Image Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
On June 1st of this year, Andy Ruiz, Jr. pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Had Mike Tyson‘s star power not been as great as it was when he was a pro, Ruiz’s finish of Joshua might have toppled Buster Douglas’ improbable KO of Tyson on Feb. 11, 1990.
However, in terms of the new generation of boxing, Ruiz is as much a Rocky figure as Stallone actually played. In fact, his pseudonym, “The Destroyer” has been trumped popularly by his new unofficial one, “Mexican Rocky.”
The Californian is now the heavyweight with the most jewelry in the sport and the former golden boy of England is on a career backpedal. Still, there is hope for Anthony Joshua as there was for Ruiz, Jr., in their first pairing and that makes this weekend’s second pairing in Saudi Arabia, streamed on DAZN, that much more exciting.
More Rocky. Less Creed.
I’ve been boxing for a while now, and when I came into boxing I didn’t really come to take part, I came to take over. I came with full force, fully committed. The focus has already been there, but never had a chance to reflect it.”
-Anthony Joshua, OBE, former unified Heavyweight World Champion
When Anthony Joshua stepped into Madison Square Garden over the summer to make his U.S. debut, his aura was all Apollo Creed.
Sans “Living In America” walkout music courtesy of James Brown, Joshua and his fans prefer “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and it blared unapologetically.
After his initial opponent, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller tested positive for banned substances, there was a whirlwind of possibilities for who Joshua would choose. Soon enough, little known heavyweight Andy Ruiz, Jr. stepped in, soft belly and all, for what was assumed a sure win for Joshua.
But one punch can change any person’s life and the pomp around your name will not throw punches for you or protect your chin.
After an initial knockdown of Ruiz, Jr., in the third round, “The Destroyer” decided it was time to go for it. Ruiz, Jr., then knocked down Joshua, who hadn’t tasted that since his epic firefight against Wladimir Klitschko two years prior.
In the seventh round, Joshua looked less Apollo Creed and more Ivan Drago, a suped-up poster boy who was susceptible to the All-American blue-collar fighter. Joshua was felled twice in the seventh round before the referee waved off the bout.
Joshua spat out his mouthpiece and his impregnable brand all in one motion.
I was asked if this will be a special moment and I said no because I know I belong there. It’s not special, i’ve been there, I know what i’m doing. When I regain those belts I will probably keep calm and stay focused. It’s not a time to celebrate, it’s time to keep that challenge, mindset and find the next target, so one by one I’m picking them off.
Anthony Joshua, OBE, former unified Heavyweight World Champion
Now, as the two will rematch in Saudi Arabia this Saturday, on neutral ground, Joshua has a chance to revisit that hungry fighter that came up from the U.K.
Pundits believe that Ruiz, Jr. has got his number and that is a hell of a motivating factor.
Now that Joshua has tasted defeat in the worst way possible for a star, he might just be primed for a comeback of epic proportions. With Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and now Oleksandr Usyk out there, the paydays and chances for glory abound.
Now it is just a matter of which Anthony Joshua will show up on Saturday; Rocky or Apollo Creed?