THE shock of Andy Ruiz’s victory over Anthony Joshua is still reverberating round the boxing world. He sensationally toppled the Briton inside seven rounds at Madison Square Garden on June 1. With that win the plump Mexican not only plucked away Joshua’s WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles but he became an instant cult hero, appearing on major US television shows and even feted by the president of Mexico. There is no doubt that rematch will be a huge event. But is it the right move for Joshua to go straight into it after such a significant reverse?
That’s what his promoter Eddie Hearn has indicated they will do. They have triggered their rematch clause. “We can announce that we’ve confirmed the rematch [for November or December of this year]. For me the UK feels like the right place to do this,” he said. “Respect to Andy Ruiz, it was a great performance. We knew he’d be dangerous that’s why we picked him. We wanted to give everyone a great fight.”
Joe Joyce, a long time sparring partner of Joshua’s from his days on the GB Boxing team, advises careful consideration. “It’s a big boost for Ruiz. He already knows what to do, just do it again,” Joyce told Boxing News. “I think I’d have one [fight] in between because he’d have to build up his confidence again. What actually happened? Did he get concussed with sparring? Maybe that’ll come out and explain it. Maybe it was just a bad day. His dad was going after Eddie after the fight, I don’t what the reason was for that. Was he unwell?”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has firmly denied that anything untoward occurred in training. “The conspiracy theories, what happened? ‘He was hurt in sparring,’ ‘he had a panic attack’ – all of which is absolute rubbish. AJ had a great camp,” Hearn said. “Probably if anything not panicked enough.”
“I know he’s won all the titles and he wants to win them again. But be smart. You will get the chance to win them titles again”Amir Khan
“I don’t feel enough people are giving enough credit to Andy Ruiz,” the promoter added. “Just give the respect and credit to Andy Ruiz.”
Hearn however sounds confident that Joshua can and will win a rematch. “Wasn’t the result we wanted [on June 1] but it’s sport. There’s a winner and a loser,” he said. “I believe Anthony Joshua will rise again.”
Crediting Ruiz though does underscore how dangerous the Mexican will be in a rematch, especially if that fight comes next. Joyce pointed out, “I know Joshua personally, he’s very competitive and he’ll want to right them wrongs. But maybe Ruiz is his kryptonite because he’s small, he’s fast and he’s technically good. When Joshua was throwing punches, he [Ruiz] can move, slip, take them on the gloves and then come back with his own stuff. I don’t know what Joshua is going to have to do. Keep it long. But maybe his head was not in the right place for the fight. He could have been discussing other deals, looking too ahead of himself.”
Frank Warren, Hearn’s commercial rival in the UK who promotes his own star heavyweight in Tyson Fury, is an unforgiving commentator. He maintains that Joshua ought to go straight into the rematch. “Who’s going to take any notice of him fighting anybody else? He was the world champion. Who are you going to put him in with? You’d have had Andy Ruiz for a comeback fight. I would have. I was trying to make Andy Ruiz against Hughie Fury. That’s a fact. That’s not bull****,” Warren said. “If they do the rematch, everybody’s going to be interested in it.”
“If I was in charge of Joshua, if I was involved, I’d be asking why was his dad so upset,” Warren added. “If he did get knocked out in sparring why did they allow him to fight?”
“I’ve seen in my time people getting hurt and badly hurt and on rare occasions getting killed in the ring,” Warren continued. “At the end of the fight, he didn’t look upset to me. It’s pretty strange, the whole thing and listening to the talk in the corner, it’s very strange.”
He does see potential opportunity for Tyson Fury. “After the rematch, if Ruiz is successful, then Al Haymon will have Ruiz because that’s who his promoter is and we’ve been able to do business with him, with Tyson,” Warren said.
“I think there are big fights there to be made and big paydays to be made for these guys if that’s what they’re interested in. That’s what needs to be done. I don’t see Joshua beating Ruiz in a rematch. Not on what I’ve seen. That guy only had five weeks notice to get ready for the fight. So he’ll have more time to get ready for the fight. That fella showed that he took his best shot, he got up off the floor and it shows that he’s got the power to knock over AJ. Looking at that, how’s the next fight going to pan out?”
“I believe Anthony Joshua will rise again.”Eddie Hearn
Amir Khan has suffered crushing setbacks in his career and can shrewdly appraise the risks involved with taking an immediate rematch. Now for instance, after his loss to Terence Crawford, Khan is taking a tune up contest against Neeraj Goyat. “You have to give your body that break as well,” he said. “I don’t want to go straight into another hard fight.”
“We all thought Anthony was going to blow this guy away. I remember Andy from the Wildcard gym when I used to train there,” Khan noted. “I never thought he would be one to beat our world champion, Anthony Joshua. I think Anthony Joshua in the rematch should come back stronger and obviously see where he made his mistakes and beat him. I think he’s a better fighter all round. He just caught with a shot and that’s boxing… You have to be one step ahead and you can’t make any mistakes.”
But an eventual rematch and an immediate rematch are two different things. “When I heard he was jumping back into a rematch I thought it was the worst mistake he could make. First of all Ruiz is going to be full of confidence going into this fight. You’ve got Joshua who is going to be a little bit on the edge and on his back foot, knowing that he can be hurt and put down. So I just think it’s a very bad fight to take back-to-back,” Khan said frankly. “I can’t believe that Eddie is putting him straightaway in the mix with him. I think what he needs is a nice easy knockout win, maybe two, then get the fight back again.”
On the other side of this hard choice are the commercial pressures, i.e. that the Ruiz rematch is undoubtedly a big fight and restoring Joshua to his former status as quickly as possible would presumably be gratifying to sponsors, but also the politics of the boxing world are a factor. If they don’t take the rematch at once, getting that fight at a later stage and re-challenging for those world titles could prove difficult to make, or at least take a long time.
“I just feel he’s in a bit of a tough situation, is Anthony Joshua. I don’t think he should fight him again this soon. But then where does he go? Because if he loses that opportunity against him, [and] I think he can beat him, but can he beat him after a loss like that?” Khan wondered.
Coming off a defeat can affect a fighter’s mindset, not necessarily making him hesitant but even being overeager for vengeance can certainly throw a boxer off too. “What happens there, you make mistakes,” Khan said. “I’ve seen it myself when you go into a fight with your emotions high, you make mistakes automatically, if you want to prove a point. For example, when I fought [Danny] Garcia, the guys who I’ve fought when I’ve gone in there emotionally, I’ve tried to go in there and do a number and fight with my heart and that’s where you get hurt.
“I think if he goes into this fight emotionally, he could cause himself a big problem. And what happens if he gets beat again? What are people going to say about him?”
Joe Joyce reflected, “The British public they build you up so much but when you lose that’s when all the memes come out, you just get slaughtered.”
“I think he needs to rebuild his career again,” Khan said of Joshua. “I know he’s won all the titles and he wants to win them again. But be smart. You will get the chance to win them titles again but be smart about it.”
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