Anthony Joshua suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of Andy Ruiz Jr, suffering the first loss of his professional career. The 30-year-old now has the opportunity to regain his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles in their rematch in Saudi Arabia in December.
The Mexican-American became the first man to get the better of Joshua, knocking him down in the seventh round of their bout, producing one of the biggest upsets in the history of heavyweight boxing.
Despite the surprising nature of his loss, Joshua is backed at 4/11 in the boxing betting odds to defeat Ruiz in their rematch to regain his titles. The Brit has been refocusing his efforts in training for the event and appears to be desperate to atone for his lacklustre performance at Madison Square Garden – his first professional competitive appearance outside of the United Kingdom.
Joshua was the overwhelming favourite to win the contest to secure his 23rd win on the bounce. His overconfidence may have been a factor in his defeat. He did make a strong start to the bout and seemingly was on the path to a knockout victory after sending Ruiz crashing to the mat in the third round with a powerful left hook.
Sensing the win was close, Joshua opened his stance to attempt to hammer home his advantage. However, rather than take him to the verge of victory, his aggression opened him up to a close quarter’s assault from the Mexican-American. Ruiz became the first man since Wladimir Klitschko to send Joshua to the canvas, decking him twice in the third round.
The Brit was able to stymie the momentum after being saved by the bell, finding his feet once more in the fourth and fifth rounds. However, Ruiz returned with further blows to the body in the sixth round to take control. Once he was in command, Joshua’s days in possession of the crowns were numbered, being unable to respond to the threat in the seventh round before the referee ended the bout with the 30-year-old reeling amid blows to the head.
All great champions receive a taste of humble pie now and again, and it’s possible that Joshua may have overlooked the threat posed by Ruiz. The Mexican-American had a stellar record entering the bout, while his style is slightly different to the approaches previous opponents had deployed against Joshua, leaving the Brit unsure on what to expect across the ring. If he took Ruiz lightly before the first encounter, Joshua will not be making the same error once again.
He has redoubled his efforts in preparation for the bout, slimming down to an expected 248lbs, although Ruiz has suggested that he could follow suit in losing weight. Joshua is not the first heavyweight champion to suffer a shock result.
Both Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis were stunned in their careers. Iron Mike was rocked by a defeat to Buster Douglas, ending a run of 37 straight victories, while Lewis was beaten twice by Oliver McCall and then Hasim Rahman later in his career.
Joshua can take heart from the fact that Lewis responded in turn in his rematch against Rahman after being knocked out in the fifth round of their first bout. The Brit turned the tables to defeat the American in Las Vegas to secure a knockout victory in the fourth round to win the WBC, IBF, IBO, and lineal heavyweight titles. Joshua will be targeting the same success with perhaps a new hunger in his gut after the unfamiliar taste of defeat.