THE world was shocked when Andy Ruiz toppled Anthony Joshua to win the WBO, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles. But no one was more surprised than Joe Joyce. The British heavyweight was a long time sparring partner for Joshua when Joyce was on the GB squad. He’d seen Ruiz in the gym too and didn’t expect the diminutive Mexican to seize the championship belts.

“Not in a million years. I saw Andy Ruiz in Big Bear and he was sparring with Charles Martin. But he was struggling to do two to four rounds and he didn’t want to spar me. I was just thinking it would be a walkover job for Joshua. Little did I know,” Joyce told Boxing News.

“I did a load more rounds with Martin,” he continued. “I think [Ruiz] was struggling with fitness, struggled with altitude and he wasn’t willing to spar me.”

But he saw a different fighter at Madison Square Garden on June 1. “I didn’t think Ruiz was that powerful a puncher,” Joyce said. “He must have really pulled out all the stops training for that fight.

Joe Joyce
Joe Joyce has designs of his own on a world title challenge Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

“To see him be so calm under fire and counter, he’s really fast and came in low with quick shots. It startled Joshua. I think it shows how Joshua hasn’t really got a good chin. Once he gets hit he seems to be in trouble. Imagine him against Wilder… When he fought [Wladimir] Klitschko he was troubled but Klitschko didn’t have it to finish him off but Ruiz definitely did. I guess that was the difference.”

It’s not easy being the world heavyweight champion. It remains to be seen whether Ruiz can cope with his newfound status. “It might go to his head,” Joyce wondered. “I don’t know from personal experience yet but you know how [Tyson] Fury won all those belts off Klitschko but then he went off the rails because he’d completed his objective, what he was in his whole boxing career to get to, then he got there. So we’ll see what happens with Ruiz, if he’s going to stay training and stay focused on defending those belts.”

Joyce is determined to join the fray at championship level sooner rather than later. He must get past veteran contender Bryant Jennings in his next fight, on July 13 at the O2 in London. Joe said, “It’s a good challenging fight. He’s a big name and he’s only lost to people like Klitschko and [Oscar] Rivas and stuff like that. So he’s going to be hard to beat and it’s a very credible name to go on my record, if I should beat him. Which obviously I plan on doing.”