It’s the only word I kept coming back to, as American Anthony Ruiz stunned the unbeaten unified, and seemingly guaranteed to win, Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Joshua got exposed with for a soft chin, rubbery legs and lacking in the will to continue. All with his titles, unbeaten record and legacy on the line.
Now, I’m as guilty, as anyone not only writing about this fight, but also in hosting the podcast for Big Fight Weekend for not giving Ruiz enough credit, or even, the “puncher’s chance.”
That being written. Saturday night was not about Ruiz.
Rather, this was about Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) not being up to the challenge, mentally, physically and emotionally, when he was tested by a guy with limited credentials and ability. It was Joshua being hit with a big enough punch to hurt him, then more punches that hurt him, repeatedly and eventually, stopped him.
Ruiz (33-1 22 KOs) definitely showed heart and moxie, when he got up from a quick knockdown in the third round that most everyone had been expecting would signal the end and an easy Joshua victory. But, instead of “turtling under”, Ruiz chose to fight back and take a big risk. Then, he caught Joshua coming in with an overhand right and a barrage of subsequent punches to amazingly put the champ on all fours in the Madison Square Garden Center ring.
Then, even when Joshua rose, he was wobbly and Ruiz eventually dropped him again.
That was stunning, but in hindsight, it was more stunning that Joshua lasted the final seconds and heard the third round bell.
If those moments weren’t enough to indicate that the bigger, more talented, more world stage-experienced Joshua was exposed, then, the fact he could not summon his legs or his faculties to combine it with punching power to get Ruiz out of there, did.
Great fighters have been hurt before by lesser fighters.
However, 99% of the time they show/prove greatness by winning.
This was the ultimate test of adversity presented to the overwhelming favorite Joshua.
And, he failed the test.
He failed it, because Ruiz hit him hard again in the 7th round, knocking him to the canvas with a series of rights and lefts. And then, the end came shortly thereafter by dropping Joshua for the fourth time behind yet another good right hand.
There will be more controversy and discussion about Canadian referee Michael Griffin waving the fight off, but the reality is: Joshua had already been knocked down twice in the the 7th round (4 straight times overall) and was standing in the neutral Corner seemingly unwilling to continue to fight.
As the DAZN analyst and former World Champ, Sergio Mora, told their audience, the body language of Joshua said it all.
Joshua was done.
Done in either by overconfidence, unfamiliarity with his opponent (who just took the fight 5 weeks ago) or by the fact that his chin has never been that solid, as both Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin had both proved in rocking him in previous title defenses.
Or, done in by some combination of it all.
Even more telling was the aftermath of the fight. It was almost surreal, as Joshua smiled and didn’t even seem to care that everything that he, his promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom boxing, and his legions of fans in the UK had built/were counting on, had gone up in smoke in a span of about 20 minutes of actual time in the summertime New York City night.
Joshua further seems almost nonchalant during his post-fight interview with Chris Mannix of DAZN, saying he could make no excuses, and it wasn’t his night. He continued with bad body language, shrugging his shoulders, then smiling and even waving at fans in the stands, while the interview was going on.
It looked and sounded, as though, because he already has tens of millions of dollars in the bank, it didn’t really matter that he lost.
That is very telling about who Joshua is, as well.
There are comparisons already being made to James “Buster” Douglas’ stunning upset of Mike Tyson 29 years ago. However, as great as that night in Tokyo was for Douglas, Anthony Joshua is not, and will not ever be, Mike Tyson.
Tyson was the menacing seemingly indestructible champion who had won 37 times with 34 KOs including, successfully defending his Undisputed Title eight times, all by knockout, before that night in Tokyo.
That’s why Douglas was a 42 to 1 Underdog from the only Sportsbook that would take action on the fight in Las Vegas. He dominated that fight in Japan with his jab and straight right hands. But, Tyson battled, too.
Douglas’ win was more about Douglas that night than Tyson.
And yes, also a young Cassius Clay stunned the boxing world, when he defeated the equally menacing Sonny Liston in 1964. But, Liston had won only a couple of championship fights. And, Clay was an undefeated former Olympic champion, who had at least some chance against Liston.
Again, Clay’s win that night in Miami Beach, FL, was more about Clay.
No one outside of Ruiz, his friends and family thought he had a legitimate chance to win, much less knockout, Anthony Joshua. And, that is more about the now, former champ.
And, while we must credit to Ruiz for what he did on Saturday night, this was more about Anthony Joshua and who he really turned out to be.
Or should we say, not be?