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.
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.