NEW YORK – News, notes and observations from Andy Ruiz’s stunning upset win over Anthony Joshua on Saturday night in this week’s 12 Rounds …
1. This Was a Fight You Will Remember
You remember Tokyo, 1990, with Mike Tyson crawling on the canvas, scooping up his mouthpiece, desperately trying to get to his feet after Buster Douglas buried him under a barrage of shots. You remember South Africa, in 2001, when Lennox Lewis grinned at Hasim Rahman before Rahman put Lewis down with a devastating straight right hand.
And you will remember New York, 2019, when Andy Ruiz, all 268-pounds of him, punished Anthony Joshua for seven rounds, dropping him four times before referee Michael Griffin, with Joshua in a daze in his corner, mercifully waved off the fight. I don’t know where you rank this upset—below Douglas Tyson but ahead of Rahman-Lewis; below Rahman-Lewis but ahead of Corrie Sanders-Wladimir Klitschko—but this was a moment you won’t soon forget?
2. This Was Also a Clean Stoppage
Sitting ringside, there was a moment I thought Griffin might stop the fight in the third round. Ruiz had just deposited Joshua on the canvas for the second time, and Joshua had stumbled into a corner. Griffin asked Joshua to walk to him. Joshua did not. In those circumstances, a referee is well within his rights to stop the fight.
3. Right or Wrong Call?
I thought Griffin made the right call—Joshua was hurt, but not so badly hurt that he couldn’t continue, and the round was just about to end—but that was Joshua’s mulligan. When Joshua refused to leave the corner in the seventh, draping his arms over the ropes, Griffin rightly stopped the fight.
4. Welcome to the Big Stage, Andy Ruiz
There’s been some revisionist history polluting social media about Ruiz’s end with Top Rank, some of it done by media members who don’t see the value in making a phone call. It’s true, Top Rank cut ties with Ruiz, but not before making Herculean efforts to get Ruiz into better shape and not until after Ruiz demanded $750,000 to face Bryant Jennings.
Put simply: Top Rank is the best in the business at developing young fighters, and put a lot of resources into Ruiz.
Credit Ruiz though: He split with Top Rank, linked up with Al Haymon and rebuilt his career. His weight made him an easy target, but Ruiz always had talent, including the fast hands that put Joshua down and the terrific chin that allowed him to do it. Regardless of what happens in the rematch—and Ruiz has a great chance to repeat his performance on UK soil in the fall—Ruiz has established himself as a player in the heavyweight division.
“Mom, I love you and our lives are gonna change," Ruiz said. "We don’t have to struggle no more, thanks to god. Everything happened for a reason, baby.”
5. Can We Pump the Brakes on the Joshua Criticism?
Thankfully, social media wasn’t around when Tyson lost to Douglas, when Lewis lost to Rahman and when Wladimir Klitschko lost to Corrie. Sanders. Because chances are if it was, Tyson, Lewis and Klitschko—Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers each—would have been buried. Joshua took a loss, a bad loss but the idea that the 29-year old, ex-gold medalist with significant wins over Klitschko, Joseph Parker and Dillian Whyte is suddenly washed is foolish.
Joshua will need to make changes (more on that below) and it will take some mental fortitude to overcome something like this. Late Saturday, I asked Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, if he believed Joshua had that type of mental toughness.
“I believe he does,” Hearn said. “I believe more importantly he has the work ethic and the commitment to the sport. He has dominated the sport for a while and he has made a lot of money. That’s not what motivates Anthony Joshua. What motivates Anthony Joshua is improving, as a person and as an athlete. Tonight will really affect him as an athlete. He will be devastated and he will want to regain his titles. And that fire will burn inside him once again.”
6. How Does Joshua Rebuild?
As I wrote on Sunday, one of Joshua’s weaknesses is that he doesn’t fight like a big man. The great big men of this generation—Lewis and Klitschko specifically—fought behind a stinging jab, courtesy of the strict tutelage of the late Emanuel Steward, who took over the careers of both men in the aftermath of crushing knockout losses. Steward drilled into Lewis and Klitschko the benefit of keeping your chin tucked and your left hand snapping out.
Does Joshua need to find his Steward? If he doesn’t, his current trainer, Rob McCracken, who has been with Joshua since the 2012 Olympics, needs to shake things up. Joshua doesn’t have a bad jab—he has no jab, not one that can keep an advancing fighter off of him anyway. Ruiz had no reason to fear a head-snapping jab, so he continued to come forward, “hunting down” Joshua, he said, searching for windows to land clean shots.
Joshua has all the tools to come back stronger. But his style of fighting needs to change significantly to do it.
7. Farewell, Whatever Joshua-Deontay Wilder Would Have Been
Earlier this year, Wilder, who holds one piece of the heavyweight title, turned down a four-fight deal that would have guaranteed him $120 million. The deal included two career-defining fights with Joshua. That money is gone, along with what Wilder and Joshua could have been—two undefeated, big punching heavyweights fighting for the undisputed championship.
Wilder took a something of a classless victory lap on social media after Joshua was knocked out, but he’s among the losers of Saturday night, too. The payday he was attempting to build up may never rematerialize and he will have to find ways—and opponents—to make that kind of money back. It’s a reminder that the greediness of the power brokers in boxing are among the reasons this sport can’t seem to move forward.
8. What Was Anthony Joshua’s Father so Upset About?
While I was interviewing Ruiz in the ring, unbeknownst to me another fight was unfolding behind me. Joshua’s father, Robert, was storming in the direction of Hearn, irate. Joshua could be seen holding his father back with one arm, pleading with him to relax. There have been mixed reports as to why. Respected British journalist Gareth Davies reported that he had been hearing that Joshua was hurt during his final days in sparring. There have been other reports that Robert Joshua wanted his son pulled from the fight.
Hearn said Robert was upset with the result while Joshua would only say his father was “upset.” Certainly emotions run high after a loss, but this is a situation worth watching.
9. What Does This Mean for DAZN?
On the surface, Joshua losing would appear to be a disaster for DAZN, the fledgling streaming service that has made Joshua one of its tentpole fighters. However highlights from the fight were everywhere—all with DAZN branding. Mainstream media spent much of Monday discussing it. The rematch will be compelling television, which is more than you can say about what was supposed to be Joshua’s next scheduled fight, a mandatory title defense against Kubrat Pulev.
DAZN certainly needs Joshua to win the rematch if it wants to stay invested in him and keep alive the hope that it can be the platform that broadcasts Joshua-Wilder. But DAZN wasn’t going to get Joshua-Wilder next. A Joshua-Ruiz rematch is about the best they could hope for.
10. Many Are Happy About the Outcome of Joshua-Ruiz
This week, Gennady Golovkin makes his return to the ring against Steve Rolls, an undefeated an unknown Canadian middleweight. The Golovkin promotional machine is already drawing parallels between Rolls and Ruiz. A week later, Tyson Fury is back in a tune-up fight against unheralded heavyweight Tom Schwartz. Frank Warren, Fury’s co-promoter, has already publicly warned that his fighter needs to take a lesson from Joshua and not underestimate his opponent.
For now, anyway, Ruiz has become a figure other promoters can use to prop up mismatches.
11. Callum Smith Impresses. Did He Impress Canelo?
Last year, Smith staked his claim to being called the top super middleweight in the world, knocking out George Groves to win the World Boxing Super Series. He had a considerably weaker opponent on Saturday in former middleweight titleholder—and former Smith sparring partner—Hassan N’Dam, but Smith was nonetheless impressive, knocking down N’Dam in each of the first three rounds before the referee waved the fight off.
N’Dam was Smith’s first defense of his 168-pound title, and it doubled as an audition. Smith is among the candidates to face Canelo Alvarez in the fall, and his crowd inspiring performance certainly won’t hurt his chances. Alvarez owns a minor piece of the 168-pound title, and Smith—promoted by Hearn, who regularly does business with Canelo’s promoter, Golden Boy—is an easily makeable fight.
It says here that Alvarez is still likely headed for a third fight with Golovkin, provided Golovkin gets past Rolls unscathed. A fight I wouldn’t mind seeing Smith in: Daniel Jacobs, who after losing to Alvarez last month says he is headed to super middleweight. Give Jacobs a comeback fight—a matchup with David Lemieux, himself a former middleweight champion moving up, could be an eliminator of sorts—and a Smith-Jacobs fight could be huge.
12. Katie Taylor Joins the Undisputed Ranks
In edging Delfine Persoon in a lightweight unification fight, Taylor became the third active woman to be crowned undisputed champion, joining middleweight Claressa Shields and welterweight Cecilia Braekhus. This fight wasn’t without controversy, however. After only losing a handful rounds since turning pro in 2016, Taylor was in the fight of her life against Persoon, a rangy lightweight who tagged Taylor with some heavy shots. Taylor seemed to embrace the firefight, while in her corner her trainer, Ross Enamait, pleaded with Taylor to fight a more tactical fight.
One judge scored the fight a draw. Two others handed it to Taylor with identical 96-94 scorecards.
From ringside, I scored the fight 96-94, for Persoon.
Taylor is an honorable fighter and, according to Hearn, when Taylor learned how many did not think she won, she instructed Hearn to make an immediate rematch. A rematch would be a fun fight, as would a showdown with Amanda Serrano—Taylor beat Serrano’s sister, Amanda, last year, and Hearn signed Amanda to a co-promotional deal, albeit one that is currently fraught with financial issues—as well as a catch weight fight against Braekhus, which would match two undefeated, pound-for-pound greats for all the marbles.
Whatever direction Taylor goes, the future for her is bright.
Chris Mannix is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and on-air analyst for DAZN.