Andy Ruiz upended Anthony Joshua in an historic heavyweight title upset — and turned boxing’s glamour division upside down.
The bout at fabled Madison Square Garden was supposed to be a Stateside coming out party for Britain’s Joshua, previously unbeaten in 22 bouts with 21 of those victories coming inside the distance.
It was supposed to pave the way for a lucrative unification bout with World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder.
But Joshua’s first fight in America had already hit a snag when scheduled opponent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller failed three drugs tests.
Enter Ruiz, a Mexican-American from Imperial City on the California border with Mexico who took the fight at short notice and delivered an upset that immediately sparked comparisons to James “Buster” Douglas’s 1990 knockout of Mike Tyson in Japan.
“Everyone’s been doubting me since the beginning,” Ruiz said. “Especially for this fight — nobody knew I was going to win.
“I’m here now, the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.”
Ruiz officially arrived at 1:26 of the seventh round, when he knocked Joshua down for the fourth time and referee Mike Griffin called a halt.
Knocked down himself in the third round, Ruiz climbed off the canvas to send Joshua down twice in that round, then put him down twice in the seventh.
“It made me stronger. It made me want to do more,” Ruiz said of the knockdown, after which he proceeded to pummel Joshua with fierce flurries — making good on his vow that despite his chubby 268-pound physique he’d bring explosiveness and speed that would prove Joshua’s undoing.
Rematch in UK
Now he’ll have to show he has the kind of fortitude displayed by compatriot Lennox Lewis in coming back from disaster to become an even bigger star.
Joshua indicated he still aims to be a major player in the rejuvenated heavyweight division.
“I just have to turn it around a few notches and bring it back my way,” he said. “I don’t want people to drown in their sorrows. This will show I have the power and the strength.”
Among the interested onlookers however, Wilder doubted Joshua’s ability to bounce back.
“He wasn’t a true champion. His whole career consisted of lies, contradictions and gifts,” tweeted the WBC champ, who is preparing for upcoming rematches against Luis Ortiz and — probably early in 2020 — unbeaten Tyson Fury.
Britain’s Fury — who still labels himself the “lineal champion” despite vacating in 2016 several versions of the heavyweight world title he won against Wladimir Klitschko — is gearing up for a June 15 fight against German Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas.
Where and how Ruiz will fit into their plans remains to be seen, but he’s certainly in the plans of Joshua, who said he “100%” wants a rematch.
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn suggested a rematch in the United Kingdom in November or December.
“Right now, I just want to celebrate,” Ruiz said. “This is what I have been dreaming about since I was six years old.”
© Agence France-Presse