IT makes sense to start with the focal point of the week; Sky Sports Box Office’s broadcast of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jnr.
It kicked off earlier than normal – 5pm – with the main event set to get going just before 9pm because of the slight time difference. In the early goings we were served plenty of adverts, with extended commercials selling Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination gobbling up the most airtime.
Andy Clarke and Matthew Macklin called the first few fights on the card, and were right to call out referee Ian John-Lewis for not being firmer with Filip Hrgovic over his repeated rabbit punching. Conversely, they also highlighted Eric Molina’s tendency to dip his head low and turn away.
Bar some sound issues with the punditry team, Sky’s broadcast flowed well despite the first two televised fights ending very early, meaning we got a good look at super-bantamweight prospect Hopey Price.
They also did a good job of gradually building up excitement for the main event – an inside look at Joshua’s changing room showed huge posters with slogans like ‘Big man in the room’, ‘loose and heavy’ and ‘creative lead hand’. Carl Froch, on punditry, assured everyone that was not the work of Rob McCracken.
By 8.40pm all the main undercard fights had wrapped up and it seemed perfect timing to lead into the main event, but instead another float fight was put on – and not televised. Instead we got fluff from the Sky team followed by a ‘Story of the week’ VT, which no one asked for. If there’s boxing on, just show us.
By the time Ruiz and Joshua were in the ring, the tension was at its peak, and just as it seemed the introductions would get underway, Sky threw another Saudi tourist board ad at us. It was infuriating.
Adam Smith, Macklin and Tony Bellew were commentating and unfortunately spoke over a lot of the corner instructions in between rounds – given the focus on the instructions from the first fight, it seemed important to hear what was happening this time round.
They also seemed to miss or ignore alarming signs from Ruiz – firstly, how horrifically out of shape he looked even by his own standards, and secondly how easily his face cut and broke; a telltale sign that a fighter has not been sparring much.
The trio rightfully praised Joshua for his excellent boxing – though at times it sounded as though we were looking at the second coming of Ali – yet did not address Ruiz’s slow feet and absent combinations. Late in the fight, Bellew even said that the champion had not been disappointing, which is demonstrably untrue.
Ruiz then made things a whole lot worse for himself by admitting he had barely trained, and then interrupted Joshua’s post-fight interview to demand a trilogy fight which, oddly, Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn both seemed keen for.
George Groves and Froch were the only people on the broadcast willing to criticise Ruiz – Groves pointed out his inability to close the distance, to which Johnny Nelson argued Joshua didn’t allow him to. Froch, off camera, then deadpanned back; “Or it’s because he’s 20 stone.” Glorious.
5 LIVE with Costello and Bunce produced a lot of content during fight week, with various interviews and analysis. In their post-fight instant analysis, they were joined by Richie Woodhall and were justifiably impressed by Joshua’s discipline and skill. Costello argued that Ruiz’s shape and performance do not take anything away from Joshua’s accomplishment, which I don’t entirely agree with – the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. However, Costello does hit the nail on the head when he describes Ruiz’s attitude to the fight as “disrespectful”.
The day after the fight, the pair sat down with Joshua for the most revealing and real interview anywhere with the man all week. He confirmed that he had a “health issue” before the first Ruiz fight and had to have an operation at the start of this camp, though insists everything is now sorted, without revealing what the issue was. He deserves a lot of credit for only mentioning those issues once he had avenged his defeat, rather than in the aftermath of his loss.
The only American podcast with a reaction to the fight at the time of writing was the State of Combat. Brian Campbell and Rafe Bartholomew predominantly focused on Ruiz’s shortcomings, rather than Joshua’s performance.
In non-Ruiz-Joshua related news, Carl Frampton revealed some worrying details about the WBC’s check weigh-ins on his TKO show with Chris Lloyd. Frampton explained that a fighter just has to send a picture of themselves on a set of scales to the WBC during camp when required – meaning they can easily beat the system by, for example, having someone out of shot hold onto them and take some of their weight.
SEVERAL major outlets from either side of the Atlantic ran stories about Saudi Arabia’s ‘sportswashing’ during fight week, leaving the previews and analysis to the dedicated boxing writers.
After the fight, The Athletic published a reactionary interview with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, who slammed both Ruiz and Joshua for their performances before claiming he’ll never fight “AJ”. It came across as petulant and misguided.
ESPN asked three of their core boxing scribes – Dan Rafael, Steve Kim and Nick Parkinson – whether Joshua is the world’s best heavyweight, and they all said no. Rafael and Parkinson both picked Wilder as No. 1, while Kim said the winner of Wilder’s rematch with Tyson Fury will be the division leader. That could be deemed a little unfair – Joshua was the consensus leader before losing to Ruiz and having now avenged that defeat in style, should arguably be deemed No. 1 again.
The Times’ Rick Broadbent chimed in with a short-sighted piece arguing that Joshua is “carrying boxing”, completely ignoring the health of the sport not just in the rest of the heavyweight division, but in most weight classes.
BETWEEN them, IFL and Boxing Social produced over 200 separate videos throughout fight week – a huge and commendable effort from both teams. They also got content that not many others did; IFL wormed their way into exclusive events, while Boxing Social had reflective sit-downs with members of Ruiz’s team after the fight, casting more light on just how disastrous his camp was.