- Almost every knowledgeable boxing fan/writer picked Anthony Joshua to win with the caveat that Andy Ruiz can really fight and might give him some trouble. What, in your mind, did Ruiz do that allowed him to be so effective?
Brent: First and foremost Ruiz is just a damn good fighter. He’s as fundamentally sound a guy as you’re going to find in this division and he made Joshua pay a tax for his offense. As soon as AJ decided the price was too high he shut down. Most importantly, Ruiz didn’t make the mistake Klitschko did by letting Joshua off the hook when he had him in the sunken place. Make no mistake, this was a thorough ass kicking by the better fighter.
Jason: I wish to take nothing away from Ruiz, because it’s my sincerest hope that the happy fat kids who love their mamas shall inherit the Earth. But it’s impossible not to see this upset through the lens of Joshua’s failings. If the dude with the eight-inch reach advantage had been busier with his jab and kept his hands up when Ruiz was within range, we likely wouldn’t be talking about a fallen champion and hailing our new, true heavyweight overlord, Fightin’ Fluffy.
Tim: As I handled the immediate post-fight write-up I feel like I covered this for the most part but let me emphasize a couple of things. I’m still not sure Ruiz couldn’t have stopped him in the 4th if he just turned it up a little. I know he said he was waiting and trying not to run into anything big, I’m just thinking he could’ve done it sooner. What he did that gave Joshua the most trouble is that he was recovered enough to land something big against a sloppy Joshua trying to close the show. HOW he did that is another thing, and it goes to his fortitude, ring IQ, hand speed and power.
Matthew: Ruiz controlled distance, and when you do that, you’re in-fucking-charge. His footwork is terrific and he’s quick, so the angles he was using were lethal. Joshua wanted the fight at medium to long range, and Andy did everything in his power to deny him that. Oh, and when he had Joshua hurt, he pounced on him like an all you can eat nacho platter. I agree with Tim that Ruiz probably could’ve polished Joshua off in the 4th, but ultimately, he just pure outfought Anthony Joshua.
- Ruiz said after the fight that he’d never been knocked down before, which is rare over the course 144 amateur and pro bouts. How impressed were you by his reaction after going down hard in the third?
Brent: When Ruiz hit the canvas, shit was falling off shelves at my house 1200 miles away. That was a big boy shot landed by a big boy fighter and you know what? It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened for Andy on three fronts: 1) It showed him he could take AJ’s best shot and keep going. Having that fear of engagement removed was essential. 2) It showed Joshua that loading up for one big bomb simply wouldn’t be enough. He’d have to open up and throw which worked right into Ruiz’s game plan. 3) The false sense of security that AJ gained from the knockdown is what led to Ruiz’s retaliatory flurry which Joshua never truly recovered from. Plus, for Mexicans, the fight doesn’t even START until you nearly murder them.
Jason: When Joshua put him down in the third, Ruiz absolutely looked the part of a man whose bootheels had never seen the light. But though briefly stunned, he never panicked or seemed to doubt or recalculate the geometry of his game plan. When Joshua almost immediately landed a massive right hand in the follow-up, Ruiz ate it — and, a moment later, was ready with the left hook when an increasingly heedless Joshua left himself open for it.
Tim: That combination from Joshua looked completely like the fight-ending sort. It was hard to blame Joshua for thinking it was over, yet even with that said, it’s not like he came in with any plan other than “hit fat guy hard again and don’t worry about anything else.” That Ruiz got up was super-impressive, naturally. That he immediately turned the fight to his advantage may have been even more baller.
Matthew: I was stunned when he got up and didn’t cover up or clinch. I’ve seen Ruiz fight almost like he’s in a sparring session before (against Parker for example), but that KD changed him. He got up fucking pissed, and seeing a fighter learn something new about themselves is always interesting, good or bad. In this case, it was fantastic, and I’m absolutely thrilled I got to see it happen in real time.
- An immediate rematch seems most likely. What do Ruiz and Joshua have to do to win it?
Brent: Unless there was a very serious undisclosed physical ailment Joshua was dealing with Saturday night I don’t see how a rematch goes any better for him. Obviously, he’ll want to engage less and try and keep the fight on the outside but the bottom line is that Ruiz is just better at this than him. This wasn’t a Hasim Rahman/Lennox Lewis I hail mary shot. This was a pure class issue.
Jason: I don’t know that Ruiz can beat a focused, fully weaponized Joshua. AJ is skilled and powerful, and if he jabs, moves and makes Ruiz miss when he looks to counter, Joshua will find his openings for the power shots that’ll either put Ruiz down or wear out that beautiful dumpling of a man. But I don’t know that we’ll ever again see *that* Joshua — against Ruiz or, possibly, anyone. The knockdowns (Wladimir Klitschko) and buzzings (Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin) seem to have taken a toll, and by the fourth round on Saturday night, Joshua clearly wanted to be anywhere but in the ring at Madison Square Garden.
Tim: As Ruiz is the one who won, he just needs to drop that same shit on Joshua. Joshua, on the other hand, needs to find some kind of Lewis/Klitschko tricks. That’s leaning on people, fighting more cautiously, relying on the jab almost exclusively. It kills me to say that, by the way. I respect both those champs but don’t wish another “boring heavyweight reign from gigantic ultra-cautious punching type” on the world. Really, I wouldn’t take the Ruiz fight immediately next. Joshua needs to perfect a set of tools that won’t emerge from one camp.
Mathew: I’m actually in agreement with everyone, somehow. Ruiz should do exactly what he did Saturday night, use angles and punch his way in, punish Joshua with counters, and overall just be Ruiz. AJ has some work to do. Not getting a concussion will certainly improve his odds, but his craft needs work. He needs to be more fighter and less athlete, because at the very top, just being an elite athlete isn’t enough. Rob McCracken is a terrific trainer, so I would imagine he’s going to be damned focused on getting Joshua to use his jab to control distance and tempo next time out. And he’s going to have to figure out how to handle Ruiz sidestepping and coming in at an angle. He was lost when Ruiz employed that move.
- How important are the Andy Ruiz style upsets of the world to your enjoyment of the sport?
Brent: I’ve made no secret of the fact that my sole rooting interest at this point is for complete and unfettered chaos. I root for good fights, not good fighters. The more unpredictable and hilarious the outcome the happier I am. If it can fuck up the plans of greedy promoters and reluctant fighters, all the better. Not to put too fine a point on it but Andy Ruiz has renewed my interest in a division populated by fighters that defy boxing fans to continue giving a shit about them.
Jason: Everything. When Kawhi Leonard (eventually) stuck that four-bouncer to finish off Milwaukee in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was instantly entered into the Epic Moments in NBA History file. Now re-imagine that sequence, but with Toronto as Teutopolis … and Leonard as a high school sophomore … and the Raptors, down by 20, clanking in a 21-point shot. That was Ruiz on Saturday. But the nature of boxing makes those moments, no matter how rare, ultimately possible.
Tim: On one level I was sad to see Joshua go down like that. It feels like he could have been the future of the sport (he might still be), and having a big, dominant, hard-hitting, vulnerable and handsome and charismatic clear heavyweight champion cleaning out the division would have been sensational for its profile. But was it more fun to watch a ridiculous outcome like this, in the short run? Yeah. And as I wrote, this changes the dynamic in the division, and not necessarily for the worse.
Matthew: Nights like that are why I suffer all the bullshit and tedium that comes with being a fan of this goofy ass sport.
- We’ve had several cartoonish KOs so far this year, where does Callum Smith’s stoppage of Hassan N’Dam rank for you?
Brent: I don’t know what the gravitational constant is on N’Dam’s home planet but he clearly hasn’t acclimated himself to ours yet. He goes down more than Anne Wolfe at Lilith Fair. As Swain pointed out on Twitter, the unnecessary lurch back as N’Dam hit the canvas puts this in a new tax bracket of hilarity and the lazy left hook thrown from the depths of his subconscious while laying on the canvas really helps this one pull away from the pack.
Jason: In a vacuum, the one-punch KO was enjoyably extra. But we’d already seen N’Dam down twice in the fight against Smith and, in all, maybe a thousand times before. N’Dam is basically the super middleweight Amir Khan, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. (Seriously, be careful: you might drop the guy with an out-of-left-field *gesundheit*.) Context matters. Just last week Devin Haney dialed up an ACME bomb of a KO on Antonio Moran, which I might rate over the N’Dam wipeout. But I’m confident that before 2019 is out we’ll get a chance to see something just as spectacular, when the stakes are even higher.
Tim: I dock it points for coming against a smaller man. Even segregating out that factor, jeez, there was a better KO just last week via Haney. That said, Callum Smith was very, very impressive.
Matthew: Context is absolutely crucial here, as Jason said. I also agree with Tim, that Haney’s KO was more impressive, but I did a spit take with my beer when N’Dam fired himself backward like he was shot out of a canon. I was laughing my balls off. Mostly because I’m not right in the head.
- I had the fight a draw and figured a round either direction was a good call, did you think Katie Taylor deserved the decision over Delfine Persoon, and is women’s boxing actually becoming watchable?
Brent: I’m almost certainly alone here but the abbreviated two minute rounds of women’s boxing adds a level of urgency that men’s fights don’t have. Of course, longer rounds means more violence and we’re all uncivilized pigs so that’s why we’re here but the suspense factor of shorter rounds toward the end of women’s fights adds a layer of fun. After Taylor/Persoon last night, Jessica McCaskill/Anahi Sanchez the week prior and the emergence of my future ex-wife who’ll one day file a restraining order against me after I set myself on fire on her front lawn Mikaela Meyer, women’s boxing is becoming increasingly more not-unwatchable.
Jason: Let me first say this: I want the women to be good. I want them to be not merely watchable, but enjoyable. Yet here we are. Even the best of the ladies tend to be a little ham-fisted, and I was struck by how few answers the elite Taylor had, and how little she had left in the tank, by the last third of the fight. On the other hand, Persoon may actually be a Cyberdyne creation, and the fight was inarguably … *fun*. Taylor probably banked enough early rounds to eke out a decision (it was no robbery, in any case). If the women aren’t going to put on skills clinics, let’s hope they keep delivering more of these cavewoman brawls.
Tim: I didn’t score it, so I can’t speak to that part. It was sporadically entertaining, especially the last round. Too much rough action overall from Persoon for my tastes, though. I’ve seen some really wonderful women’s boxing matches in my time. What seems to be helping is that big stars from past Olympics are giving it a jolt of energy, not that the quality of the matches has changed all that much.
Matthew: I wrote the question, so obviously I’m okay with the result. That said, I enjoyed the fight just enough that I didn’t start watching something else during it. The women’s ranks are getting more skilled, but christ fuck they’re shallow on talent. Persoon does, quite literally, everything wrong, which I imagine is why she gave Taylor fits. Super rugged awkward fighters are always hard on skilled stylists (think Mayorga, Ricardo vs Forrest, Vernon). I’m still largely ambivalent on the women’s fights, but as they improve, I’ll certainly tune in more frequently.