Full report from Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2 in Saudi Arabia as AJ gets on his toes to secure redemption
Redemption. It’s what Anthony Joshua sought after Andy Ruiz Jr had turned his world upside down back in June at Madison Square Garden. The short-notice replacement for drug cheat Jarrell Miller breezed in and got off the deck to floor AJ four times in a seven-round demolition, take his unified world titles and ruin his US debut.
At the purpose-built Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia, Joshua got his chance. For Ruiz, the first Mexican-American world heavyweight champion, he wanted to prove the first victory was no fluke and that the result was due more to his superiority than any supposed issues in the Watford man’s preparations.
Joshua had slimmed down, weighed significantly less than their first meeting and brought in new assistant trainers. Always chubby Ruiz, having taken two months off before starting his camp for the rematch, scaled a whopping 15lbs heavier than the initial clash, probably prompting a flood of late money on Joshua. His style, however, always figured to cause the British superstar problems, with fast hands, smart footwork and aggressive, compact combination punching. Joshua, altogether too rigid and upright in June despite scoring the first knockdown, desperately needed to find some fluidity in the return to work alongside his undoubted power.
The Englishman did just that, employing a mobile, punch-picking style that worked perfectly and took him to a wide unanimous decision that allowed him to regain his beloved belts. Scores were 118-110 (twice) and 119-109 as Joshua silenced his doubters.
Joshua enjoyed a fine start, circling the perimeter of a big ring and strafing Ruiz with jabs. He landed a big right hand towards the end of the opener that cut Ruiz’s left eye. This control continued into the second as Ruiz tried and mostly failed to get inside, his feet a tad slow. Ruiz got his own lead going in the next, especially downstairs, while Joshua utilised so much uncharacteristic lateral movement, his gassing out down the stretch seemed a logical concern. Still, his ramrod jab dictated in the fourth session as Ruiz often waited too long to throw.
Ruiz appeared flat and was frequently reduced to either engaging in a jabbing battle he could not win or launching wild swings from distance. It seemed Andy did not want to miss and leave himself open to counters from the Olympic gold medallist, but by the midway point he may not have won a round. He needed to throw as he advanced and in threes and fours but looked reticent to chance his arm unless sure he would land. A Joshua counter left hook was the pick of round six and the former ruler, while focused, was relatively comfortable. He wasn’t afraid to hold judiciously either. With two-thirds of the fight gone, a maximum it seemed of two rounds in the bank and Joshua possibly tiring, Ruiz needed to go for broke in the last four.
There was little sign of him doing so for most of the ninth as he followed Joshua around, taking hard punches and being held. There was no faulting Ruiz’s effort but he appeared out of ideas. Joshua meanwhile was still spry in round 10, moving well in both directions and boxing beautifully. The majority of observers recognised this was the strategy to disarm Ruiz but many doubted Joshua could successfully execute it. He did, and with some aplomb. By the 11th, finishing line in sight, AJ was still on his toes and clearly not about to empty the tank. He had paced it perfectly and played the percentages throughout, unloading almost exclusively from a range that suited only him. The last was more of the same, Joshua moving and landing, then moving again, rarely getting greedy. Ruiz’s pursuit was perpetual but lethargic and, as we realised long before the final bell, fruitless.