exchanges. Before, he’d fallen in love with his considerable power, and didn’t take his tubby foe too seriously. He lost weight — presenting a “boxing body” with leaner muscle needed for repetitive action rather than a bodybuilder’s physique — and was able to stick and move and circle all night long. It paid off. He won a decision by 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109, all perfectly reasonable scores.
These were the improvements Ruiz’s corner expected, but questioned were possible. Maybe it was wishful thinking, with Ruiz coming into camp late and weighing 16 pounds more. If Ruiz had overcome his chubbiness to date, he made it harder to do so Saturday on DAZN. He couldn’t find the range, and didn’t have the energy to keep applying the pressure, and looked as though he tired.
It’s not that Ruiz didn’t pose any danger at all. In fact, he landed some pretty excellent shots here and there. The ruinous shot from the initial round 3, more and more, looks like a one-in-a-thousand-or-more punch. Joshua’s been hurt before, been down before, but from the moment that shot landed he was out of it. He’d always recovered, to date. On Saturday, he took Ruiz’s best blows like they were not much trouble.
Joshua isn’t a finished product yet. For instance, for all the work he reportedly did on clinching in camp, he nonetheless got owned inside clinches and coming out of them. You still have to give him considerable credit for overhauling his game so dramatically from one fight to the next. And athletically, he’s so gifted that if he can stay focused on his craft, he still could rule this division for a long while to come.
Ruiz campaigned for a third fight in-ring afterward. Joshua said a bunch of corny shit that he thought was funny — “So nice, had to do it twice” and “If you heard, there’s a third” — and sounded amenable. It doesn’t interest this writer, at least not yet. Even if Ruiz came in only semi-tubby, a focused Joshua fighting like this still should be the considerable favorite. Do it again later, if Ruiz keeps winning.
You know what remains interesting, though, the most interesting? The same thing that has been for years: Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder. All three of those men can claim to be the world’s best heavyweight. And so, some essential business resolved, the wait continues.
(Anthony Joshua connects against Andy Ruiz; via)