Ruiz v Joshua II: Can AJ reclaim the belts? - The debate

By Liam Blackburn and Peter Hanson 3 December 2019 78
Ruiz v Joshua II: Can AJ reclaim the belts? - The debate

Six months have passed since Andy Ruiz Jr sent seismic shockwaves through the world of boxing to dethrone heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

The 11-1 underdog, a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, rose from the canvas to send 'AJ' to the floor and score a seventh-round knockout.

 

 

Joshua seeks to gain revenge in Riyadh on Saturday and reclaim the IBF, WBA and WBO belts he relinquished to the Mexican at Madison Square Garden on that fateful June evening.

But with the Briton's aura and reputation left in tatters in New York, can Joshua make amends for the first blot on a previously unblemished record? Or will Ruiz reign supreme once again.

Below, two Omnisport writers go head-to-head to discuss what will happen in Saudi Arabia.


All the greats had blips, Joshua will be hungrier now – Liam Blackburn

Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko. Great heavyweight champions who all had to suffer the ignominy of a shock loss to an underdog. All four came back and won a world title again. 

Joshua insisted he did not underestimate Ruiz back in June but with unrelenting chatter about Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, was his eye really on the immediate danger? Would he really have handed his belts to his replacement opponent for a photo opportunity at a pre-fight face-off had he genuinely thought he might lose?

The golden boy of British boxing has had six months to stew over that night at Madison Square Garden, half a year to meticulously prepare for an opponent who was previously parachuted in at the last moment and almost 200 days of listening to the doubters saying he is just a hyped-up fraud.

Such chatter can only sharpen Joshua's mind. This time, there are no questions about Wilder, Fury and what's next; only a focus on righting a perceived wrong. As Ali, Lewis, Tyson and Klitschko did, a hungrier Joshua will approach this fight with a completely different mindset. In the long run, the loss to Ruiz may prove a blessing in disguise for a fighter too big and too good not to reclaim his titles.


It was an upset waiting to happen, Ruiz will keep the belts – Peter Hanson

To say I predicted Ruiz would beat AJ in their first bout would be a lie so big it would make Pinocchio's nose grow to epic new lengths. But that's not to say there wasn't an upset waiting to happen.

Questions had long since been asked about Joshua's chin. As long ago as 2015, before he even had a world title on his arm, AJ had been wobbled by a stinger from domestic rival Dillian Whyte.

Some 18 months later, he was floored for the first time by Klitschko – though he valiantly rose off the canvas to score a fine win in a classic. An unconvincing win against Carlos Takam followed, while there were problems early doors against Alexander Povetkin.

Whatever the cause for his defeat to Ruiz the first time round (was he concussed? Was it nerves? Was he merely outclassed?) there can be no doubting that the aura and air of invincibility he previously carried has gone. It is a big ask to regain it and chase the big fights with Wilder and Fury he once looked certain to face.

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