By Tom Donelson / Author, Member Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA)
Anthony Joshua left the British Isles and made his first visit to Madison Square, once the mecca of boxing but still a venerable boxing location. His opponent Anthony Ruiz was four inches shorter and Joshua had an eight-inch reach advantage. Ruiz previous loss was a majority decision loss to Joseph Parker in Parker’s native New Zealand. Ruiz is hardly looking the part of the fit heavyweight with a flabby middle, but he had won 32 heavyweight fights and going into the fight, had 21 knockouts. Four weeks ago, Ruiz was told that he would be Joshua’s opponent as Jarrell Miller flunked drug tests. Joshua was the heavy favorite, and this was to be a tune up for a future Wilder fight, and coming to the Garden was his introduction to American fight fans.
Joshua’s job was simple, win big and start the countdown to a big fight with either Tyson Fury or Wilder. The first round was a feeling out round, as Joshua threw jabs; and the height and reach looked obvious. The sculptured, well-built Joshua looked the part of the Champion, but in the third round, the fight changed.
Joshua knocked Ruiz down early in the third round and all looked right with the world except Ruiz got back up. Joshua smacked a right hand to Ruiz’s jaw, but Ruiz moved forward and landed a right on Joshua, sending Joshua down. Ruiz turned into a battering ram as he kept nailing Joshua and one more big right sent Joshua down a second time. Joshua looked in serious trouble.
Ruiz kept the pressure up in the fourth round, but Joshua survived. In the fifth round, Joshua appeared to have weathered the storm and won the round with his jab and landed the best punch of the round with a left hook. In the second half of the sixth round, Ruiz let his hand loose and started to hurt Joshua.
The beginning of the seventh round saw Ruiz go after Joshua with a series of punches and he sent Joshua down. Joshua got up and Ruiz kept up the pressure, sending Joshua down a second time in the round. Joshua managed to get up at the count of seven minus his mouthpiece. Joshua drifted back to the rope before the judge said “no mas”. Joshua looked surprise but this was his fourth knock down in the fight and he was being dominated.
This fight turned the heavy weight division upside down as Ruiz put himself in the heavyweight division sweepstakes as he now owns three of the heavyweight belts. Wilder holds the other plus you have the undefeated Tyson Fury who fought Wilder to a draw. At the top of the heavyweight elites sits Fury and Wilder with Joshua taking a step back. Ruiz now is in the Wilder’s sweepstakes since he has three belts and a fight with Wilder could set up a big fight with Fury. Nor can we dismiss a Ruiz-Joshua rematch and team Joshua wants that chance to get his titles back. Wilder would be the favorite against Ruiz, but Ruiz has shown he can fight with the best of the division. Below them is Dillon Whyte and Joseph Parker.
The heavyweight division has many attractive match ups and now American fighters have four of the belts. It has been nearly two decades before an American fighter was recognized as the best heavyweight and that fighter was Evander Holyfield. Now Americans have two heavyweights on top of the heavyweight mountain.