Boxing

Where does Anthony Joshua go from here?

In one of the biggest shocks ever in the Heavyweight boxing division, hitherto unbeaten Anthony Joshua was stopped by relatively unknown and certainly unheralded Mexican Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Gardens late on Saturday night, losing all his belts, and casting serious doubts on whether Joshua can now reach the heady heights he was seemingly destined for.

Coming into the fight, it seemed unthinkable that Joshua would…could…lose to Ruiz, who was ‘just’ a stand in for the intended opponent of Joshua’s – Jarrell Miller – who received a six month ban from boxing after a failed drugs test. Ruiz was chosen to replace Miller – and proceeded to knock down Joshua FOUR times in seven rounds – this coming after Joshua had floored Ruiz himself in the third round – only to see the Mexican stand and drop Joshua twice in the same round.

Joshua seemed a shadow of his former self – although many pundits pointed out that he had already been floored by 42 year old Wladimir Klitschko in their epic battle – and only the ropes had truly saved him from hitting the canvas in his fights against Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin. He looked sluggish, disorientated and highly ill-prepared, maybe even taking a win over Ruiz for granted, but then paying the ultimate price as the Mexican, who has to be given every credit and respect, walked off with Joshua’s belts.

So where does Anthony Joshua go from here?

REMATCH WITH RUIZ?

Almost immediately after the loss, Anthony Joshua was suggesting a rematch should take place, with his promoter Eddie Hearn also stating that a rematch was almost certain, citing a bout likely to take place at the end of the year in the UK. There seems to be no contractual guarantee that a rematch would be required in the supposedly unlikely event of Joshua losing to Ruiz – but with a huge payday on offer for the now new Champion, and having been given the opportunity in the first place, it seems likely that the Mexican will accept a rematch and look to show he is/was no flash in the pan. How a rematch victory would pan out for Joshua remains to be seen – he would need to win in quite imperious fashion to put to bed the disaster of Saturday night – and even then, would not be held in the regard he was coming in to the bout.

JOSHUA TO RING THE CHANGES IN HIS CAMP?

One of the biggest questions that Joshua will need to answer is whether he retains confidence in his training team, lead by Rob McCracken. There is popular opinion that when Joshua really needed focus and guidance on his stool on Saturday night, he received mixed messages, and there are simply too many voices ringing in Joshua’s ears giving him advice. It looked as though Joshua emptied out very quickly on Saturday – yet he was supposedly in the shape of his life and had spent time in the weeks leading up to the fight with US Navy Seals. His team are there to control and focus and schedule – yet Joshua sat on his stool before his ill fated seventh round against Ruiz and asked McCracken “Why am I feeling like this?”. In the coming days and weeks, Joshua may well ask himself that question again and feel a different set of eyes and mouths are needed to ensure he doesn’t have to ask it again.

TYSON FURY CLASH NOW LOOKS FURTHER AWAY THAN EVER

Whilst the loss to Ruiz doesn’t signify the end of Joshua’s career or appeal, it is certainly a huge setback and a massive step backwards in the tantalising fights that the boxing world were salivating about…Deontay Wilder and, maybe even more notably, Tyson Fury, who had long claimed that Anthony Joshua was not the real deal and that Joshua was ‘running scared’ of facing the self proclaimed ‘linear Heavyweight champion of the World’. Although Fury resisted the urge to taunt Joshua, actually tweeting a supporting message to Joshua after the shock defeat, but there is no doubt that Fury is now in the driving seat where a fight with Joshua is concerned and, should he, as expected, beat Tom Scharwz in two weeks time in Las Vegas, and then come through his exciting rematch against the afore mentioned Wilder, you have to wonder whether he will even bother to fight Joshua – unless it is expressly on his terms. It would be huge in the United Kingdom – but would the USA audience be that interested? There could be more tantalising options including a clash with dominant cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk, who is casting his eye on the Heavyweight division.

There is no doubt that this loss for Joshua is akin to the shock caused when James ‘Buster’ Douglas floored Mike Tyson all those years ago. Tyson was never quite the same thereafter….Joshua will want to re-establish himself as THE name in the heavyweight division quickly. Whether that can happen though remains very much to be seen.