By Alan Hubbard |
Well, was it an accident waiting to happen? The consensus among the fight fraternity was that sooner or later the fallibility of Anthony Joshua’s defense and in particular his jawbone, would be exposed. It is just that no-one expected to happen against a bloke who looked like Humpty Dumpty.
However is was not Humpty Dumpty, alias Andy Ruiz Jr. who fell off the wall, it was the hitherto undefeated multi-belted world heavyweight champion from Watford. Now boxing’s burning question is whether the massive entourage which surrounds him can put then deposed king together again…Don’t bet your house on it.
We may have seen the best – and now the worst of Joshua, just as we did his fellow British Olympic hero Amir Khan a few weeks back. Both have had their careers at best rudely interrupted or at worst curtailed by not just by a defeat of seismic proportions, but an apparent disinclination to fight back when hurt and humiliated.
Like many others I have suspected that one day the golden boy of London 2012 would run up against someone who hits him back harder that he hits them. It also happened that the tubby Californian of Mexican heritage not only had more rapid firepower but more bottle. A harsh indictment I know but has a bewildered, broken Joshua climbed off the floor for the fourth time in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, turning his back on the referee, then lolling back open-mouthed on the ropes in his own corner and spitting out his gumshield – the traditional way a boxer indicates he has had enough and wants out of there – you could see surrender written all over his face.
Same manner Khan was obviously disinclined to continue after being accidentally hit low by Terence Crawford and spurning the offer off a statutory five minutes respite. So much for going out on your shield.
Big Josh was not only floored, but flawed and just like most of us he had grossly underestimated the quality of the Sumo-shaped challenger whose record always suggested he was better than he looked. Beaten only once in 34 contests -– and that on a split decision in another world title bout – he may have had a big belly and slow feet, but by golly he had a huge heart, getting up from a first-ever knock-down, and deceptively fast hands.
At the conclusion of the scrap Joshua had lost not only his four world titles but also seemed to have lost his marbles. His corner was as nonplussed as he was about what was happening, offering little in the way of way of constructive advice as to how to combat the carnage.
Yet what surprised me most was the nonchalance 29-year-of Joshua showed in defeat. Arms draped around his joyously celebrating opponent’s shoulders he praised him to the high heavens telling him he deserved to win while smiling and joking with the man who is the first born of Mexican parents to hold the World Heavyweight Championship.
Joshua seemed relaxed, even relieved. Where was the disconsolation of defeat, the anger with himself, the swallowing of a bitter pill? His ho-hum attitude does not bode well for the contracted return in the United Kingdom this autumn.
Nor was his promoter Eddie Hearn unduly fazed, saying: “You never know how even the best of fighters will react after a defeat like this. Some don’t come back the way they were before. We are all devastated but it all depends how AJ responds.”
He added that a rematch is a “must win” because Joshua’s options will be “nothing after that”.
My own gut feeling is that that a return will be a repeat of the original for psychologically Joshua has been harmed more than any of the physical hurt inflicted by Andres Ponce Ruiz jnr, aka “The Destroyer”.
Joshua had a concussion test after falling to a first defeat of his 23-fight career against a man who took the contest at short notice when original opponent Jarrell Miller failed a drugs tests.
At 268lbs, he was the heaviest opponent of those Joshua has shared a ring with but it was the Briton who looked physically drained early on in the contest. It seemed he has put muscles everywhere except his chin.
Joshua never recovered after being floored twice in the third round, Knockdowns made more impressive given Ruiz had been dropped with a left hook moments earlier.
Much had been made of Joshua competing in the United States for the first time, with hopes high he could land an eye-catching win that would build his profile in the country.
He was priced at 25-1 on with bookmakers, with many pundits expecting Ruiz to struggle to make it past the opening few rounds.
Some will insist that he has simply been found out. Personally, I think the problem lies way from the ring. He has assembled a veritable platoon of camp followers, at the last count some 23 in all, managers, minders, publicists, advisers, coaches, conditioners, confidantes and assorted acolytes. Most on the huge payroll. Unlike his re-invigorated British rival Tyson Fury he has never been a “People’s Champion”, becoming too remote from those who pay his handsome wages.
Up close he is charming but you can rarely get to him these days. We in The Boxing Writers’ Club have been trying for over two years to honour him with a lunch, as we do all UK world champions, but his over-protective, snooty management team keep fobbing us off. Wonder if he’ll be ready for us now.
Equally important is that he still largely trains at the lottery-funded Team GB national HQ at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield under the tutelage of his old amateur coach, Robert McCracken, who also has a whole bunch of Olympic wannabees to supervise. Moreover, he is already a multi-millionaire several times over, typically trousering some £20 million ($25 million/€22.5 million) for what should have been a walk in Central Park against Ruiz.
As rival promoter Frank Warren who was gazumped by Hearn when trying to sign Joshua after the Olympics points out without rancour: “Suffering defeat in such a manner to Ruiz did come as a surprise, but the vulnerability of Joshua has been there for all to see over a number of fights now. He has been clipped by a good few opponents and nothing seems to have been done to minimise the risk.
“He is very good offensively but he was on the back foot. It was a great shot that put Ruiz down, but when he got up he exploited all the glaring chinks in Joshua’s armour. He got caught with a left hook and after taking one on the top of head he looked uncomfortable and like he didn’t want to be in there.”
Okay, so it is true that some of the great champions from Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali through to Lennox Lewis and Tyson Fury via Mike Tyson and Vladimir Klitschko have had to pick themselves off the floor but the difference is that all have done so with anger, retribution or renewed ambition in their eyes. I did not see that from AJ.
No-one this side of the water wants to see a decent Olympic and world champion so humiliated again but if his career and reputation is to be resurrected her needs to be swiftly ejected from his current comfort zone.
But I fear it is too late.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.