Anthony Joshua has long been regarded as the saviour of boxing’s heavyweight division, but his surprise defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York on Saturday has suddenly cast new light on the Briton’s career.
All the talk before the bout had focused on whether Joshua, previously undefeated in his first 22 professional fights, would next take on a high-profile opponent in Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.
Few foresaw the 29-year-old ceding his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles in such dramatic circumstances.
“Anthony Joshua’s invincibility has gone and he is now just a mere mortal,” former British heavyweight David Haye told BBC Radio 5 Live.
With a defeat pinned against his name, the prospect of a fight between Joshua and the unbeaten American Wilder won’t bear the same lustre it carried before.
The defeat via a seventh round technical knock-out is a huge blow to Joshua’s brand. This was his first fight outside the UK, a chance to attract new fans and new suitors in the hallowed setting of Madison Square Garden.
Technically, questions will also be asked. Ruiz’s quick hands and ruthless counter punching exposed Joshua’s defence, flooring the Briton on four occasions — twice in the third round, and twice again in the seventh.
Ruiz was given an 11-1 chance of winning in New York, but defied his outsider status to be crowned Mexico’s first ever heavyweight champion.
Rarely one to speak in inflated terms, Joshua was magnanimous in defeat.
“Boxing is a tough sport. I trained hard, I stayed dedicated, but I got beaten by a good fighter tonight,” he said after the bout.
“It will be interesting to see how far he can go so good luck to him . . . more life to the heavyweight division.”
A rematch in the UK later this year now looks to be on the cards: “Now we’ll see what AJ’s about,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.
“At least we know who his opponent is for the end of the year.”
Sweet success for Ruiz
For Ruiz, such success is unprecedented.
In his only previous title fight, he lost to New Zealand’s Joshua Parker — who Joshua defeated last year — but now has four belts to his name.
Indeed, he only agreed to the fight in April after Jarrell Miller failed a drugs test.
“I wanted to prove everybody wrong, all the doubters thinking I was going to lose in the third round, first round,” Ruiz told reporters after the bout.
“I was looking at comments as well. But what do you know, man, I’m the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world . . . I’m still pinching myself to see if this is real. It’s amazing.” — CNN.