By: Sean Crose
Here’s the truth – Anthony Joshua may well have won on Saturday, even if Andy Ruiz had shown up in shape. After losing his heavyweight titles in stunning fashion to Ruiz a mere six months earlier, Joshua arrived for their rematch in Saudi Arabia this past weekend with an excellent game plan in mind. It ended up being a plan Joshua executed to perfection in the fight, one which allowed him to regain the WBO, WBA, and IBF belts he had lost Ruiz in June at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Still, Ruiz almost guaranteed a Joshua win by weighing a fill fifteen plus pounds more than he did for the first fight with Joshua.
At that’s not all. Ruiz skipped – or missed – a Thursday conference call with the media, leaving his trainer, the loyal Manny Robles, to carry his water for him. There had also been rumors – now confirmed – that the Californian had been partying hard, way too hard it seems, after besting Joshua in their first fight. After Saturday’s disastrous performance, Ruiz openly admitted to his lack of discipline and even apologized to Robles and his father. He said he’d be back better than ever next time, and that he’d be everything he should be in a third fight with Joshua, but few seemed to take Ruiz’ words seriously. How could they?
“I think I didn’t prepare how I should have,” are not words any professional fighter wants to be noted for. Ruiz is noted for them now, however, and with good reason. Needless to say, the thirty year old now former champion seems to be receiving little sympathy throughout the fight world. “Andy Ruiz blew a big opportunity in the Middle East,” former pound for pound star Andre Ward tweeted Saturday. “He said he would die in the ring to keep his belts. It didn’t take all of that, it just took the discipline and courage to push the plate back and deny himself, to put himself in the best position to win. He couldn’t do it.”
Ward essentially put it in writing as well as anyone. There’s room for Ruiz to improve, though. Rather than being seen as the new Buster Douglas, which he’s now rightfully being viewed as, Ruiz can get his act together and start on the long road back to earning the respect he squandered over the course of half a year. Stranger things have happened. Ruiz embarrassed himself this past weekend, but he didn’t outright disgrace himself the way Roberto Duran did when he quit mid fight against Ray Leonard. If Roberto Duran could grind his way back into boxing fan’s good graces – and Duran did just that – then surely Ruiz can do the same.
Ruiz isn’t Duran, however. He’s a good fighter, though not a great one. Even if he does get a third match with Joshua, and shows up in the best shape of his life, it’s hard to imagine Joshua losing. It might be close, but the Englishman now seems to have figured his man out. Plus Ruiz might not be good enough to improve all that much as a fighter at this point. So yes, Ruiz may well have ended his fifteen minutes of fame and glory without putting in an honest effort. That doesn’t mean he can’t find redemption, however. Some impressive wins might do the man wonders, even if they’re not against the best in the business. Even an impressive loss to the likes of Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder would earn Ruiz acclaim.
In order to succeed by any standard, however, Ruiz will have to start acting like a professional, far more so than he did when he was a champion.