Can Anthony Joshua Tell Us What He Ain’t? (Time To Say Goodbye The ‘Good Guy’)
Last night at Madison Square Garden, Anthony Joshua lost his 0, four belts, and millions of future earnings in a four-knock down TKO7 loss to boxing’s first Heavyweight champion of Mexican descent Andy Ruiz Jr.
After falling to new IBF/WBA/WBO Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr last night at NYC’s storied Madison Square Garden, less than twelve hours later much of the world has already closed the book on the entire boxing story of former champion Anthony Joshua. It’s what we do.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) opened the fight pumping his jab, and maintaining a comfortable range so not to foolishly squander the benefits of his 8-inch reach and 4-inch height advantages. His commitment to the sound execution of that game plan went well, culminating with a seemingly beginning-of-the-ending left hook that left Ruiz with his back against the canvas – the 29-year old Californian’s first such trip of his career.
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) beat the count. And Joshua moved in to finish him off, once inside he quickly found out that range left him susceptible to Ruiz’s shorter quicker shots. Ruiz withstood a straight right hand from Joshua, but as the champion went to capitalize on that shot the challenger connected with a left hook that staggered Joshua. Moments later a Ruiz flurry dropped Joshua. Ruiz rallied with another flurry to drop the champion again before the end of the round.
Ruiz patiently made his way through the next two rounds as Joshua attempted to reset and work his way back into the fight. The Brit’s engine failed to ever fully re-ignite. The jab seen through the first two rounds – which landed with greater success to Ruiz’s body – became a pawing jab. The half steps backwards to evade Ruiz’s shots disappeared. Ruiz came on over the final minute of the sixth round. In the seventh round Ruiz acted on what he’d been studying for the previous six minutes – he destroyed a listless fighter.
Ruiz closed the show with a pair of outbursts that sent Joshua down to his knees following both skirmishes. Joshua spit out his mouthpiece on the second knockdown, at 1:27, and after some negative communication with referee Michael Griffin signaled the fight was over. Ruiz celebrated in the neutral corner to the right of Joshua’s right glove as it laid across the top rope as the champion leaned back against the turnbuckle.
Nipsey Hussel’s “Hussle & Motivate” played as reality set in on the Joshua corner that this moment represented the cold truth of the nature of boxing’s hard knock life.
This writer published a lighter-hearted piece earlier in the fight week questioning whether Saturday night could be the moment [Joshua] feared. A play on a fictional story illustrated in a song from London-born, Bronx-raised rapper Slick Rick. Unfortunately, for Joshua – as well as Matchroom Boxing’s managing director and the DAZN app – the 29-year old 2012 Olympic gold medalist’s life got turned upside down over the course of a weekend in The Big Apple much like Slick Rick in his song.
Well, that’s solely up to Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua.
With so many mixed stories in the atmosphere, both online in social media and reading between some Hearn’s post-fight comments, it’s difficult to surmise what all went wrong. Joshua’s performance was embarrassing. He failed to replicate the mettle exhibited during his comeback fans witnessed versus future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium back in April 2017. No, MSG wasn’t filled with 90,000 fellow countrymen rooting him on, but the crowd included a significant UK contingent, and world champions Regis Prograis and Claressa Shields were pulling for the big man to regain his composure.
The positives here for Joshua is that, while he was unstable on his legs for a few stretches, and he was impaired on the final knockdown, the former champion finished the fight on his feet. In some regards, Joshua’s four knockdowns and subsequent body language were reminiscent of Klitschko’s struggles in the ring with Corrie Sanders, Lamon Brewster, DaVarryl Williamson and Samuel Peter.
There may not be a modern-day replacement for the great late-Emmanuel Steward who can take the broken Joshua under his wing, to teach the man how to roar again. But, after last night’s outing, it does seem necessary that wholesale change start before the plane lands at Heathrow. Chief second Rob McCracken didn’t have his best night either, and as the most notable team member, with this upset on his record too, he may be the first cast-off. With Joshua’s chronic fatigue issue surfacing again, the strength and conditioning coach shouldn’t be too far behind McCracken.
Perhaps a new trainer and preparation team could successfully guide Joshua to a victory versus Ruiz in late-2019 rematch in the UK – provided that Joshua’s fire for that shot lasts beyond last night. Maybe even the sense of relief, as some of us may have interpreted as Joshua stood with his arm over Ruiz’s shoulders post-fight, could result in a better looking fighter. Hell, maybe Joshua just missed the pre-fight ritual of the standing on the platform that lifted him up towards the heavens with his initials “AJ” burning brightly below him.
To better handle the shorter Ruiz he’ll definitely need a specialist to at least begin to scratch the surface with improving his Tin Man-like movement. Moreover, also like the Tin Man, a heart needs to be the only muscle focused on by said new strength and conditioning coach, with that person drastically improving on Joshua’s conditioning.
If the rematch is set for November, that in itself will partially show that Joshua made the decision to have the final say on the next chapter of his boxing career. The individuals he chooses to help him write it will partially show whether there’s the chance it could potentially be a best-seller. Hopefully we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, and the words of those who have already typed away on their QWERTY keyboards really is what will forever be. Boxing is the realest of real-life, and sorting out most of its details just don’t easily lend themselves to the convenient timelines and attention spans of today’s microwave culture.
In some ways those expectations and demands – not so unreasonable per Joshua’s status a week earlier – are behind how the beleaguered champion found himself down on his knees at MSG in the seventh round last night – looking inside himself for solutions that just weren’t there.
Some pundits have already wondered aloud if last night was the last we will have ever seen of Joshua. Boxing’s history has already provided an answer concerning that matter, hasn’t it? How else would know names like Clifford Etienne, Danny Williams and Kevin McBride…
Too bad Joshua’s not likely to make it back against anybody on the level of that lot.