NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Anthony Joshua was looking to make a splash in his American debut, but instead, it was Andy Ruiz Jr. who crashed the party on Saturday night, scoring a seventh-round knockout over the previously unbeaten unified heavyweight champion in a shocking upset.
Madison Square Garden was filled to capacity with Joshua's British countrymen, who expected to see their man destroy Ruiz, who took the fight on just four weeks' notice after former contender Jarrell Miller was removed from the fight a month ago for failing four Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) drug tests for three performance-enhancing substances.
In the third round, Joshua dropped Ruiz with a well-timed left hook that sent the California-based fighter to the floor for the first time in his career. But like any fighter with a killer instinct, Joshua tried to close the show, but it was a critical mistake. Ruiz snickered his way into a shootout, and the bigger man got nailed in an exchange of hooks. And just like that, the champion Joshua went down.
Not once, but twice.
Ruiz knocked Joshua down again just before the end of the round, and Joshua was saved by the bell as he stumbled his way to his stool. The 6'2", 268-pound Ruiz appeared to take the fourth and fifth rounds off to preserve his gas tank. Some believed that Ruiz had allowed the 2012 Olympic gold medalist to get a breather, but Joshua never recovered physically or mentally.
Although Joshua landed some solid punches in fourth and fifth rounds, they lacked the ferocity that one would expect from a fighter who is not only trying to get back in the fight but has also shown his ability to overcome adversity. Joshua was knocked down by former titleholder Wladimir Klitschko in the 2017 Fight of the Year, but came back to stop him in the 11th round before a British boxing record 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Ruiz was still in command and connecting with some hard shots to the body, which did not allow Joshua to gain a second wind.
A hook sent down Joshua early in the seventh round, and that essentially wrapped up the fight. Ruiz went to finish the show, and Joshua crumbled to the floor once more, while his mouthpiece went for a ride. Perhaps it was a ploy to get more time to recover, but Griffin did not allow the fight to go on.
Ruiz, who lost a controversial majority decision to Joseph Parker in December 2016 when they fought for a vacant title in Parker's territory in New Zealand, became the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title. Moreover, Ruiz is now in possession of three of the four world heavyweight titles. The only title he does not have is held by undefeated WBC titlist Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO's), who had accused Joshua of ducking him.
The 6'6", 247-pound Joshua (22-1, 21 KO's), 29, who was making his seventh title defense, initially wanted to defend his titles in England, but decided to come to the states because streaming service DAZN had paid millions of dollars to get him to fight in America.
The outcome of the fight most assuredly puts the brakes on any talk of a blockbuster showdown between Joshua and Wilder.
"He wasn’t a true champion. His whole career was consisted of lies, contradictions, and gifts," Wilder said of Joshua on Twitter. "Facts and now we know who was running from who!!!!"