Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 12 July 2020

Anthony Joshua's lost invincibility puts him on back foot in the heavyweight division

From losing his world titles to a possible blockbuster fight with Deontay Wilder, the repercussions to the Briton's shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr are likely to be felt for some time

Anthony Joshua faces a tough task to pick himself up after his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York. Action Images via Reuters
Anthony Joshua faces a tough task to pick himself up after his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York. Action Images via Reuters

Defeat is always a harsh place, particularly in boxing. One moment everyone would have seemed like Anthony Joshua’s friend, next they must have seemed to be queuing up to give him a kick.

Joshua was exposed by his defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. To the harshest of critics, he will be referred to as a “hype job”, an identikit boxer built from muscle and marketing. At the very least, he has fallen short of what the boxing world hoped he would become.

Maybe Joshua simply under-estimated Ruiz, in which case the Mexican-American taught him a lesson in New York that he will never forget.

But Ruiz did more than that. Joshua will get a quick chance of revenge, courtesy of a rematch clause. However, any sense if invincibility surrounding Joshua is now gone for good.

It doesn’t do to read too much into any single performance. Whether he admits it or not, Joshua’s loss had its roots in overlooking his opponent.

He expected to beat Ruiz and do it quickly. Hence he lost patience with his gameplan in the third round, stepping in to range to land a right cross and left hook that dropped Ruiz to the canvas.

As Ruiz rose, instead of showing caution, Joshua waded in to finish the job and was caught. A left hook landed flush, it led to the first of four knockdowns. It was a punch from which he never seemed to recover.

Joshua has become a big business and all of that came crashing down under Ruiz’s under-rated fists.

The exciting plans for the future, the big-money endorsements, they only come along for the winner. Such was the confidence surrounding Joshua that this bout was billed as “The Road To Undisputed”.

He can forget about that too.

The rematch clause comes with a catch, because it looks unlikely that the three belts Ruiz won at Madison Square Garden at the weekend will be on the line when he they meet in November or December, either at the O2 arena, London, or the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

For the moment, Ruiz is the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion, but all those titles come with a duty to face their mandatory challenger and, because Joshua took a voluntary defence against Ruiz, the last two of those governing bodies are already growing impatient.

The situation mirrors the one that Tyson Fury faced after beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, having agreed to an immediate return in the event of pulling off the victory.

This made him unavailable to face the IBF’s mandatory challenger, the already forgotten Vyacheslav Glazkov. The sanctioning body stripped Fury of the belt within two weeks.

The next defence was due to be against the WBO’s mandatory contender, who is still to be decided. The IBF are in line after them.

Unless the WBO could be persuaded to give that mandatory slot to Joshua, things may start to get messy and hopes of unifying all the belts, with a unification match against Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, could be dead.

Wilder is due to have a rematch with Luis Ortiz, probably in September, before facing Fury in a rematch early next year, providing that Fury can first negotiate his way past Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas on June 15 and another opponent in September.

The pair both took to Twitter within an hour of Joshua losing, with almost polar opposite messages.

“These things happen, rest up, recover, regroup and come again,” Fury wrote.

“He wasn’t a true champion,” Wilder wrote. “His whole career was consisted of lies, contradictions and gifts.”

Great champions lose. For the likes of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, defeats helped mould them into the champions they are remembered as.

Joshua now has gone from potential legend to work in progress. The questions about his chin, which have always been there, have been magnified.

His inability to negotiate his way through when finding trouble was another cause for alarm.

Ruiz experienced a life-changing moment. He became the first world heavyweight champion representing Mexico, perhaps the proudest boxing nation of all, but one more associated with little men.

But his success was no fluke. He believed in his hand speed, he believed in his chin and when his chance came, he took it.

Updated: June 2, 2019 06:19 PM

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