Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
Unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is walking into a lion’s den Saturday at Madison Square Garden live on DAZN – time to show and prove.
Must be a sign of the times…
Back in 2017 the great Samuel L. Jackson did publicly hate on Get Out lead Daniel Kaluuya, questioning how well the British actor could portray a brother from Chicago on the brink of modern day enslavement. Jordan Peele defended his hand-picked star. And, many of us rocked with The Wire’s polarizing Russell “Stringer” Bell, ruthlessly played by English actor Idris Elba, over multiple seasons back in the aughts.
In 2019, Anthony Joshua’s a tough sell in the States!
In the late-80s US hip hop fans eagerly embraced Slick Rick without spending a moment questioning his authenticity, or anything else about the rapper born and raised in London, England. Perhaps it helped that he arrived stateside before hitting his teens, after his family relocated to the Bronx in 1976.
Less than a decade later, as a member of the Get Fresh Crew, Rick and Doug E. Fresh combined their blend of talents to deliver the world one of hip hop’s most iconic singles – “The Show”/”La Di Da Di.” Four years later in 1988, Rick released a 12-song opus entitled The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, which until this day (ummm, nevermind), maintains its status as one of the most flawless recordings in the history of the genre.
Unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and team descended upon New York City earlier this week, marking the start of fight week activities for the 29-year old’s US debut. Saturday, June 1 he faces Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden – the long-recognized Mecca of Boxing. To say that Joshua’s landing has been met with a mixed reception might be an understatement.
Keeping it a buck right here. In contrast, among the collective opinion for a sizable segment of US boxing fans undefeated WBC champion Deontay Wilder can do no wrong; however, when it comes to Joshua, a Great Britain 2012 Olympic gold medalist, he can do no right.
Joshua might not be able to change, or improve, the negative perceptions some US fans have about him, with any kind of victory versus underdog Ruiz. Despite the fact the 29-year old Californian is expected to present Joshua with a much different look than contender Jarrell Miller, the fight’s original opponent, there isn’t a groundswell of people predicting that Ruiz will become the sport’s first Mexican Heavyweight. Joshua isn’t likely to surpass Wilder’s viral first round one-punch knockout of Dominic Breazeale back on May 18, so his chief objective will be to get the victory and get out of New York with his bright financial future still intact.
The highlights found on Great Adventures have simply never died. The most notable track, “Children’s Story”, played a prominent role in the commercial success and club domination of Montell Jordan’s single “This Is How We Do It” in 1995. Kanye West took a phrase from the single – and was featured on the second verse – to make a song for Slick Rick fan Nas with “Cop Shot The Kid” in 2018, as one of the stronger tracks on NASIR.
However, for the current IBF/WBA/WBO champion every time he enters the ring, with everything to lose, there’s simply no child’s play involved. An unexpected visit to the canvas Saturday, after a lapse in focus, and Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn could find himself screaming it’s “The Moment I Feared.”
The Ruler himself becomes the antagonist in the storytelling on the fourth track on Great Adventures. Producers Hank Shocklee and Eric Sadler – two members of hip hop’s legendary production unit The Bomb Squad – provided the “pages” for Rick’s tale of things gone awry for him in the wild streets of NYC. In the song’s third verse Rick finds himself embroiled in a deadly beef after a new lover’s boyfriend pops up at his apartment – after the act. Rick spits:
Well he was huffin and puffin and he swung at me — word
So I pulled out my jammy and I silenced the nerd
Then he was dead two in the head I took the cash and the Visa’s
She said, “Don’t worry about a thing just make sure nobody sees us”
We went back to her apartment, there was blow in the freezers
She said, “We’re rich we’re rich we can have whatever will please us”
Now I don’t hang with no one who ain’t good for my health
So I put the sugarhead out and I went for self
Now I was rich as I was rich I could have whatever would please me
Now I could wear real gold in front of folks that would tease me…
For a second, our hero appears to be on the way to emerging as the winner at the close of the eventful 72 hours depicted over the song’s three verses. But it all comes crashing down with:
Ya see a cop rolled up on me and told me, “Make my day”
I said, “Relax brother,” but he had proof that I had done it
Yep, he had poor Sarah’s underwear with my fingerprints all on it
This was the rise and fall of my fast lane style
And I was the main event on the TV for a while
But now I’m in jail doin life and I’m scared
Some kids snuffed me cold and greased me where no one dared
Harsh turn of events!
Luckily for Joshua, Saturday’s challenger is only coming to destroy him, but Vaseline will inevitably be both applied – above the belt line only – and sent flying at some point. The California native intends to take full advantage of this dream opportunity he had no idea was on the horizon for him, and he fully grasps the importance of maintaining his confidence.
“He’s big, but the advantages I have are in speed, movement and coming forward. Everyone AJ fights is scared. I’m not scared of anyone apart from the man upstairs. There’s a lot of doubters out there but I don’t care, they only give me more motivation and confidence.”
Ruiz is upset-minded. He’s taking the fight on short notice after his April 20 bout versus Alexander Dimitrenko ended early when the Russian’s corner stopped the fight after the fifth round. Joshua is aware this is Ruiz’s second, and possibly last, shot at a world title following his December 2016 loss by majority decision to the former champion Joshua dethroned for his third world title last March.
“He’s keen, he’s game and you cannot knock him. He can fight and he’s got hands. He gave a World Champion in Joseph Parker lots of problems, and when you look at the fight that Parker gave Whyte when people are saying Whyte can beat Wilder, Fury and me, Andy is championship level for sure, and I have not underestimated him one bit.”
Once the fight starts Joshua’s job is to ensure its only historical significance is that it marked the 6-foot 6-inch unified champion’s first fight in the US. With a win, even by some variety of a decision, Joshua and his team’s attempt to negotiate a deal for a highly anticipated undisputed Heavyweight championship fight with WBC champion Wilder can, and hopefully will, ensue. So what if won’t be immediately after the broadcast concludes.
Joshua appeared to arrive in NYC for fight week in good spirits. He seems to be well beyond the controversy and any disappointment stemming from the three failed PED tests of his original opponent Miller. Moreover, without any antics or the once-expected loud mouth of Miller, he’s able to maintain the energy level he’s more accustomed to as all parties wrap up activities like the final press conference and Friday’s weigh-in.
If Joshua is able to thwart Ruiz’s plans to come forward and succeed with his volume punching, and if Joshua stops the challenger with a brutal combination, perhaps Joshua will show his rapper persona to his haters and detractors. With a devastating knockout of his own Joshua could channel some of the hubris of Slick Rick on the underrated finale of Great Adventures.
The refrain from “Lick The Balls” says a mouthful: So who stands, who falls, who crowds the halls/ This one the DJ calls… lick the balls!”
However, all throughout the song is where Rick becomes his most brazen on the entire LP, including the dope opening that reveals why he’s taking the gloves off.
Excuse me, I’m trying to earn a mere buck or two
A solemn rapper come in — and who the f— are you?
Around this part of town with diamonds and your girl in fur
“I’m trying to enter in this rap contest you’re havin sir”
You’re kinda late “Flat tire” Well that do occur
Well alright, pay me now, and you’ll be after her
“I hope I don’t mess up, or run out of breath, or even BRICK”
Don’t worry hun you’re hittin em harder than a f—– brick
After weaving all of his various stories filled with themes like young love and lessons on positive living, and after displaying skill and humor throughout the first 11 songs; Rick reaches his height of being confrontational in the second verse with:
So when you think you’re prepared, I keep stickin it
Now here they come with a spike to fight, take it light
Now who the one you’re trying to be like with all your might
And anyone that attempted to remove me out the race
Best give me space before I fly in they f—– face
Now raise that vocal, play that role around your local hoods
Don’t worry about a thing cause Ricky Rick is bringin home the goods
Now, a disrespectful showing of his a– to certain factions after a win on US soil, might not silence his staunchest critics, like say, catching a body in the ring. But, maybe… well, what’s the use? Based on Joshua’s demeanor he’s more than likely to have an epiphany similar to Jay-Z near the climax of his single “Regrets”: But my hustle’s goin’ too well to hit [them].
Fight fans can see how the monumental fight plays out Saturday night on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK. Also in historical action at Madison Square Garden, catch an exciting undisputed Women’s World Lightweight championship as Irish sensation Katie Taylor clashes with Delfine Persoon. Other noteworthy attractions on the undercard include Callum Smith defending his WBA World ‘Super’, WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine Super-Middleweight titles against Hassan N’Dam, Josh Kelly making his US debut as he defends his WBA International Welterweight title against Philadelphia’s Ray Robinson, Joshua Buatsi defending his WBA International Light-Heavyweight title against Marco Antonio Periban, Chris Algieri defending his WBO International title against Britain’s Tommy Coyle in a crunch Super-Lightweight showdown, Olympic bronze medallist Souleymane Cissokho taking on Mexico’s Vladimir Hernandez, Texas Middleweight Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams fighting in his second pro contest and LA Middleweight Diego Pacheco looking to move to 4-0.
Featured image by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Ruiz photo by Ed Mulholland