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The boxing media review – the Joshua-Ruiz rematch campaign begins

anthony joshua
Action Images/Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Each week George Gigney will review the boxing media, from podcasts to live broadcasts, from newspapers to YouTube. In this first column, it’s clear there’s quite a big rematch approaching…

YouTube

SKY SPORTS kicked their Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua II promotion into gear this week – it’s hard to ignore the timing of it all, with several videos released during fight week for Deontay Wilder who, back in June, announced rematches with Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury just days before the first Joshua-Ruiz fight.

Their first major offering was A Heavyweight Upset; a behind the scenes look at Ruiz’s emphatic win over Joshua.

The main event itself is sufficiently dramatised, and the reaction shots of the commentary teams during that unforgettable third round are a lot of fun.

All-in-all it’s an entertaining bit of promo and serves as a decent refresher for the more casual fans. For the initiated, there’s not much new stuff here though.

‘They think he’s so great, so when I beat him I want everybody to bow to my feet and tell me how great I am’

Anthony Joshua

Sky followed this up with a Ruiz-Joshua debate edition of The Gloves Are Off featuring Tony Bellew, David Haye, Paulie Malignaggi and Carl Froch, chaired by Johnny Nelson.

All retired former world champions, each man is noticeably more honest about their own careers and feelings than they were as active fighters, using their own experiences to reflect on Joshua-Ruiz.

They cover it from every angle, including the criticism Joshua’s trainer Rob McCraken came under. Froch – who was trained by McCracken – is quick to defend him, while Malignaggi feels he could have done more.

Nelson does a good job of pressing each man for definitive answers and he has everyone pick a winner – they all pick Joshua, though it takes their combined might to wrench Haye off the fence before he makes his pick.

Sky also dropped two separate interviews with Ruiz and Joshua themselves. Ruiz, speaking to Adam Smith, cuts a relaxed and confident figure, describing the punches that Joshua dropped him with as “lucky” and insisting that all the pressure is on his British rival. They don’t seem like empty words.

Joshua’s chat with Fraser Dainton is more interesting. Visibly weary from training and sporting a head of longer hair and beard, Joshua’s self-confidence remains, but toward the end of the interview a streak of defiance emerges.

“They think he’s so great, so when I beat him I want everybody to bow to my feet and tell me how great I am,” he growls.

The interview doesn’t go into too much depth though, which seems a shame given the opportunity to investigate Joshua’s current mindset.

Sky, however, seemingly couldn’t find room for much content around Callum Smith – the world’s leading super-middleweight – who was fighting on their channel that weekend.

One of the week’s highlights was the DAZN One Night documentary, which also focused on the first Joshua-Ruiz fight. It features a range of talking heads; Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Buster Douglas, Sergio Mora and Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lungdren.

It’s a high-quality piece of film-making, nailing the drama of the first fight and offering a proper look at the American perspective. But the real star is Mike Tyson. His narration and views of the fight are giddy, insightful, bonkers and hilarious all at the same time. Somebody, anybody, please develop a TV series of Tyson watching fights and narrating them to camera.

Mike Griffin – the ref for the first Joshua-Ruiz fight and currently the best-looking referee in the sport – also features, though only long enough to say he doesn’t think Joshua quit.

Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua in the first fight with Andy Ruiz Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

Podcasts

Pick of the bunch this week is Tris Dixon’s discussion with Micky Ward on the Boxing Life Stories podcast is a must-listen. Ward goes through his career, from the three-year hiatus right through to his epic trilogy with Arturo Gatti. He even discusses how he perfected the left hook to the body; “It’s not about power, it’s about when and where you throw it.”

Dixon does well to resist the temptation to jump straight into the Gatti trilogy, instead walking Ward through his career before getting to its truly defining moments. “I didn’t know I had that in me,” Ward says of their first war.

In a similar vein, the latest episode from Macklin’s Take, hosted by former world title challenger Matthew Macklin and Sky Sports commentator Andy Clarke, saw the pair sit down with two-time British boxing trainer of the year Joe Gallagher.

It’s a frank and honest interview – Gallagher admits he almost quit the sport 10 months ago and speaks about why he’s taken a bit of a backstep from the limelight. He looks back on his career, detailing how he purposely played “the prat” in the build-up to Scott Quigg’s fight with Carl Frampton in order to draw attention away from his fighter.

One of the most insightful podcasts around remains 5 Live with Costello & Bunce. Previewing Callum Smith vs John Ryder, Mike and Steve highlighted Ryder’s underrated pedigree before that pedigree almost caused a shock. They both mention Deontay Wilder’s boxing brain ahead of his fight with Luis Ortiz, describing how he measures opponents, setting them up, before unleashing his power. Yes, Wilder had his head boxed off, but he set Ortiz up beautifully for the right hand that finished it in the end.

Broadcasts

With Adam Smith and Macklin out in Vegas for the Wilder-Ortiz rematch for Sky, the aforementioned Clarke fully stepped into the fray as lead commentator for the Smith-Ryder card in Liverpool, alongside Andy Lee.

With Clarke’s extensive research and knowledge and Lee’s experience and keen eye, the pair do what all good commentary teams should; give the audience more than what they can see for themselves. They were fair and balanced throughout.

‘My opponents need to be perfect for 12 rounds, I just need to be perfect for two seconds’

Deontay Wilder

That being said, Bellew and Anthony Crolla on pundit duty didn’t seem to have a problem with the widely criticised scorecards, while Nelson – the only one of the three who couldn’t be linked to Smith – had Ryder winning. Sky also cut to Callum’s older brother Paul mid-fight for his assessment of things, and while he’s a good analyst, there’s no way he could be impartial in that situation.

Out in Vegas, I thought Smith and Macklin did a good job of calling the action, and I agreed with Macklin’s score (6-0 to Ortiz at the time of the stoppage). Smith also got a great line out of Wilder after the fight: “They [his opponents] need to be perfect for 12 rounds, I just need to be perfect for two seconds.”

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