Will Anthony Joshua ever be the same again? Even his promoter Eddie Hearn has concerns that psychological damage to Brit poster boy could hurt as much as Andy Ruiz’s brutal punches
- Anthony Joshua suffered a shock defeat by Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Garden
- Promoter Eddie Hearn admits uncertainty over if Joshua could recover from loss
- Joshua is likely to face Ruiz in a rematch at Cardiff but he is now vulnerable
They say they never come back but the question for Anthony Joshua is whether he will ever come back the same man.
Joshua, the Adonis of the prize-ring, was reduced to a crumbling ruin by a Mexican earthquake code-named Andy.
The epicentre of Saturday night’s seismic tremor was Madison Square Garden. There could have been no more relevant building than the Mecca of boxing in which to see and feel one of the most astounding upsets in the history of heavyweight prize-fighting.
Anthony Joshua looks on following his shock defeat by Andy Ruiz in New York
Ruiz produced one of boxing’s biggest shocks by seeing off Joshua at Madison Square Garden
Not as shocking as Mike Tyson losing to 42-1 shot Buster Douglas in Tokyo but remarkable in that it was inflicted by so unheralded a challenger.
Andy Ruiz Jnr, as wide as he is short, from America’s southern border to destroy Britain’s golden Olympian, seize Joshua’s four belts and thus become the first Mexican world heavyweight champion.
His was an historic achievement which belied his corpulent countenance and made mockery of all those of us who had failed to identify the thunderous skill and warrior will deep inside a body resembling a sack of potatoes.
Guilty, your honour.
Ruiz’s victory saw him become Mexico’s first ever heavyweight world champion
Ruiz heads off to Los Pinos, Mexico City’s White House, to show that President his bounty, while telling his mother: ‘Our life has changed, Mum. We don’t have to struggle any more.’
Bless him. At a difficult time for Mexicans he has proved that it is still possible to live the American Dream.
By so doing he leaves Joshua to contemplate triggering the rematch clause but more importantly to rediscover himself.
Promoter Eddie Hearn did not baulk from discussing how difficult that might be for his richest asset, saying: ‘You never know how even the best of fighters will react after a defeat like this. Some don’t come back the way they were before.
‘We are all devastated but all depends now on how AJ responds…’ The length of time it took a whoozy Joshua to come out and face the media music was not grounds for optimism.
It is not only that Joshua was hammered into the canvas like a tent peg four times in seven rounds, twice each in the third and the last, and was in no condition to continue.
Joshua looks on from the canvas after being knocked down on his way to defeat
It was whether that condition was partly mental as well as physical. It was his manner in the moment of humiliation by 20-1 underdog he was everyone’s heavy odds-on favourite to defeat. Very heavy.
At his fourth time of rising Joshua turned his back on his tormentor and stumbled to his corner. When turned round by referee Mike Griffin to face the count and his truth he lowered his arms and slumped against the post in a posture of surrender.
The legs were gone like spaghetti but was the mind lost, too?
When you not only give best to another man for the first time as a professional but also lose everything for which you have toiled so hard and prize so much, the psychological damage can be even more severe than the physical.
The extent of the economic impact on Joshua and Hearn Incorporated and their entire team also remains to be reckoned.
Joshua can demand the right to a return bout and his chance to recover the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles. But it is hard to envision a different outcome second time around, even though it is expected to go ahead back in Cardiff in November. Not with Ruiz now flooded with the elixir of confidence and encouraged to chisel his rotund shape into what he calls ‘the Mexican Anthony Joshua.’
As for the Fight Of The Century with Deontay Wilder, don’t even ask. The Big Three are now the Giant Two, with Wilder and Tyson Fury signed to their rematch in their fights after next.
Ruiz has taken the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles away from Brit, who could seek a rematch
A gloating Wilder said he was unsurprised by Joshua slipping on the Ruiz banana skin and gloated: ‘He was not a real champion. His career was built on gifts, contradictions and lies.’
Fury, by contrast, struck an unusually sympathetic tone, encouraging AJ to ‘recover and regroup.’
Given the gift of hindsight we might have seen this coming. It would be unfair to re-characterise this fine young man as a tin god, although the Joshua chin had been a conveniently neglected secret. He has been wobbled by the likes of Dillian Whtye and Alexander Povetkin and was dropped by Wladimir Klitschko.
At that latter Wembley spectacular Klitschko let Joshua off the hook after semi-concussing him by failing to go immediately for the jugular. It looked as if Ruiz might have done the same after recovering from the first knock down of his career in the third to drop AJ twice, returning him to the land of fog to which he had been introduced by Klitschko.
Promoter Eddie Hearn admitted he was unsure of how Joshua would respond to the loss
But although Ruiz took the next round off, it transpired that he was husbanding his strength for a fateful onslaught in the seventh. After going down twice in that round, Joshua gave the referee no option but to wave it off.
As well as Joshua, heavyweight boxing had been turned on its head. The man responsible said: ‘I did want to prove all the doubters wrong but I am still pinching myself to see if it’s true.’
It is tempting to question whether Joshua has been fighting too infrequently. This, for various reasons, was his first contest for eight months.
Also you have to wonder if the building of his corporate empire with all its sponsorship, advertising and marketing commitments would be better left to others while he refocuses solely on boxing.
Yet he never misses a training session and is much more a family man than the party animal.
For Joshua’s sake I hope I am as mistaken in worrying about his future as I was in predicting victory for him this Saturday.
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