Written by Adam McGroarty (@AdamMcGroarty1)
Anthony Joshua (23-1-0) overcame Andy Ruiz Jr (33-2-0) in Saudi Arabia to reclaim his heavyweight titles after the highly anticipated rematch went the full 12 rounds.
Ruiz Jr, who took the belts from Joshua after a TKO victory in round seven at Madison Square Garden in June, came into this fight at 20st 3lbs – 15lbs heavier than June’s bout.
After taking centre-ring from the chime of the first bell, it was clear the Mexican was looking to dominate. His success six months ago came when fighting Joshua on the inside, with the Brit having been knocked down four times in the fight.
But with Joshua having trimmed down to 16st 13lbs, coming in 10lbs lighter than previously, his tactics crafted alongside his trainer Rob McCracken became apparent. By coming into the rematch at a significantly lighter weight than his opponent, Joshua was looking to avoid engaging with Ruiz Jr – something which was perfectly executed for 12 rounds.
Joshua was boxing on the outside, using his new-found light footwork and slick movement to steer clear from any of Ruiz Jr’s best efforts. The effective game plan nullified the Mexican’s power in the ring, allowing Joshua to out-box his opponent on the way to a unanimous decision points victory.
What’s next for AJ?
This was just the second time a fight involving Joshua went the full 12 rounds, but on both occasions the two-time world heavyweight champion won via unanimous decisions. The Brit will hold this statistic as proof to his doubters that he can box over 12 rounds, after questions were raised over his technical ability.
Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has hinted that he wants his man to be out again in the Spring, before another bout at the end of 2020.
It was announced post-fight that Oleksandr Usyk (17-0-0) is now the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBO title, with the fight ordered to take place before June 4th 2020. Of course, Joshua can choose to vacate the title, but after agreeing to fights against Pulev (28-1-0) and Povetkin (35-2-1), who were also mandatories, history suggests Joshua won’t be loosening his grip on the WBO strap.
After a short spell away from fighting in the UK, the British public have spoken of their desire to see Joshua return to fight on home soil. Usyk, who has had one fight at heavyweight after moving up from cruiserweight, has previously spoken of his desire to fight Joshua at Wembley – the technically gifted Ukrainian also came to England to fight Tony Bellew (30-3-1) in his last outing before retirement.
Another fighter keen to battle it out with Joshua is Dillian Whyte (27-1-0). The one blotch on Whyte’s professional career is a KO defeat to Joshua in 2015, and there is no doubt ‘The Bodysnatcher’ has come on leaps and bounds since then after beating the likes of Parker (26-2-0) and overcoming Chisora (32-9-0) in both of their two fights.
The huge domestic rematch, which was tipped to happen at Wembley in April 2019, would most definitely be in the interests of both fighters, with Whyte looking to bounce back after a challenging six months.
Kubrat Pulev, who was previously due to fight Joshua in 2018 before being replaced by Parker, is also a mandatory challenger Joshua must consider. The Bulgarian is mandatory for the IBF title, currently held by Joshua, and it seems this is the fight most likely to take place in 2020.
What’s next for Ruiz Jr?
There’s no doubt that after delivering a shocking upset in June and going the distance in the rematch, Ruiz Jr’s stock has risen.
Hearn has already stated he will be looking to pair some of his Matchroom with the Mexican after he threw a grenade into the heavyweight division, with fights against Whyte and Povetkin appealing to boxing fans worldwide.
Deontay Wilder (42-0-1) may also be open to fighting Ruiz Jr, with both boxers part of Al Haymon’s PBC. This would make the pairing much easier to negotiate, compared to Joshua and Wilder who fight for rival promoters.