The Empire Strikes Back!? Starring Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz
By: Kirk Jackson
Over the course of time, historic empires experience a meteoric rise through careful craft and many, as is the scope of life, eventually fall. Historically, the Roman Empire, the Qing dynasty, Byzantine Empire and Ghana Empire are just a few that come to mind.
From a fictional standpoint, The Galactic Empire of Star Wars fame, is arguably the most well-known dominion.
In boxing, greats such as “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather have all enjoyed experiences as the most polarizing constellation, amongst the solar system.
This current era was supposed to be Anthony “AJ” Joshua’s (22-1, 21 KO’s) reign.
Joshua was the pugilistic version of the British Empire. Like the British Empire, he fulfilled his own version of sovereignty; through championship unification and by capturing three of the four world titles in the heavyweight division.
But like Luke Skywalker, flying the X-wing down the Death Star’s channel, manufacturing the shot that destroyed the Death Star, Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz (33-1, 22 KO’s) playing spoiler, contrived the left hook that led to a series of knock downs for Joshua.
Ruiz would ultimately pummel Joshua into submission, earning victory in spectacular fashion and leaving the Joshua Empire in shambles.
Staying with the Star Wars theme, Ruiz epitomizes A New Hope – as it relates to the current dynamic of the heavyweight division.
While we have other champions, other great fighters such as WBC heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (43-0-1, 42 KO’s) and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury (29-0-1, 20 KO’s) battling it out amongst each other in recent times, Joshua remained isolated from those challenges in his own realm.
While capturing three world titles may be deemed as impressive regardless of circumstance, it appeared there wasn’t a willingness from his side to face Wilder, or even Fury for that matter. Which is not to suggest those bouts would not manifest from fantasy to reality and there still is a chance of these bouts occurring eventually.
However Wilder believes the dreams of unification will not happen if Joshua regains his titles over Ruiz.
“I’m looking forward to him defeating AJ (Anthony Joshua) and winning a second time. He has all the momentum and courage. He knows what to do and I think he’s going to be victorious,” said Wilder to reporters.
“It would be great for boxing if he wins because then we can finally have a unification bout. One champion, one face, one name. ‘That’s not the case if AJ wins, he’s already stated that he has no interest in fighting me no more. In the heavyweight division it’s all about unifying the division. When you have two fighters who are in agreement about that then you have no choice but to go for that fighter and you want that fighter to win. There should just be one champion in this division…so go Ruiz!”
Backed by the current WBC heavyweight champion, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone with a bad word to say about Ruiz. Even his former promoters speaks of the highest esteem regarding the first ever heavyweight champion of Mexican ancestry.
“We let Andy go because of the financial demands he was making,” said former promoter Bob Arum to Boxing Scene.
“We thought they were too high for us. We have never had anything but the utmost respect for Andy. He’s a terrific kid. He’s great. We enjoyed working with him. But these things happen. We didn’t renew with him and he went elsewhere and hit the lottery. Great for him. He deserves whatever he gets because he’s a nice person. When we parted with Andy, we made the right move. It happens.”
It’s possible Ruiz is introducing his own version of the Age of Discovery – ushering new life into the division and bringing about the possibility of unification bouts against Wilder and or Fury.
Since defeating Joshua this past summer, Ruiz has enjoyed his newfound wealth and acclaim to fame. A combination of buying lavish gifts for his family, performing charitable acts and living like a rock star, Ruiz realizes his distinction as heavyweight champion, affords these types of opportunities and does not want to relinquish the throne.
“Of course, I don’t want these beautiful belts to go away,” Ruiz said in the final press conference leading up to the rematch.
“Remember, I’ve been doing this since I was 6 years old. It’s finally paying off and no way I’m going to let these belts go. I’m going to die trying, and do anything that’s possible to get that victory. It’s been a long journey, a long roller coaster in my life, and no way I’m going to let these go Dec. 7. Let the best man win.”
Entering the rematch this weekend, we have the champion with retention on his mind. Also, the mindset of the former champion, now turned challenger, with the mentality of retaliation and retribution.
Joshua shares certain parallels with the Galactic Empire of Star Wars. While Joshua’s promotor, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, isn’t Emperor Palpatine and Joshua is not some treacherous force of evil, there is a collection of fans and media alike who dislike the former champion.
Sometimes a dominant force is not liked or accepted for whatever reason. The New England Patriots have many detractors, as with the New York Yankees. Different variables for each respective entity, but it doesn’t matter if you’re well liked. Kings and Queens rule regardless.
Referring back to Star Wars, the Empire regained control in the sequel and it remains to be seen if Joshua can do the same. He may tap into darker forces to create the result he wants.
If you’re a high profile champion such as Anthony Joshua losing like he did n this social media era is extremely rough but if he over comes this backlash and win clean he’s gonna be hard 2beat in the future ps I’m a fan of both fighters I jus wanna see a great fight #RuizJoshua2
— JulianJrockWilliams (@Jrockboxing) December 4, 2019
As mentioned earlier, subsequently in spite the events of A New Hope, the Empire still maintained control of the galaxy. Joshua is still the premier star heading into the rematch and regarded as the favorite. He is considered by most United Kingdom-based media outlets as the biggest star in the division.
In spite of the upset loss to Ruiz, all it takes is victory in the rematch and things can return to how they once were for Joshua.
Any aura of invincibility is certainly erased, but new levels of greatness may be on display by showcasing he can combat through adversity and show he never lost love or passion for the sport.
“I’ve been in boxing a while now and when I came into boxing, I didn’t come to take part, I came to take over, with full force, fully committed,” said Joshua in a press conference. “The focus has already been there but I never had a chance to reflect.”
“European Championships, World Championships, Olympics, British title, world title, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I am not here to put on a show, I am just here to win. I’ve been around the block in this game in a short space of time. So I have to understand that I am definitely experienced, I know what I am doing.”
“I still enjoy it 100%, because I am getting better all the time. You have someone like Vasyl Lomachenko, who is great but then you have some who get better with every fight, like Canelo Álvarez, and that is what I am. You are going to see me get better every step of the way. One loss can’t strip your skin off overnight, when you put your solid foundations in, one chip in the brick can’t destroy the whole building.”
If earlier claims are to remain true, as far as obtaining domination of the sport, Joshua must win this weekend. Moving forward, he must also conquer America. That means an eventual showdown with the Bronze Bomber.
If Joshua wants to establish complete supremacy, that may entail challenging another monarch. The Gypsy King.
“Me and Andy are very different, but the only thing that all of us in this room have in common is time. I have had to use my time very wisely. I didn’t lose any heart, I didn’t lose any fire in my belly. I’m just really looking forward to it. There’s no fear in my heart, no fear in my eyes, no fear in my mind.”
Joshua aims to complete the ultimate tale of redemption this weekend at Diriyah Arena, Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Will the Empire strike back?