Anthony Joshua is now claiming that a “lucky punch” was the reason for his dramatic loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in June. Joshua, aiming to impress fans in New York, dropped Ruiz in the third before walking on to a left hook from which he never really recovered. Fans inside Madison Square Garden were still reeling from the shock by the time the then-WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion was rescued in the seventh.
With the rematch supposedly set for December 7 in the controversial setting of Saudi Arabia (though Ruiz is yet to confirm his part in it), Joshua was interviewed by Sky Sports as the promotional drive to sell the return – set for Sky Sports Box Office – begins.
Speaking on AJ: The Untold Truth, Joshua said “By a lucky punch. By a punch sent by the gods.”
The term ‘lucky punch’ irks many fans, fighters and industry insiders. After all, to throw a punch inside a boxing ring that lands exactly where it was supposed to land is a great skill, one garnered from many years of learning the art of boxing. Simply, Ruiz saw an opening and capitalised on it. Not so much lucky, but perfect. It changed the fight and the whole heavyweight division.
In the immediate aftermath of Joshua’s stunning defeat, the first of his career, the Englishman refused to blame anyone but himself and offered nothing but credit to his conqueror. It was admirable and something of a pleasant change from the excuses we so often hear.
But now, two-and-a-half months later, which have no doubt included some serious soul searching, Joshua has adopted a more bullish approach to the disaster. Which is probably wise – he cannot keep being Mr Nice Guy, after all. In order to rectify what went wrong the first time, he needs more than just ‘Andy Ruiz was the better fighter’.
Joshua’s mind is refocusing, the battle cries reformulating.
“I don’t know what concussion is but, for sure, after the fight I didn’t know what round [the fight was stopped],” Anthony Joshua continued. “So I’m just shocked it took Ruiz Jr another four rounds to get me out. Let me concuss Ruiz, he won’t get back up.”
It’s a bold claim. Particularly from someone who landed a frightfully hard punch on his adversary just moments before the favour was returned and the effect was altogether different.
“Ruiz Jr got hit by a flash knockdown,” Joshua reasoned. “He was still raw, he wasn’t well done, he wasn’t cooked yet. I should have left him a little longer. But the instinct in me was: ‘Boom!’ I ended up getting caught with a left hook on the top of the head. He ain’t that skilful. He’s a good fighter.”
Anthony Joshua has it all to do in the return, and in the months that lead to it, to regain his heavyweight titles. To succeed in his admirable mission, there can be no doubts in his mind that he’s the better fighter. He’s right to take positives from the first encounter while examining his mistakes.
Though the ‘lucky punch’ terminology isn’t right, it’s true that a punch landing on the temple can play havoc with the senses in a way that a whack a few inches lower does not. It’s likely that behind the scenes Joshua knows the punch was far from a freak occurrence.
Prior to the Ruiz loss, Anthony Joshua had only been down once. It came in the thrilling Wembley shootout with veteran Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 which saw him dumped heavily on the canvas after his own overzealous attacks were punished. He seemed to learn lessons from that, exhibited best during a controlled display against Joseph Parker the following year. It seems a similar approach is required against Ruiz, at least in the early going.
“Do what I did in round three, but with more silky skill,” Joshua said about his plans for Ruiz in December. “It was easy to put him down. I need to be smarter next time. I wasn’t boxing properly. Skipping around the ring like a marathon runner. Dancing around the ring. It was never the game plan to have my arms low and be over my front foot.”