By Sean Crose
Fans covered in plastic ponchos to protect them from the rain stood up as Neal Diamond’s voice carried Sweet Caroline through the wet Saudi Arabian night. It was almost time to see if Andy Ruiz’ stunning upset over heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua six months earlier in New York’s Madison Square Garden had been a fluke or if Ruiz remained worthy of the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight title belts he now held. Ruiz had stepped onto the scales a day earlier, for his Saturday rematch with Joshua, weighing a massive 283 pounds. On Saturday, the day of the fight, Ruiz claimed he had gained fifteen pounds between eleven o’clock Friday morning and the time of the weigh-in later that day. Improbable, perhaps, but maybe no more improbable than the Californian’s unlikely rise to the top. Still, people had questions when Ruiz made his way into the ring Saturday to face the serious Joshua for the second time. It was the moment for those questions to be answered.
Joshua jabbed his way through most of the first, then landed hard with a straight right, and cut Ruiz above his left eye. Joshua took the second, though he looked to have gotten cut himself. The challenger then moved and jabbed his way through the third. Ruiz came on strong at the end of the fourth, possibly winning the round. Joshua easily took the fifth, dominating, once again, through movement and an excellent jab. By the end of the sixth, it was clear that Joshua was absolutely controlling the bout. Ruiz, looking extremely heavy, simply wasn’t getting off effectively. Joshua decided to engage more in the seventh, but Ruiz wasn’t able to let anything significant happen.
Ruiz was able to land well on Joshua in the eighth, as Joshua attempted to hold. Was Joshua starting to tire? Joshua kept things smart in the ninth by moving. The only times Ruiz proved effective is when Joshua held or when the Englishman tried to put too many punches together. Joshua continued to keep away from the defending champion the tenth. Heading into the championship rounds, it was obvious that Joshua was putting on a clinic. Joshua jabbed his man silly in the eleventh. With just three minutes to go, Ruiz needed a come from behind knockout to win.
He didn’t get it. Ruiz actually challenged Joshua to meet him in the middle of the ring in the twelfth. Joshua wasn’t having it. By playing it smart the entire fight, the now two time heavyweight titlist earned himself a unanimous decision win over the man who had stopped him six months earlier.