Clash on the Dunes Review: Joshua puts on boxing clinic in Saudi
By Daniel Bartlett: I usually try to get a review piece out as soon as possible following a huge fight night. However, I thought I’d let the dust settle on the Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. 2 rematch outcome. Whether you agree with what Eddie Hearn did by taking this event out to Saudi Arabia or not, it had a sense of something special was happening.
Pre-fight experts seemed split down the middle. Many predicting that Joshua would get revenge for his shock defeat at Madison Square Garden. Others saying they just thought that Ruiz would produce a similar display and walk away victorious. I’ve made no secrets as to which corner I was in. I wanted AJ to regain his titles and my heart said he would. But I had this doubt, as did many, that if Ruiz could catch him on the inside it could be curtains.
As 9pm GMT struck, I can only assume many Brit’s like myself were glued to their TV’s after reluctantly spending £24.99 for the event. But that’s a debate for another day. Even from AJ’s ring walk, there was a change. Joshua was clearly focused. He wasn’t his usual self, interacting with the crowd, he was focused on the job at hand.
Joshua started the fight in fantastic rhythm and produced what can be argued as his most disciplined and controlled performance of his career. Joshua connected cleanly with the right eye of Ruiz in the early exchanges and drew blood. Joshua was immediately more relaxed than he was at MSG. He was able to keep the shorter and much heavier Ruiz at his preferred range by staying on the back foot, and flicking out the jab whenever the champion was coming forward.
Ruiz has success at the end of the fourth round when an overhand right crashed home. Joshua took the punch well but the bell came at a great time for the Brit. A lot was spoken about before the fight about the weight of both fighters. Joshua, at his lightest ever for a title fight, had enough gas to keep Ruiz Jnr at a comfortable distance for the duration.
Joshua had to weather the inevitable late rally from Ruiz Jr in the eighth round. Where the Mexican’s eyes must have lit up when he landed two huge shots to the side of Joshua’s head. There was a collective intake of breath at ringside but this time Joshua stood firm. Ruiz continued to bring the heat in the ninth, but again Joshua stayed calm behind his jab.
It was that calmness along with the skill and finesse of Joshua that ultimately made him a two-time heavyweight champion. Two judges scoring the bout 118-110 and the other 119-109 were probably about right. It was a convincing victory for the Brit.
I was thrilled for Joshua. He was written off after the shock defeat on June 1, but he went away and designed a game plan with his team. A game plan that would take him to being a two-time champion. Since Saturday night I have seen a lot of people giving Joshua criticism that I feel is uncalled for. Joshua put on a punch perfect performance on Saturday night. For one, I feel if Tyson Fury had put on a similar performance, we would be calling it a ‘boxing masterclass’.
So personally, I think a lot of people need to give AJ some credit. He convincingly beat Ruiz on Saturday night and I know that’s not what the public wanted to see. We all love a spectacular knockout. But if AJ had gone looking for a stoppage and had got stopped himself. he would have received just as much criticism!
Although those Wilder and Fury fights look at least a year away, with Joshua needing to fulfil mandatories against Kurat Pulev and Oleksandr Usyk in 2020, the excitement in the heavyweight division remains now that AJ is only one strap away from unification.