Joshua boxes smart vs. Ruiz to re­claim ti­tles

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By STEVE DOU­GLAS

RIYADH, Saudi Ara­bia — An­thony Joshua jumped up and down in the ring with his mas­sive en­tourage, cel­e­brat­ing be­ing around $70 mil­lion richer and hav­ing three world heavy­weight belts back in his pos­ses­sion.

For the Bri­tish boxing su­per­star, it was well worth this con­tro­ver­sial trip to Saudi Ara­bia.

In the first heavy­weight ti­tle fight to be held in the Mid­dle East, Joshua toyed with an outof-shape Andy Ruiz Jr. over 12 un­spec­tac­u­lar rounds to win a unan­i­mous points de­ci­sion, re­claim the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and avenge a stun­ning up­set by his Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can op­po­nent six months ago.

Joshua got his game plan spot on, us­ing his lighter frame to out­ma­neu­ver Ruiz, re­ly­ing on his longer reach to stay clear of trou­ble, and se­lect­ing his mo­ments to go on the at­tack.

In the fi­nal sec­onds of a bout fought in the early hours of Sun­day in a rel­a­tively cool 19 Cel­sius (66 F) for this part of the world, Joshua was al­most run­ning around the ring and Ruiz — ex­hausted and out­fought — was planted in the mid­dle, urg­ing him to come closer.

“Some­times sim­plic­ity is ge­nius. I was out­class­ing the cham­pion,” Joshua said.

“I am used to knock­ing peo­ple out, but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would cor­rect my­self again.”

Two judges gave the fight to the Bri­ton 119-110, and the other awarded it to him 119-109.

Ruiz put on 15 pounds since the first fight to weigh in at 283 pounds (128 kilo­grams), mak­ing him the sec­ond heav­i­est boxer to fight for a world heavy­weight ti­tle. He said he hadn’t pre­pared hard enough for the re­match and got “boxed around.”

“The par­ty­ing got the best of me,” Ruiz said of his brief time as cham­pion, dur­ing which he also went on talk shows, had an au­di­ence with the Mex­i­can pres­i­dent and bought new cars for him­self and his par­ents.

“I didn’t pre­pare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give ex­cuses, he won ... If we do a third fight, you best be­lieve I’m go­ing to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

Whether Joshua agrees to that re­mains to be seen. There is no re­match clause this time round and Ruiz, short with quick hands, is an awk­ward op­po­nent.

Joshua proved he had an­other side to his boxing skills other than a big punch. His ca­reer is back on track, for sure, but his rep­u­ta­tion might be sul­lied for other rea­sons.

The fight was played out to a back­drop of con­cerns that Saudi Ara­bia was us­ing this and other big sport­ing events to di­vert at­ten­tion from its hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tions. They in­clude the mur­der of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Joshua has shrugged off con­cerns that he was be­ing used in what some, like hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, called a “sportswash­ing” ex­er­cise, and he thanked Saudi Ara­bia for host­ing the fight af­ter­ward.

Women who at­tended the fight at the out­door, pur­pose-built, 15,000-ca­pac­ity Diriyah Arena did not ap­pear to be seg­re­gated, as they have been in sports sta­di­ums in Saudi Ara­bia since be­ing al­lowed into them for the first time last year.

In­deed, it felt just like any other venue once the ac­tion got

De­fend­ing cham­pion Andy Ruiz Jr. takes a punch to the face against An­thony Joshua, right, in their World Heavy­weight Cham­pi­onship con­test in Saudi Ara­bia early Sun­day. un­der­way, with a pro-Joshua crowd chant­ing the usual reper­toire of songs about their fighter and jeer­ing Ruiz. To make Joshua feel even more at home, there was a rare down­pour of rain in the desert just be­fore the fight and at times dur­ing the af­ter­noon.

Ruiz knocked down Joshua four times on the way to a sev­enth-round win in New York in June that was re­garded as one of the big­gest up­sets in the his­tory of heavy­weight boxing.

There was none of that drama in the re­match, with Ruiz rarely con­nect­ing cleanly with Joshua. When he did, it was with punches to the back of the head that earned him a tick­ing-off from the ref­eree.

Ruiz fin­ished the fight with blood across his face, hav­ing been caught with a right hook by Joshua in the first round.

There were straight lefts from Joshua in the fourth and ninth that rocked Ruiz back, and a right hook in the fifth that also hurt the de­posed cham­pion.

“I just wanted to put on a great boxing mas­ter­class and also show the sweet sci­ence of this lovely sport. It’s about hit­ting and not get­ting hit,” Joshua said.

“Some­times with cer­tain fight­ers you have to box smarter. I un­der­stand what Andy brought to the ta­ble so I had to de­cap­i­tate him in a dif­fer­ent way.”

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