Jason Gonzalez reports from ringside on a fight that shook the boxing world
Start spreading the news [if you haven’t done so already], Andy Ruiz is the newly crowned unified heavyweight champion. No need to readjust your glasses or computer screen, you read the intro right. But even after 48 hours, the results still seem like they are straight out of a video game.
Ruiz, 29, of Imperial, California stopped Anthony Joshua in dramatic fashion, in front of a packed house of 20,201 at Madison Square Garden. But besides Ruiz being anointed as the kingpin of the division, handing Joshua his first loss meant so much more. Not only did Ruiz shatter Joshua’s aura of invincibility, but he put a major dent in Joshua’s global marketability. Outside of Canelo Alvarez, Joshua was boxing’s biggest international superstar. Joshua has a ton of followers that watch and support him on DAZN. But as Jim Lampley once said 25 years ago, “It happened.”
"I just feel so good, man. This is what I have been dreaming about," Ruiz said. "This is what I have been working hard for. I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true. I just want to thank my team and my family. The sky is the limit, baby."
Although unusual, upsets do occur in the sport, it’s just not often. Being able to witness one is right on par with catching Halley’s comet. George Foreman beating Michael Moorer, as well as Hasim Rahman knocking out Lennox Lewis are classic examples of this fact. Foreman-Moorer took place in 1994, while Rahman-Lewis happened in 2001. And who can forget boxing’s most improbable outcome, 29 years ago, when James “Buster” Douglas floored the ‘baddest man on the planet’ [Mike Tyson] for the 10 count.
Ruiz dropped Anthony Joshua four times over the course of seven rounds, en route to a seventh-round technical knockout victory. That was some wrench Ruiz threw in Joshua’s American debut. With the ‘W’ Ruiz snatched the WBA, IBF, and WBO championship titles. Ruiz, a first generation
Mexican, became the first fighter of Mexican descent to accomplish the feat.
Ruiz a late substitute for Jarrell Miller [of Brooklyn] shook up the heavyweight landscape in ways that some fans may not forgive him for. Ruiz put all talks of a potential fight between Joshua and Deontay Wilder for the undisputed heavyweight championship to rest. [At least for now.]
As an 11-1 underdog, Ruiz, 33-1, (22) survived a third-round knockdown, only to rally back to drop Joshua twice in the same round. By sticking to the script, and using what was working for him, Joshua touched the canvas twice more, prompting the referee Michael Griffin to call a halt to the bout.
"That was my first time getting dropped on the floor. It just made me stronger," said Ruiz, who tipped the scales at a very rotund 268 pounds. "It just made me want it more. I just had to knock him down back. [I took his power] because of the Mexican warrior I am. I have that Mexican blood in me. Talking about the Mexican fighting style, I just proved it."
As previously mentioned, Joshua, 22-1, (21) was initially scheduled to face Miller. However, Miller was scratched from the bout after failing four random drug tests for three different banned substances [PEDs]. Barring Joshua’s highly anticipated U.S. party, he was also making the seventh defense of his title.
"Heavyweight boxing, baby. Thank you to the people who came out this evening. That’s number one," said Joshua, a native of Watford, England. "Heavyweight boxing is on fire. I just have to turn it around a few notches and bring it back my way. I don’t want people to drown in their sorrows. This will show I have the power and the strength. It just wasn’t my night. But listen, it is good for the TV. Good for DAZN and the people watching."
Ruiz-Joshua began as a feeling-out process in which the 6’6” Joshua landed several jabs. It was more of the same in the second. A hard jab rocked Ruiz’s head back as Joshua continued to shoot the jab against his shorter [6’2”] counterpart.
But the momentum of the fight shifted entirely in the third. The third round, a clear candidate for round of the year [Unless something more remarkable happens in the next six months]. Joshua appeared headed for an early night at the office when he nearly decapitated Ruiz with a left hook that violently sent Ruiz to the canvas. To Ruiz’s credit, he rose from the mat and went after Joshua, knocking him down twice in the process.
In the seventh round Ruiz was in attack mode. Joshua never recovered from the impact of the shot behind his ear in the third. Joshua was never able to regain the strength in his legs. With Ruiz smelling blood on his weakened prey, he then unloaded a fusillade of punches that dropped the extremely chiseled but exhausted Joshua.
Joshua beat the count, but Ruiz dropped him once more. As Joshua walked to the corner, he then put his arms on the ropes with his back leaning on the corner post, which indicated to Griffin that Joshua had had enough. He waved the fight off at the 1:27 mark of the same round, leaving everyone in attendance speechless.
At the time of the stoppage, Ruiz led 57-56 on two of the judges’ scorecards, while Joshua was ahead 57-56 on the other. Most certainly Ruiz would have led after the seventh on all scorecards had the bout continued.
With an immediate rematch clause in place, [Matchroom Boxing] Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn expressed during the post-fight presser that Joshua will be exercising the clause.
Ruiz said that he is open for part two with Joshua. More than likely the rematch will take place in November in the United Kingdom. But before even entertaining the idea of an immediate rematch, Ruiz wanted to bask in all the glory.
"Right now, I just want to celebrate," Ruiz said. "I just made history for Mexico. This is what I have been dreaming about since I was 6 years old."
There is nothing wrong with that, Ruiz earned it.
As for Joshua, where he goes from here remains to be seen. He could very well bounce back by defeating Ruiz in the rematch recapturing his straps. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Both Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko were able to return from the perils of defeat to reclaim heavyweight immortality by doing great things in the division. Joshua shouldn’t be written off just yet.
Ruiz fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, which is led by Al Haymon. The WBC heavyweight champion Wilder fights for the PBC. The Showtime network televises all PBC shows, which means that both Showtime and Haymon have the heavyweight division in the figure four leglock.
As Scott Hall used to say, “One more for the good guys.”