Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Ninety-six hours. That’s all that’s elapsed since Andy Ruiz Jr shocked an audience, instantly remapped the entire heavyweight boxing landscape.
A 10/1 underdog (18/1 to win by KO), Ruiz out-boxed and out muscled the now 22-1 Joshua, knocking him down four times en route to a seventh round TKO victory; and left Madison Square Garden as the new IBO, IBF, WBO and WBA-super heavyweight champion of the world.
In these hours following, Joshua has retained a detached, dignified silence, characteristically and classily leaving Ruiz to publicly have his moment, unspoilt and unadulterated. Yet the clamour for answers continues to intensify.
Joshua’s courtly silence has left a vacuum within which commentators, fans, conspiracy theorists and journalists have each tried to fill, satisfying their need to rationalise bewilderment and produce content with a slew of presumptive opinions, ranging from the plausible and apocryphal to the paranoid and bizarre. We’ve heard of AJ being knocked out in sparring, of suffering an acute panic attack immediately prior to the ring walk and of being fatigued and overextended indulging an esurient media, to him being either poisoned, drugged or replaced by a duplicate automaton.
Irrespective of the reasoning, the irrefutable truth is that the heavyweight scene now looks entirely different. We have been immediately transplanted beyond the lamenting of unmade super fights – involving Joshua with either Tyson Fury or WBC champion, Deontay Wilder – to a wild destination of profuse possibilities, dependent mostly on the outcome of the most compelling, high-stakes heavyweight fight for some time: Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr II.
Eddie Hearn has confirmed that following talks with Team Joshua, the rematch clause has been triggered and the fight should take place in Nov/Dec at a venue as yet unannounced.
Victory is all that matters for Joshua now. A second defeat will only strengthen the detractors and solidify the opinion that he is over hyped and under talented – even accounting for the understanding that Ruiz’s fast-hand, combination-throwing style is ‘all wrong’ for AJ – whereas a dominant victory allows this defeat to be re contextualised as a blip caused by something entirely external to the boxing abilities of Andy Ruiz.
A comprehensive second defeat would also impact the financial superiority of Joshua. Sponsors are like ‘casuals’ and they like winners. A loss on the money side of what-was the ‘money fight’ would allow opponents a ready excuse to sidestep AJ, should he continue; that and the claiming that they are ‘chasing the belts’. Depending on the nature of the defeat, clamour and demand would still likely remain for a showdown with Wilder or Fury (who tweeted Joshua a considerate message following Saturday’s defeat and has his own route to a world title seemingly mapped out with an upcoming fight against German, Tom Schwarz before a proposed rematch with Wilder), but this would be tempered by other marketable fights between them, Ruiz and the exciting, wildcard addition to the heavyweight division of the gifted Oleksandr Usyk.
Ironically and contradictory to this theorem, a second defeat to Ruiz may actually make fighting Joshua a more preferable proposition for both Fury and Wilder, as financially it would still likely dwarf any other match up within any other weight class, only it would then seem imminently more winnable and far less risky.
Despite the announcement of the rematch, a lot also depends on the legal rigidity of Ruiz and Joshua’s initial contract. With Wilder, Ruiz and Ortiz all promoted by PBC, suggestions have been raised that Ruiz could eschew the Joshua rematch; instead opting to fight Deontay Wilder.
This theory includes ‘step-aside’ money being paid to Ortiz and him pulling out of the Wilder fight with a suspicious injury. It also places Ruiz in the gilded position of being able to request a ‘Joshua-sized payday’, causing in effect an auction between PBC and Matchroom for his defence. Again, just how inescapable is the Joshua rematch clause?
Yet wherever we go from here, whether the rematch happens and whether AJ wins or loses, one thing is for now certain: we are in new times and contemplating match ups with a new champion whom no one could foresee coming; and that champion’s name, for now, is Andy Ruiz Jr.