By David Greisman
Andy Ruiz Shakes Up Boxing With Upset TKO over Anthony Joshua
Think about Andy Ruiz’s victory over Anthony Joshua to win three heavyweight world titles. Think about it again, and then once more, because it’s hard to stop contemplating what happened Saturday night in Madison Square Garden.
Every time you think about it, it becomes even more of a remarkable upset.
He suffered a knockdown himself, only to get up and knock Joshua down twice in the third round, twice more in the seventh round, win by technical knockout and become the first Mexican heavyweight titleholder ever.
And Ruiz wasn’t even supposed to be there. He was never the original choice to face Joshua. He wasn’t the second choice either.
Jarrell Miller failed several drug tests and lost the chance to headline at one of boxing’s most storied arenas against one of boxing’s best big men. Luis Ortiz turned down the slot, pricing himself out, losing out on a payday that could’ve led to even greater rewards. Ruiz took this opportunity, then seized it. This wasn’t just an opportunity to make millions of dollars. It was an opportunity to make a name for himself.
Except Ruiz wasn’t supposed to win. He was written off completely by those unfamiliar with him, by those who looked at his physical appearance and then looked at Joshua’s. Joshua looked like he’d been chiseled from granite, muscular and statuesque at 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds. Ruiz looked like melted ice cream, 6-foot-2 and 268, less “Rocky” and more “Rocky Road.”
Looks can be deceiving in boxing. Yet even those in the know, those who had followed Ruiz and recognized his skill and hand speed, who understood that looks could be deceiving and in this case definitely were, still by and large favored Joshua.
And early on, it seemed like they would be right. About forty-four seconds into the third round, Joshua dropped Ruiz with a right hand and a left hook. This looked like the turning point, when Joshua would distinguish himself with power and class, defending his titles yet again and moving on to more significant opponents in a division where two other men can reasonably claim to be one of the best heavyweights in the world.
Amazingly, the real turning point came less than 30 seconds later.
Joshua thought Ruiz was hurt and tried to put him away. He’d approached Ruiz with caution for the first two rounds, circling to try to avoid Ruiz’s pressure, picking his spots to punch so as to give Ruiz fewer opportunities to land counters. Now Joshua thought he was a wrecking ball, and that rendered him reckless, vicious yet vulnerable.
Ruiz was quite capable of taking advantage of this, standing his ground and landing with a left hook to Joshua’s right temple, discombobulating him. Joshua tried to hold on. Ruiz followed up and dropped him.
When Ruiz had been knocked down earlier in the round, he’d risen quickly, up by the count of five, recovering quickly. Joshua stood at the count of eight. He was still hurt, his legs unsteady, and with a lot of time — nearly a minute and a half — left in the round.
Joshua held. He held some more. Ruiz threw when his hands were free, and Joshua went down once again as the round came to an end. He rose at eight, staggering backward, fortunate to have a minute or so to rest.
The rest didn’t do him much good. Joshua’s legs still weren’t back in the fourth. As a result, he didn’t have as much on his shots. When he landed a good left hook, Ruiz took it fine. Joshua resorting to holding his left arm low, the stress affecting his stamina, the damage affecting his defense. Joshua mostly moved, rarely throwing, trying to buy himself time. He’d been dropped hard by Klitschko two years ago and was able to recover, come back and score the stoppage.
That was his hope now, too. For now, there was little he could do beyond hope.
The tenor of the fight had changed. The chiseled granite was cracked. We waited for the next big shot that would make it crumble.
Joshua couldn’t deal with Ruiz’s hand speed, his timing, his accuracy, and the fact that he would keep throwing, and keep on landing, when in range. It’s one thing to recover against fighters who land one good shot at a time. It would be much harder to do that against Ruiz, who pummeled with lengthy combinations.
Looks truly can be deceiving in boxing. By the sixth round, it was Joshua who was exhausted, Ruiz energized.
So when both landed left hooks at the same time early in Round 7, Ruiz took it fine — and sensed that Joshua had not. He quickly followed up and soon had Joshua down. This time there was too much time left. Ruiz had more than two minutes to work with, and Joshua had next to nothing left.
Joshua raised his eyebrows. And he raised his gloves to his head, barely defending himself as Ruiz threw around and through his arms. Ruiz forced Joshua into the corner and knocked him down for the fourth time.
Joshua’s mouthpiece came out. He beat the count again, backed into the corner, rested his arms on the ropes, looked out at his team and back at the referee. He said that he was ready to keep fighting. His body language suggested otherwise. The referee stopped the bout. Joshua briefly protested but otherwise accepted the result. This fight had already been lost. If it hadn’t ended then, it would’ve ended soon.
Ruiz celebrated, all while the boxing world rocked as a result of what had just happened.
Joshua was the favorite for a reason. He had captured three title belts, competed and won at a higher level, stopping Wladimir Klitschko, outpointing Joseph Parker, putting away Alexander Povetkin. Ruiz, meanwhile, had fallen short in his one shot at the top, dropping a very close decision to Parker.
Fights aren’t won by looks alone, and they aren’t won on paper either. One of the most exciting things in sports is when the unexpected happens.
On Saturday night, Ruiz made it happen. He is now the champ, 33-1 with 22 knockouts, and guaranteed at least one more big payday. There was a rematch clause in his contract.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) will need to decide whether to exercise it, and whether he can exorcise demons and doubts that hadn’t previously existed. Others have come back from devastating losses — Lennox Lewis avenged knockouts suffered against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, and Wladimir Klitschko rebuilt himself and reigned for a decade.
This defeat was nevertheless truly devastating. Joshua didn’t just lose his titles, but also any hope of facing Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury for the top spot at heavyweight. Wilder and Fury will instead have a rematch in 2020, a sequel to their dramatic draw from last December.
That is the beauty of boxing, what separates it from team sports with seasons full of wins and losses. So much can be gained or lost in a single night. And so much more will now be on the line for Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua in each of their next fights.
Joshua Buatsi Gets Fourth-Round TKO of Marco Antonio Periban
The development of Olympic bronze medalist Joshua Buatsi continued on Saturday night’s undercard in New York City. Buatsi, a light heavyweight, faced former super middleweight contender Marco Antonio Periban, who was there to be rugged and durable, and to give Buatsi a bit of a test for as long as it lasted.
It lasted four rounds.
Periban, undersized at 175, well past his best days and returning after two years out of the ring, couldn’t compete with Buatsi’s harder shots. Buatsi scored a fourth-round technical knockout in a fight that seemed as if it was stopped early but otherwise still appeared to be headed in that direction.
Buatsi concentrated on Periban’s body in the first round and began to mix in more shots upstairs in the second, including a left hook followed by a right hand, as well as two good overhand rights later on. There wasn’t enough pop on Periban’s punches to get Buatsi’s respect. Buatsi forced Periban to the ropes in the third, shook off Periban’s combinations and landed.
Buatsi scored a flash knockdown in the fourth after a right hand in the opening minute. He soon scored with the right again, rocking Periban and forcing him to retreat. Periban tried to hold, tried to fight back to get Buatsi to stop, but Buatsi landed harder, finishing with three straight right crosses. The referee jumped in, feeling that Periban was defenseless.
That wasn’t quite the case. It’s nothing to lose any sleep over, though.
Buatsi is now 11-0 with 9 KOs. He’ll continue to be guided on his journey from prospect to contender. Periban is now 25-5-1 with 16 KOs. His losses have all come against familiar names. But if he continues to fight, he’ll be destined to be the perpetual bridesmaid, the B-side against an ever-changing cast of up-and-comers.
Josh Kelly and Ray Robinson Fight to Draw
Josh Kelly took a big step up on Saturday night but didn’t leave with the result he wanted, instead settling for a draw with Ray Robinson in a bout with several close rounds.
Two judges had it even at 95-95, or five arounds apiece. The other judge saw things 96-95 for Kelly, giving him five rounds, Robinson four rounds, and one round even.
Kelly, a 25-year-old who competed in the 2016 Olympics, was fighting in just his 10th pro bout. This was an ambitious test. While Robinson isn’t a top-tier welterweight, he’s still a decent boxer. In his last fight, Robinson was able to negate previously unbeaten Egidijus Kavaliauskas in a bout that also ended as a draw.
Kelly is now 9-0-1 with 6 KOs. It’s too early to know whether this fight showed his ceiling or if he’ll use this as a lesson and will be able to improve markedly as a result. Robinson, meanwhile, is 24-3-2 with 12 KOs. He remains on the fringes of the 147-pound division, deserving of another fight against another prospect or contender, worthy of respect even if he never is capable of being anywhere near the top.