It was strange to see Anthony Joshua look as vulnerable as he did in June’s defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. The Watford fighter, who had looked unstoppable throughout his professional career, was knocked down four times by his Mexican adversary. Most had expected Joshua to dispatch with ease an opponent who was a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, but a TKO defeat shocked the boxing world.
Whether complacency played a part is up for debate, but Joshua was made to look toothless by Ruiz’s hard-hitting, no-holds-barred approach to the bout. For a fighter who was seeking to continue his march to immortality in boxing, it was a swift reality check for AJ.
With a rematch between the two slated for December 7th, Joshua is at a crossroads. Victory would be true proof of his mettle as a heavyweight champion and would give him the credibility to look at Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury as potential opponents. Defeat would represent a crushing blow to Joshua’s aim of becoming one of heavyweight boxing’s legends.
Boxing is a sport where legacy matters. Any fighter’s goal is to forge a career that will be remembered and revered by the generations to come. If Joshua were to lose two fights in a row to an opponent of lesser talents, it would be difficult to see how the Englishman could recover his reputation. There have even been suggestions that Joshua could retire after the fight, although the 30-year-old has rubbished such claims.
Bouncing back from defeat is one of the biggest challenges a boxer can face. Winning is a habit, and Joshua was a winning machine before he faced Ruiz, having won all 22 of his professional bouts, 21 of them by KO. There’s no doubt he’d have been expecting to continue that form ahead of the fight against Ruiz, and the shock of losing will have taken its toll on his confidence.
The fact that Joshua has a chance to avenge the defeat so soon can only be a good thing from his point of view. The rematch offers him the chance to get back on track and consign the misery of June’s loss to the past. With Wilder and Fury looking increasingly strong, Joshua cannot afford to lose any more ground on his major heavyweight rivals.
Ruiz has been relishing his time as a multiple heavyweight champion and has been hard at work in preparation, shedding the pounds in the gym in a bid to do justice to his newfound champion status. His slightly podgy physique made it all the more surprising when he blitzed Joshua with a barrage of punches in June’s fight, and he will fancy his chances of causing an upset once more with his improved fitness. While Joshua holds the edge in the latest Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua odds, the Mexican must not be underestimated again.
The upcoming fight is the kind of defining moment that can make or break a boxer. Defeat for Joshua would be a huge setback, with Tyson Fury announcing he will not face Joshua in the future if he loses out to the Mexican. It’s these kind of occasions where true winners step to the fore, and if Joshua’s dream of dominating the sport is to be realised, it will take a champion’s performance on December 7th to re-establish himself at the top of the game.