By: Kevin Dyson
It is almost three weeks since Andy Ruiz Jr stopped Anthony Joshua, taking shock ownership of the belts that AJ had loaned him for photos pre fight.
That seemingly relaxed approach from the Englishman has since been translated into a form of complacency by many. Meanwhile, both Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have heaped on the equivalent of body shots should they face him in the future by deriding him as a quitter.
There have also been plenty of scribes willing to suggest why they are correct and others who find the thought either misleading or straight up wrong.
I am an unashamed AJ fan. I enjoy the way he fights and how he presents himself. Both he and Tyson Fury are obviously smart, witty guys. However, Fury flits back and forth between infuriating bravado and humourous self deprecation, where AJ is articulate and more humble than 99% of the guys out there. In a way I am glad he was beaten by Ruiz, another sound and humble guy.
Rather than list how AJ will or won’t win a rematch, I will just point out what I am looking at in the coming months.
AJ has admitted himself that he has problems with smaller fighters. The unheralded Carlos Takam took him far further than anyone expected, while Aleksander Povetkin had the upper hand early on.
While Povetkin was making a strong start, AJ was able to change his plan and had began to dominate by the time the KO arrived. I do believe the he would have enough nous to work out Ruiz. The equilibrium scrambling effect of the shots landed by Ruiz in round three put pay to that, in my opinion.
Before the fight AJ had been talking about legacy and not simply just winning. We got the sense that the educated performance of nullifying Joseph Parker would not be enough. Let’s go back to that third round. Whether it was his plan, mindset, complacency or inexperience, he opened himself up and paid the price.
It is something that has played out before, but without the same consequence. Against Dillian Whyte he got into an adrenaline fuelled scrap in the second round, shaking his opponent up with a hefty barrage.
The next round saw the energy drain right out of him. Fast forward to Klitschko. Down in the fifth, the legendary Ukrainian turned the tables on a, once again, seemingly drained Brit. Joshua hit the canvas in the next round but managed to survive until he managed a second wind and that astonishing eleventh round finale.
His stablemate David Price has urged AJ to play it more canny in a rematch.
“He’s going to have to be completely switched on for the 12 rounds and not exchange at all, especially mid-range where Ruiz is at his best, at his quickest,” Price said.
“He’s got to keep it long and literally jab his way through a points victory.”
Fairly obvious advice. Of course, Joshua would hope to avoid the same fate as Price. The big Liverpudlian was also an Olympic medallist, and was being touted for world glory when his came up against veteran American Tony Thompson.
A shock defeat, caused by another one of those brain mashing shots around the ear, still left fans confident in a rematch victory.
If anything this was worse, and had echoes of AJ’s apparent Achilles heel. What looked like Price getting back on track with an early knockdown turned into a nightmare as the big man appeared to punch himself out.
One man who did get back on track was Wladimir Klitschko. After 14 straight wins following his first defeat to Ross Purrity, Wlad’s dodgy chin was exposed by Corrie Sanders in 2003. Having lost the WBO belt, he got Emanuel Steward onboard, but a further defeat to Lamon Brewster for the same title (and like AJ losing after scoring a knockdown) showed how much work the Kronk Gym legend had to do.
We all know how Klitschko was turned into a frustrating defensive monster who, despite having one of the most devastating punches in boxing, became a symbol of the dullness of heavyweight boxing through that eleven year winning stretch.
There is no doubt in my mind that Joshua needs a similar rebirth, just not so extreme. It may even simply be a honing of the style he dominated Parker with. He has some phenomenal assets, so it is important that he maximises them while ironing out the weaknesses like his stamina the ease with which opponents can expose his body and chin.
There is truth to Tyson Fury’s barbs about his physique. We all know the aerobic impact of muscle, so there is surely a balance to met that would allow AJ to increase endurance.
If we are specifically talking about the Ruiz rematch, there certainly needs to be a lot more work to deal with the new champ’s speed and skill. While it may have been at six week’s notice, AJ had been focused on combatting Jarell Miller, a fighter who was a very different beast. Good and relevant sparring in the rematch is a must.
I don’t think there is hyperbole in saying Joshua could retire after another loss. His entire career has been fast tracked to the top ever since getting that 2012 Olympic Gold. I can’t see him continuing as an also ran. I would put him in the similar category (although, nowhere near the talent) as Lomachenko. Hell, Loma has only fought a single pro bout that was not a world title shot or defence. He will have belts or he will out of the sport.
I am sure there are probably more views contrary to my view on AJ. Just remember, the heavyweights are the most unpredictable out there. It only takes one punch…….