The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Saudi Experience – Five things we learned

  1. Anthony Joshua is back not the destructive AJ of his early career as he moved up in class, although the first Ruiz fight was an aborration, but the return of the thinking boxer. Faced with a foe who’d devastatingly ripped the title from him six months earlier, he went back to school, worked out a gameplan and stuck to it. The term ‘masterclass’ has been used in the last 36 hours. This wasn’t quite that, but it sure was impressive and he categorically got the job done.
  2. Andy Ruiz Jr disrespected himself and the heavyweight title by punishing the scales at over 20 stone, some 15lbs heavier than six months previous, he brought back the James ‘Buster’ Douglas meek surrender of a new champion. One who literally ate himself out of retaining it. There are worse cases in the last century but in today’s high tech world with dieticians, physios and advisors at a drop of a hat, this was largely inexcusable. His achievement of this and post fight excuses “making no excuses” was disappointing.
  3. The Saudi’s want more the young Prince Abdul Azziz of the Saudi Royal family is an iconic figure amongst the young of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They say (as the Chair of KSA’s General Sports Authority) he sees sport as a way of engaging with the rest of the world and is also a talented sportsman himself. Alongside the Deriyah boxing arena is an international tennis tournament arena and, added to recent motor racing events, they want more. After Saturday, they certainly want more of Anthony Joshua. The arena rang out with his name, prompted by Brits, but followed loudly by the locals.
  4. The Heavyweight division is the deepest for some time – Yes, AJ does hold four world sanctioning belts, but there are also two guys still out there legitimately calling themselves ‘World Champion’. In the triumpheret of Joshua, Wilder and Fury you have fighters who arguably on any given night could beat each other. Just below that we have the soon to ‘hopefully’ be renewed WBC mandatory contender Dillian Whyte. Throw in Oleksander Usyk, Daniel Dubois, Derek Chisora and those showcased on Saturday (Hrgovic, Majidov and Hunter). Plus, a returning Ruiz Jr and perennial contenders Ortiz, Pulev and Povetkin. It all adds up to some great fights in 2020.
  5. Dillian Whyte deserves respect – carrying the threat for half the year of his chosen profession being taken away from him ‘The Bodysnatcher’ ends it with two testing victories. No one wanted to fight undefeated Oscar Rivas whom he outpointed in the summer and, on Saturday, he defeated teak tough Mariusz Wach on three weeks notice. Add in the unsubstantiated and premature condemnation from some sections of the media and this man deserves a world title shot, and now.

Diriyah Diary

Sunday 8th December

A Saudi experience

Joshua back on top

In the early hours of Sunday morning (local time) amidst the hospitality, splendour and pageantry of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the British heavyweight Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s) regained the WBA, IBF and WBO world titles he lost a little over six months ago in a stunning upset in New York City.

In defeating Andy Ruiz Jr (33-2, 22 KO’s) by scores of 118-110, 118-110, 119-109 he joins an elite group of men who have regained the heavyweight title. He enters the high territory of Patterson, Ali, Tyson, Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

In many ways this was a surreal evening. The titles being taken to the Middle East for the first time, and being welcomed by spectators clad in ‘pack a macs’ watching in front of Saudi royalty, in moments of silence in the desert after midnight. It was however a tense bout with so much on the line for both combatants.

It will go down in boxing history as the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ to rival those exotic titles of bygone heavyweight years. However, it was not so much a clash as a ‘dash’. The challenger chose to revert back to his amateur skill set and adopt what many saw beforehand as his sole route to victory. Work off the jab, follow up with power punches and move. If you get in close and get tagged, then hold on for dear life.

It would be poor to criticise Joshua though. In essence this was a boxing masterclass by him, perfecting the art of hitting and not getting hit. The wide scores reflected this dominance but were exaggerated by the Mexican champion’s lack of conditioning and inability to sustain any meaningful attack.

Joshua controlled the fight at distance and Ruiz conditioning and poor footwork didn’t really allow him to get in the fight. Whilst some would say he made the fight, working from the centre of the ring throughout, he was just plain ineffective.

The Brit to his immense credit nailed Ruiz on many occasions in the fight, backing up his tactic with big powershots.

It was a fight of no knockdowns, missing the drama of the first encounter, and only two early cuts to each fighter. None becoming a factor in the bout.

Throughout the contest there were cheers of AJ and “Oh Anthony Joshua”, clearly the local favourite, and met with a lesser reply of “Mexico, Mexico”. This was pumped up by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez being in attendance. But Andy Ruiz on this night just couldn’t rise to the challenge.

In the post fight interviews Ruiz admitted “I didn’t prepare how I should have” an indictment on his ability to stay motivated after hitting the jackpot in June. Joshua was ecstatic in victory, clasping hold off the belts and saying “This was about boxing. I’m used to knocking guys out…but I said I was gonna correct myself and come again”.

This was the night Joshua made history and captured the hearts of the Middle East. Another frontier almost conquered. Despite references to a third encounter to end the arguement, the big money and challenges of Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury await the British world champion.

Diriyah Diary

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

Saturday 7th December – Fight Day

Right. Let’s get serious.

This is what the American’s call a ‘pick ems’ fight. Pundits and the so called experts are split down the middle. In a poll of such in The Ring magazine they came out 12-10 to challenger Anthony Joshua. Almost everyone hedging their bets by offering ways each could win. No one emphatically, except maybe Duke McKenzie former three weight world champion, “You cannot put muscles on your temple and the back of your head”, predicting a Ruiz reaffirmation of fight one.

Also, in other interviews Hall of famer promoter Bob Arum, predicting a Ruiz victory, and former heavyweight champions like Hasim Rahman predicting likewise. Most Brits however moving gradually towards a Joshua redemption.

So what do we know ?

  • Andy ‘The Destroyer’ Ruiz ripped the title from Joshua just over six months ago, dropping him four times in the process
  • This was Joshua’s first pro defeat and psychologically that is damaging, some even questioning that the Brit quit
  • Boxing history, especially in the heavyweight division is littered with results of rematches underlining the first fight and going the same way. Holyfield-Tyson being the most recent example
  • However, rematches have turned completely the other way. Joe Louis-Schmeling, Ali-Spinks, Lewis-Rahman
  • A good big un beats a good little un. The Mexican Ruiz is three stone bigger and 15lbs heavier than the first fight. Joshua is 10lbs lighter than in his defeat
  • Joshua is the superior athlete with the best boxing pedigree, capturing Olympic gold in London 2012. He should be able to box his way to victory
  • Ruiz is Mexican. He knows how to fight. Enough said
  • Both fighters will be extremely motivated. Joshua for redemption and respect. Ruiz to prove his win was no fluke and to underline his Mexican heritage
  • Ruiz has the confidence of knowing he can drop Joshua anytime, especially when the fight is in close, and stop him
  • Joshua knows he has the skills to box to victory, if he fights the right fight
  • Ruiz weight and lack of conditioning is not ideal for an elite athlete entering the fire zone of a square ring
  • Styles make fights. Ruiz is short and stocky with fast hands. Stylistically this is Krptonite for the upright and tall Brit. AJ has the height and reach
  • Joshua will win the fight if he keeps at distance and has the stamina to maintain his strategy
  • Ruiz will win any fight up close and in devastating fashion

All in all, this takes us no closer to clearly predicting the outcome, not with any confidence. The Undisputed for fear of being accused of sitting on the fence, says we can see Ruiz winning early, or Joshua winning late, but a gut feeling and boxing history points to a Ruiz victory probably around the 7th round again.

As British trainer Adam Booth pointed out, if attempting to exchange, Joshua “lingers” in the pocket then Ruiz fast hands and power will define the outcome.

But boy, how I would love to be proved wrong.

Diriyah Diary

Cover posters courtesy of The Ring magazine.

Friday 6th December

The Mexican Champion Andy Ruiz Jr makes it to the podium

It was not your average weigh-in.

At 4:30pm local time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia the Heavyweight Champion of the World, or at least the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO versions of it, came to the podium sporting his Mariachi sombrero. Oozing supreme confidence with his entourage and waving the Mexican tricolour, little did we know how much pain those scales would take.

As the sun beat down in front of a multicultural audience on this Matchroom Boxing promotion those scales would tip 283.7 lbs (20st 3lbs). Ouch ! A full 15lbs heavier than their June meeting.

Meanwhile former champion and challenger Anthony Joshua came in a lean 237lbs (16st 13lbs) sporting a pair of headphones. This, the lightest he’s been since 2014. Clear evidence that he’s had a good training camp. For the record a 10lb drop since his defeat.

But, is this going to matter ? Ruiz will again be the heavier of the two, but for sure his hands won’t be slower.

So, for the Brit to win this fight he must take the Mexican champion into the deep waters of rounds 8 thru 12. Yes, come to fight….if the opportunity comes in the opening rounds then take it, but; don’t come out with a loose guard, recklessly seeking an early KO. Speed kills (figuratively speaking) especially in a boxing ring. Learn the lessons from the first fight AJ and you give yourself the best chance.

Your editor has picked Ruiz to win for the six months leading into this fight. Telling all who asked, to their disappointment. “He (AJ) will win won’t he ?” Well……this is how it goes.

But; tonight amongst the splendour and hospitality on the lawns outside the Al Faisaliah Hotel, with the canapés and soft drinks for press, and hearing the Brits chanting AJ’s name I might just be starting to think he might well do it !

It may be speed that can win the fight, but if the hunger is gone, then a fighter is not what he was. James ‘Buster’ Douglas knows a story about that.

The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Jackal’s back in business

Carl Frampton bosses Tyler McCreary. Photo courtesy of reviewjournal.com

Double-weight world champion and Ring magazine 2016 Fighter of the Year Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton dominated Ohio’s Tyler McCreary over 10 rounds in the Top Rank show in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Official scores were 100-88 on all three cards in this ‘catchweight’ super-featherweight bout. The Belfastman dominated throughout, targeting the body of the American and dropping him with vicious left hooks in rounds 6 and 9.

Given that Frampton 26-2-0 (15 KO’s) had been out of the ring for almost a year his timing was excellent, nailing McCreary with strong jabs and digging in with follow up hooks to the body. Added to this was his ability to duck under the tall American’s jab throughout the contest and not suffer any facial damage.

McCreary 16-1-1 (7 KO’s) was game and although outgunned from the early stages showed great resilience as he went past round 8 for the first time in his career. Frampton ‘schooled’ him for the majority of the fight but the American will learn a lot from dipping his toes into the elite level waters.

Worrying was Frampton’s post fight admission that he felt something go in his left hand in the 2nd round and feared that he’d fractured it yet again. “I re-fractured the hand twice in camp, but I knew a lot of people were coming to support me. There was absolutely no way I wasn’t fighting.” This followed a freak injury six months ago when an ornament fell on it and fractured on the eve of an earlier return fight. This doesn’t bode well for an early return to the ring this time around.

During the post fight interview he was joined in the ring by WBO super-feather champion Jermel Herring who Frampton looks forward to meeting in either Belfast or New York next year. Most noticeable was the height differential between the taller American and the Irishman. This will be a key factor in any title fight should it be made, but who would back against Frampton adding a third divisional world title on Saturday’s showing. Frampton is indeed back in business.

Casimero shocks Tete

Photo by Sumio Yamada

Philippines bantamweight John Riel Casimero 29-4-0 (20 KO’s) added a third divisional world title to his resume with an emphatic stoppage of South African WBO champion Zolani Tete in Birmingham, England on Saturday’s Queensberry Promotion.

Southpaw Tete 28-4-0 (21 KO’s) was a big favourite going in. After a quiet first round, he won the second, but suffered two knockdowns in round three as a result of two big right hands. He bravely dragged himself up on both occasions, but was overwhelmed by Casimero before referee Steve Gray stopped the fight at 2:14 mins.

After the ecstasy of the stoppage the Filipino champ called out Japanese superstar and World Boxing Super Series champion Naoya Inoue. “Next fight, Inoue … Come on, Monster !”. This would be a massive proposition for the Asian continent, with a three weight Filipino against a growing Japanese legend. A natural for the Tokyo Superdome or gambling playground of Macau.

Tete will have to re-group and the likelihood is he will move up to the super-bantamweight division. The Inoue fight has disappeared for the time being, possibly forever.

Other notable achievements of the weekend included female undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus successfully defending her titles and Alexander Besputin winning the WBA welterweight title in Monte Carlo’s Matchroom promotion. Both victories being on points.

We now move onto Diriyah, Saudi Arabia for the much anticipated rematch for the WBA/IBF/WBO Heavyweight titles. Let the hype of fight week begin !

The Friday Faceup

The weekly feature looking at the fight weekend ahead.

The Bantams are back

WBO Champion Zolani Tete – photo courtesy of World Boxing Super Series

Just over three weeks ago in Saitama, Japan we saw fight of the year contender Naoya Inoue v Nonito Donaire for the World Boxing Super Series title and Muhammad Ali Trophy in the bantamweight 118lb/8st 6lbs division.

This Saturday (November 30th) in Birmingham, England ‘the other’ bantamweight champion Zolani Tete will face Filipino puncher John Riel Casimero in defence of his WBO title in a Frank Warren Queensberry Promotion billed ‘Midlands Mayhem’ and shown live on BT Sport.

Earlier in the year the South African Tete 28-3-0 (21 KO’s) pulled out of the WBSS at the semi-final stage due to an injured right shoulder. His prospective opponent Nonito Donaire went on to excel in the final but Tete was favourite to win their fight should they have met.

Tete rightly feels he’s more than a match for the new golden boy of the division and Ali Trophy winner Inoue. Although he’s supremely confident of having Inoue’s number he must first navigate Casimero, a former IBF light-fly and flyweight world champion.

Tete coming off a long layoff (last bout October 2018) should come through but unless he stops Casimero 28-4-0 (19 KO’s) early, as his explosiveness has shown in the past, he may have to go through some difficult moments to prevail. Expect a late Tete victory.

Frampton’s fire still burns

Carl Frampton – photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

Former WBA and IBF world featherweight champion Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton 26-2-0 (15 KO’s) returns to the ring in a 128lb/9st 2lbs ‘catchweight’ contest against American Tyler McCreary 16-0-1 (7 KO’s) in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning (GMT).

The Irishman, 32, now closer to the end of his career seeks big money matches at the elite level to cash in on an excellent career which saw him named Ring magazine Fighter of the Year in 2016. Top of the list is a ‘rubber match’ with old foe Leo Santa Cruz whom he shared two fantastic fights with as a featherweight at 122lb/9st . The title changing hands on both occasions.

Santa Cruz captured the vacant WBA super-featherweight title last weekend which adds spice to a third defining fight. The Mexican-American however seemingly wanting nothing of it and expressing a desire to move on in recent interviews. This leaves a potential title fight against WBO champion and ex-US Marine Jamel Herring a more realistic proposition for the Belfast fighter should he come through on Sunday.

Carl is on record as saying “The next fight I lose, I’m done” and needs to focus on this weekend’s bout as complacency is a threat to finishing his career on the high that it rightly deserves. Expect him to be switched on early in the fight, press throughout and get a late rounds stoppage.

This, along with an interesting co-feature including Oscar Valdez 26-0-0 (20 KO’s) versus Andres Gutierrez 38-2-1 (25 KO’s), will be shown live on BT Sport.

In Monte Carlo going head-to-head on Sky Sports on Saturday is a Matchroom Boxing card featuring the return of Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus in defence of her Undisputed World Welterweight title against Victoria Noelia Bustos. The card will also feature Welsh Olympian Joe Cordina, heavyweight Hughie Fury and an intriguing WBA welterweight title fight between fellow Russians Alexander Besputin and Radzhab Butaev. Take your pick in what promises to be a heavy nights boxing on UK television.

The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness for the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.
Boom ! WBC Heavyweight Champ Deontay Wilder detonates on Luis Ortiz

Why we love the Heavyweights

They don’t have to make weight, they’re almost always slow and ponderous, they shout the odds about being the greatest when only one man can rightly claim that, they avoid each other like the plague, they earn the most money for least amount of work and; in a nutshell frustrate us endlessly. But boy when they land that shot they encapsulate the beauty and finality of this sport. In no other is the action terminated in an instant. This is what has captivated observers for nearly 200 years.

At sometime after 5:30am Sunday (UK time) in the Nevada desert WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder 42-0-1 (41 KO’s) detonated a big overhand right on Cuban Luis Ortiz 31-2-0 (26 KO’s) to perfectly illustrate the power and fascination with the big men.

It was a fight in which Ortiz had arguably won all six completed rounds, showing the superior boxing technique honed from close to 500 fights (400+ as an amateur), and was seemingly cruising to an unlikely victory, then BOOM, down he went and almost lights out.

Think Rocky Marciano v Jersey Joe Walcott in the 50’s, Tyson v Spinks in the 80’s and Lewis v McCall 1 in the 90’s. The single punch knockouts of the heavyweights and the devastation caused. This followed by the years of wrangling, in the latter case, to get the rematch to hopefully put things right.

Then throw in the bouncing up and down of ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica by George Foreman and US commentator Howard Cosell screaming “Down goes Frazier…down goes Frazier !” For those of a younger vintage watch the YouTube highlights to see the sheer brutality of the finish. This is why heavyweight boxing pays the money and draws fans to the sport. As they say in the game “As the heavyweights go, so goes boxing”. If that’s healthy, so is boxing.

At 2:59 of that 7th round Wilder made his tenth defence of the WBC title and now looks ahead to the much anticipated rematch with Brit and lineal champion Tyson Fury. The only man he has failed to stop. Fury rising like Lazurus in the 12th round of their title fight last December. The rematch is currently slated for 22nd February. More fireworks await !

Smith toughs it out

Ring magazine champion Callum Smith retains his straps. Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Liverpool’s Callum Smith 27-0-0 (19 KO’s) prevailed in a highly competitive fight with Londoner John Ryder 28-5-0 (16 KO’s) to retain his WBA super-middleweight title and gain the WBC Diamond title. Coming into the fight there were many who predicted an overwhelming victory for Smith, but Ryder caused him considerable problems throughout.

Ryder, the significantly shorter of the two adopted a come forward, compact approach working to the champion’s body throughout. Smith compromising his stature and skillset got drawn into a dogfight at times and with a series of lacerations over his right eye struggled to dominate.

Smith endured some difficult rounds, failing to impress to hopefully secure further marquee fights against ‘Canelo’ Alavarez and others, and was largely disappointed with his own performance in front of his home fans. The official scores were 117-111, 116-112, 116-112 in favour of the champion. These were wider than the mark on The Undisputed’s card which had it even going into the last two rounds. Smith pulling through with the victory.

The Liverpudlian now goes onto trying to secure a big fight at his beloved Anfield stadium, home of Liverpool Football Club next summer. On this evidence the marquee names will be more inclined to come over the pond to wrestle his titles from him. An all domestic clash with fellow world champion Billy Joe Saunders looks the more likely immediate option.

Other notable victories over the weekend included Mexican-American Leo Santa Cruz winning the WBA super-featherweight title, his fourth divisional title, and domestically Chris Billam-Smith winning the vacant Commonwealth cruiserweight title.

The Friday Faceup

The weekly feature looking at the fight weekend ahead

Wow ! What a fight weekend we’ve got lined up.

First up in Liverpool, England on Saturday (23rd) is the Matchroom Boxing promotion for the WBA super-middleweight (168lb/12st) championship of the world between hometown boy Callum Smith 26-0-0 (19 KO’s) and fellow Englishman John Ryder 28-4-0 (16 KO’s). Also at stake is the lesser known WBC Diamond title.

Smith shows Ryder what’s on the line. Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

The tall and rangy Liverpudlian Smith, having captured the World Boxing Super Series Muhammad Ali Trophy and prestigious Ring Magazine 168lb title in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last year, risks his elite standing and future stadium ‘superfights’ against Mexican legend Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Gennadiy Golovkin or Billy Joe Saunders. His dream being to fight at his beloved Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club. This looks a good prospect should he be victorious and impress.

Logic and undoubted pedigree would say Smith is in for an easier night but #1 contender Ryder comes into the contest on the back of several recent big wins as he’s gradually moved up in championship class. Smith will have to guard against complacency and not look too far ahead. Many a fighter has fallen foul of this in the past, particularly in a British ring (e.g. Errol Christie, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn).

Ryder is coming to fight, saying “He hasn’t put a foot wrong, looked good in beating George Groves and Hassan N’Dam, but I just believe I can exploit him. I’m a different kettle of fish to what he’s faced before.” A shared opponent and indicator of how the fight might progress is Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding who Smith dispatched within three minutes in November 2015, whereas Ryder lost a close split decision to Fielding in mid 2017. This being Ryder’s sole loss.

In a fight televised by Sky Sports look for Smith to start fast, take early control and stop a game Ryder in the middle to late rounds.

There is a strong supporting card with several hometown fighters including Craig Glover at cruiserweight (200lb/14st 4lb) meeting Cyclone Promotions’ Chris Billiam-Smith for the vacant Commonwealth belt and 2016 Olympian Anthony Fowler facing Harry Scarff at super-welterweight (154lb/11st).

Then; in the early hours of Sunday it’s off to the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada for the rematch between WBC Champion Deontay Wilder 41-0-1 (40 KO’s) and big Cuban exile Luis Ortiz 31-1-0 (26 KO’s).

Wilder (left) sizes up Ortiz. Photo courtesy of 2019 Flipboard

After several difficult moments Wilder stopped Ortiz in March last year and starts as a 6-1 on favourite. ‘King Kong’ Ortiz would appear to be hand picked by Wilder by virtue of offering him an early rematch and the failure of other fights to materialise. The Cuban does though bring into the contest good amateur pedigree and a powerful professional knockout resume. Knowing it will likely be his last chance at capturing the heavyweight crown he will undoubtedly give it his all.

Superior one punch power is however on the side of Wilder, only failing to KO Tyson Fury, and age could also be a factor with the 34 year old Alabaman champion being 6 years Ortiz’ junior. The Cuban monolith will be dangerous in the early exchanges and has illustrated one punch power good enough to take the champion out, but the bookies odds will not be far wrong and expect a devastating stoppage in the middle rounds.

There’s an excellent undercard with former bantamweight world champions Luis Nery and Emmanuel Rodriguez facing off, a classic Mexico v Puerto Rican contest. Added to this is former Carl Frampton combatant, and two-times featherweight world champ – Leo Santa Cruz attempting to add the vacant WBA super-featherweight (130lb/9st 4lb) title. He meets Miguel Flores.

The Vegas bill will again be broadcast live on Sky Sports and streaming site DAZN in the US.

The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness for the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Return of the Big Men

After the little guy wars and with only five weeks to Christmas the big men return to finish a stellar year off with a sledgehammer. All sanctioned versions of the Heavyweight Championship of the World will be on the line from Las Vegas to Saudi Arabia, plus a British prospect makes further steps towards the ultimate prize in London.

First up, this Saturday 23rd is the rematch between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz for the WBC heavyweight title. The first fight provided plenty of excitement back in March when the Alabaman champion ‘Bronze Bomber’ Wilder was rocked by the big Cuban in the 7th round only to survive and later drop Ortiz twice in the 10th to register a 2:05 stoppage. It was a fight in which ‘King Kong’ Ortiz had his moments and this makes the return an interesting proposition.

Ortiz will be better prepared having a longer training camp than the first encounter but is an ageing heavyweight, reputedly 40, but as they say “The last thing a fighter loses is his punch”. History tells us no more apt is this than in the heavyweight division. Unless he gets clocked early, look for the younger, fresher Wilder to repeat the result of the first match within six rounds.

Two weeks later (7th December) the boxing roadshow heads to Diriyah, Saudi Arabia for the hastily arranged rematch between Andy Ruiz Jnr and Anthony Joshua. See last week’s LunchBox for a fight preview.

In this, the British challenger will look to avenge his sole loss back in June in one of the biggest shocks of the year. In Madison Square Garden, New York City Joshua surrendered his WBA, IBF and WBO titles and will be looking to put matters right. The hype will continue to build for this over the coming weeks in a fight that will hopefully re-assert the ‘reach’ of the heavyweight championship taking it to new frontiers, ala the 1970’s.

Last but not least, on 21st December young Englishman Daniel Dubois will be aiming to build on his undefeated 13-0 (12 KO’s) record and holding of British and Commonwealth titles, with an international contest against Japan’s 33 year old Kyotara Fujimoto 21-1 (13 KO’s) at London’s Copper Box Arena.

Up for grabs are the stepping stone WBC Silver and WBO international heavyweight titles. Dubois currently ranked inside the WBC, IBF and WBO top fifteen should be tested but get the victory to move further up the rankings.

Waiting in the wings will be the ‘Linear’ heavyweight champion and Ring magazine #1 Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury currently signed to rematch Deontay Wilder on 22nd February 2020. What transpires over the coming weeks will shape the validity of that rematch, should Ortiz cause an unlikely upset, with the outcome of the Ruiz-Joshua rematch further stoking the fires.

Add to the melting pot the freight-train progress of Dubois, with Dillian Whyte high in the rankings and Derek Chisora still on the periphery and the heavyweight division is back in vogue. Bombs away !

The Wilder-Ortiz fight will be on Sky Sports Action in the UK, Ruiz v Joshua rematch on Sky Sports Box Office and DAZN, and Dubois v Fujimoto on BT Sport.

Croydon Charity Boxing night

Last chance to book a table or place for this year’s annual Boxing Gala Dinner at the Croydon Hilton Hotel on Friday 22nd November to raise money for charities chosen and supported by Wallington Rotary. Now in its 37th year this is always an excellent evening with amateurs from London Boxing versus a British Army team. For last minute bookings please call John Edwards on 07799 853 392 by Tuesday 19th November.

The Monday LunchBox

The regular weekly feature to also raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

With only four weeks to go, we today look at the big fight on 7th December in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The Undisputed will be there providing daily on site updates and coverage of the fight.

In the meantime here is a special feature previewing the event dubbed the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ and looking specifically at the challenger ahead of the big championship rematch:-

Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua II.

Poster courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

The Hourglass of a Fighter

Over the long bars of New York City, in the casino snugs of Las Vegas, and onto the historic pubs of London’s east end a fighter’s greatness is always firstly defined by his record. Whether he kept the ‘O’ , but if not, always underlined by the phrase “But yeah…who did he beat ?”. More pointedly, “Who did he lose to ?”

Did the fighter come back from a devastating defeat to prove his greatness ? All the true greats of the sport have come back, from Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, through Ali and Foreman, to Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran, Tyson and Lennox Lewis in the modern era. Lennox not once, but twice. This is the challenge that Britain’s Anthony Joshua now faces. A path well trodden by boxing’s modern greats.

Anthony Joshua, the so called ‘saviour’ of the Heavyweight division and boxing per se, the new kid on the block, who looks and talks like a million dollars, a marketing and PR man’s dream. The same ‘AJ’ who hit the canvas four times in Madison Square Garden this June before being rescued from further punishment.

This is the challenge that now faces the Brit, to come back when all has been temporarily lost – the ‘O’, invincibility and also the street cred’ that goes with it. Until that horrific night in MSG there were few doubters of Joshua’s legitimacy of being ‘the’ Heavyweight Champion, now the vultures of doom are circulating above his head.

To get back on the path to greatness Joshua must take the first small step through the shifting sands of Saudi Arabia. He must avenge his sole defeat to Mexico’s Andy Ruiz Jr. The so called ‘no hope’, the Mexican-American monolith with fast hands and as it proved equally concussive power.

Joshua’s ‘legacy’ is now like a carefully constructed sandcastle; with the tide now lapping at its base and the defences being undermined by naysayers. Can he come back ? What is required to do so ?

His chosen option was to take the immediate rematch and the rumoured $100 million dollar combined purse offered in Saudi Arabia. Will this hastily arranged chance of redemption be his ultimate undoing ? On December 7th in Diriyah in the suburbs of Riyadh we will know the answer.

But what an opportunity for the Brit, a chance to avenge that sole defeat but also to make the step to greatness. Also, to truly become Heavyweight Champion of THE World, (or at least the WBA, IBF and WBO versions of it). Three quarters of the journey to be ‘The Man’.

The rematch represents an opportunity for AJ to project himself as a fighter who has the courage to step in the ring within six months against an opponent who took all that was dear to him. An opportunity to project himself in the world’s consciousness as a modern day heavyweight who can truly cross continents and cultural boundaries. Not just the traditional trans-Atlantic route and bouncing of the title from the UK to US but, across the sands of Arabia and the Middle East.

Muhammad Ali was loved and revered for taking the heavyweight championship around the world. Firstly, by astonishingly regaining the title from George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DR Congo), then taking it to outposts like Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. A TRUE Heavyweight Champion of the World. This didn’t make the man’s legend, but certainly enhanced it. Joshua now has the opportunity to transcend the sport, not through marketing but, achievement.

So what must he do to achieve this ? Many experts in the boxing business predict a repeat of the June proceedings. He’s taken the rematch too soon, he should stay away from Ruiz, his style and speed is no good for him. But credit Joshua for taking the rematch. He could have easily had a few tune up bouts before facing his nemesis, but he wants those titles back; and fast.

To achieve this, Anthony must have first got his mind right – got his psyche back into fighting mode. Look upon the whole MSG experience as bad night at the office. He must have critically assessed and analysed with his trainer Robert McCracken where he went wrong – poor pre-fight camp, complacency, lack of Plan B – whatever the primary cause was (probably a combination of all) the training camp for the rematch must have been extensive and thorough. We must now assume with an 12-10 week training camp and four weeks remaining that the majority of this work has been done.

He must also have developed a Plan B, and more so, a Plan C. If Ruiz doesn’t buckle to his inevitable display of frustration and power in the first three minutes AJ must adopt a cautious but not over exertive mindset. Not fatigue himself physically and emotionally by a failed attempted early KO. Train for twelve rounds in both body and mind.

Critically, Joshua must tighten his defence whether that means fighting more at range, but certainly tucking up in close. Holding and clinging on for life if necessary. Ruiz will be confident he can do the same again, so he is a dangerous foe.

Boxing history is littered with the results of rematches being more emphatic than the first. Robinson v LaMotta, Ali v Liston, Tyson v Holyfield. But; British heavyweights have shown that they can turn the tide – Lennox Lewis’ humiliation of Oliver McCall and KO of Hasim Rahman in rematches show it can be done. You have to regroup and change your game plan, remove the doubts and maybe unleash that ‘street’ toughness and mentality that Joshua showed in London 2012.

What we do know is if he can be successful ‘the castle’ can be rebuilt and the tide towards unification and mouthwatering prospect of the winner facing Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury will approach like a tsunami. Bring it on !

Nicola Adams OBE

The Undisputed could not fail to mention the sad retirement from boxing last week of two-time Olympic Champion and female role model Nicola Adams OBE. The Leeds legend will always be remembered as a pioneer of women’s boxing and the first female Olympic champion in London 2012. Nicola sadly had to retire following an injury sustained in her September professional world title fight with Mexican Maria Salinas. She revealed she suffered a torn pupil and this led to a fear of losing her sight. She has chosen the wise option and we wish her all success and happiness in the future.

Billy Joe preserves his ‘O’

Los Angeles, 9 Nov 2019

WBO super-middleweight title holder Billy Joe Saunders 29-0-0 (14 KO’s) defended his world championship with an 11th round stoppage of Marcelo Esteban Coceres. In a lacklustre performance the Hoddesdon, Herts man prevailed to retain his undefeated record and then called out Mexican legend Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez after the fight. This was Coceres first defeat in a 30 fight career so a noteworthy victory for Saunders. His new promoter Matchroom Boxing will try to manoeuvre him into a unification or big fight next.