The Monday LunchBox

Stanley of Africa

Renowned South African boxing historian Ron Jackson had set up our meeting in the Cresta Shopping Mall, Johannesburg in January 2018. He warned me “Stanley likes to talk”.

Talk he does; about his sixty years in boxing and his passion for our sport, which oozes from his every pore. He starts by talking about his experiences of ‘hospitality’ in Chechnya as a World Boxing Association (WBA) official. He then moves onto a who’s who of boxing personalities he’s acquainted and fights that he’s been involved in. “It’s all in the book !” he tells me. This, the book he’d been working on for the last five years and would soon be out. It was finally published in April 2019. For any boxing aficionado, or even the casual boxing/sports fan it’s a must read.

As an eventual International Boxing Hall of Fame referee, Stanley was the third man in the ring at the Orange Bowl, Miami in 1982 for Aaron Pryor – Alexis Arguello I (one of the greatest fights of all time), for ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler v Roberto Duran in 1983, Eusebio Pedroza v Barry McGuigan on that famous night at Loftus Road, London (1985) and a judge in the first Evander Holyfield v Lennox Lewis fight (him scoring it correctly 116-113 to Lewis). He’s been involved in officiating in some shape or form 242 world title fights and counting, up to December 2018.

In between insisting to the waiter in the local Mug & Bean coffee shop to make sure his coffee is hot, “with milk but hot“, he speaks at machine-gun pace. His stories take you from the South African townships in the early 1960’s to the meccas of Caesars Palace and Madison Square Garden. En-route his first world title fight in Johannesburg in 1973 – Arnold Taylor v Romeo Anaya – for the WBA world bantamweight title. A fourteen round war in front of 20,000 spectators in which the South African, Taylor, famously KO’d the teak-tough Mexican champion. In 1997 The Ring magazine ranked this the 15th greatest championship fight in boxing history.

Stanley was born in Brixton, Johannesburg into a Cypriot family. A proud South African, but this European heritage would be Stanley’s key to travelling the world to officiate in the hard years of apartheid and South African sporting and cultural isolation. As a prominent official of the WBA, Stanley would get the opportunity to represent his country with integrity in the most difficult of times.

‘The Life and Times…’ is a wonderful story, laced with anecdotes and recollections from the four corners of the boxing world. He has met kings, presidents and military leaders. Stanley became a personal friend of Nelson Mandela. There is a wonderful story where he is invited to the African National Congress office of the then President Mandela. ‘Madiba’ asks Stanley “What is your opinion of the Springbok emblem for the national rugby team ?”. This is a loaded question as the President is seriously considering removal of this perceived symbol of the apartheid regime from the national shirt.

“The Springbok doesn’t symbolise apartheid Mr Mandela…It is a sporting symbol that is held dear by rugby supporters and players…It is their inspiration, it gives meaning to them. The players will die for that jersey”. Though Stanley takes no credit for this, claiming all prominent SA sporting administrators were asked, history would show that the badge was retained and it became a symbol that represented new possibilities for all South Africans.

It is stories like this from Soweto to Russia, via Monte Carlo, South America and the Far East that have embellished Stanley’s life, and that of his loving wife Mary and his extended family. Buy it while you can, you won’t be disappointed.

The Life and Times of Stanley Christodoulou’ is published by Staging Post and available as a paperback or e-book on Amazon, Exclusive Books in RSA and other good book stores. It is co-wrote by Stanley with Graham Clark and David Isaacson.

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

The Friday Faceup

The big guys face up.

And so, the stage is set. The rematch for the WBC and ‘lineal’ Heavyweight Championship of the World is on ! February 22nd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The official first press conference to promote the fight took place in Los Angeles on Monday (13th) and no quarter was spared by either fighter.

Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury stating “Expect me to come out bombing looking for a knockout…..February 22….I’m gonna get what I won last time, that green belt, the Ring magazine (belt) and I’m also gonna keep my lineal championship”.

Deontay ‘Bronze Bomber’ Wilder responding “This time around is unfinished business…..he’s definitely going down….I’m going to do exactly what I said I would do. I’m going to knock him out…..I’m going to rip his head off his body”.

But, what really can we expect ? Both fighters are in their early thirties, about to enter their peak years, and both undefeated. The draw of December 1, 2018 being the only stain on their combined records of 71-0.

The consensus is Wilder to win by KO or Fury on points. However, the Brit believes he cannot win in the US on a points decision. As unacceptable as it seems that would appear to be the case, as in the view of The Undisputed and many ringside observers the American was lucky to escape with a draw first time round. That, despite securing two knockdowns of the Gypsy King.

Everyone who witnessed the first fight will remember how Fury early in the 12th round was poleaxed by a heavy right hand, hit the canvas and appeared comatose. To then, rise like Lazurus on the count of 9 and a half, and go on to dominate the remainder of the round. A truly remarkable feat in the history of heavyweight boxing.

What Fury can’t do is leave himself open to that eventuality again. One thing Wilder has shown since that night, is that his power is unquestionable (41 KO’s), and given the chance when his opponents are nailed, they stay down ! Dominic Breazeale and Luiz Ortiz (for a second time) are testimony to that.

The Brit meanwhile has had two makeshift fights since his ordeal with Wilder – one against Tom Schwarz and followed by 12 gruelling rounds against Otto Wallin, in which he sustained a horrific cut over his right eye. Apart from his forays in WWE he hasn’t competed at the elite level since the first fight.

Coupled with this the Brit has changed his head trainer Ben Davison and gone stateside to work out of the world famous Kronk Gym in Detroit under the tutelage of Javan ‘Sugar’ Hill Steward (nephew of much missed Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel). This is thought to add a more aggressive outlook to Fury’s work with him claiming he will abandon the ‘herky-jerky’ point stealing nature of much of his latter career.

The current view of The Undisputed is the most unlikely outcome may indeed be the final result, that of a KO for Fury. Current odds for this by Ladbrokes are 5-1, so get in while you can.

Fury’s power though not as concussive as the American’s is not to be underestimated. When he has shown to set his feet he has shown respectable power (20 KO’s). Five more weeks in the Kronk Gym up to fight night may be the exact battle hardening required to seal the deal.

TV coverage in the UK is still to be confirmed but is likely to be BT Sport Box Office and excerpts from the press conference can be found on their website.

Watch this space for further updates on the match up over the coming weeks.

The Monday LunchBox

Josh Taylor – photo courtesy of

The big news of last week was the promotional switch of unified super-lightweight world champion Josh Taylor from the Barry McGuigan run Cyclone Promotions to Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation.

The Prestonpans stylist has chosen to relocate his dealings stateside to secure the big fights in the 10st/10st 7lb divisions. This could mean fighting a number of Top Rank based fighters, and potentially securing a ‘superfight’ with living legend Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao.

2019 was a breakout year for the Scot (16-0, 12 KO’s) securing the IBF world title in May against Ivan Baranchyk and following up in October with a massively impressive victory to rip the WBA crown from Regis Prograis, and with it the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the World Boxing Super Series title.

The ‘Tartan Tornado’ is one of only four fighters in the world across all divisions to hold the Ali Trophy. This in itself makes him one of the most prestigious and marketable fighters out there.

Cyclone Promotions can rightly feel aggrieved by this switch having guided Taylor from finishing a stellar amateur career (2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion), through the professional ranks, to a multiple world champion. Also; the apparent nature of the decision with the UK based promotional company allegedly finding out second hand. They are thought likely to challenge the decision, as they’re currently doing with Carl Frampton’s switch at a similar stage of his career some years ago.

However, having just turned 29 the Scot is approaching his prime years and will have to move fast to secure a Pacquaio fight as the Filipino enters the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. Other potential mega-fights are a unification at 140lbs (10st) against WBC champ Jose Ramirez, or up at 147lbs against top three ‘pound-for-pound’ fighter Terence Crawford. All massively lucrative fights.

Despite the current upheaval promoter Bob Arum has high hopes for the Scot, stating “Josh Taylor is one of the world’s best fighters, and he is a fight fan’s fighter; a tough guy willing to fight anyone we put in front of him”. That in essence is the Scot’s DNA and his selling point. He illustrated this with the manner of his approach and victories against Baranchyk and Prograis and is sure to be a big hit in the US.

It’s hard to see this not being a good decision on Taylor’s part, and if successful, could turn him into the ‘pound for pound’ fighter in the world and join Ken Buchanan as the greatest Scottish fighter of all time. A debate we hope to look forward to in the future.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Errol Spence Jnr and Terence Crawford montage by Talksport.

Welcome to the new ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the first LunchBox of the new decade. I hope all our readers had a fantastic festive holiday period and those of other religious beliefs and cultures a restful end to the year.

Now, the boxing season resumes in earnest as we enter the first year of the decade. Today we take a look at what The Undisputed considers the top five fights we believe most boxing fans want to see in 2020. A tough call, but here goes:-

1. Anthony Joshua v the winner of Wilder-Fury II We had to start at the top of the food chain. Whilst all eyes will be on the Feb 22nd rematch between Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KO’s) and Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KO’s) for the WBC and ‘lineal’ title, we still lament for an undisputed heavyweight champion. That can only happen if a) Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s) meets his mandatory obligations (Kubrat Pulev IBF and/or Oleksandr Usyk WBO) and therefore avoids getting stripped of any of the four straps he currently holds and, b) the winner of Wilder-Fury II avoids a trilogy fight (which they are both understood to be contractually obligated to) and meets Joshua before year end.

If it does miraculously materialise in 2020 (assuming Joshua wins his mandatory/ies) we’re in for a barnstormer either way – the shootout with the ‘Bronze Bomber’ Wilder or a potential boxing masterclass with ‘Gypsy King’ Fury.

We can only pray for this outcome but it’s realistically unlikely to happen until mid/late 2021.

2. Errol Spence Jnr v Terence Crawford even more difficult contractually to make than the above, largely due to different and hostile promotional ties, this would be a welterweight unification fight between two undefeated stars in their prime. Think Leonard-Hearns I, Curry-McCrory, Trinidad-De La Hoya. This has all the makings of a 147lb fight to savour and one for the ages.

Both Americans are supreme boxing technicians with respectable power and both rated in The Ring magazine pound-for-pound top six. That says it all.

The key to the outcome could be Spence’s (26-0, 21 KO’s) enforced layoff due to a major car accident in which he was lucky to escape with his life. This followed a career defining split decision win against Shawn Porter to unify the IBF and WBC titles.

Could this accident and layoff play on his mind and therefore lead to a difficult pre-fight camp and performance on the night ?

Crawford (36-0, 27 KO’s) on the other hand has just come off a win versus tough Egidijus Kavaliauskas to retain his WBO title but it was a drawn out performance which may even things up on the pre-fight betting. One to savour though should it happen.

3. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennadiy Golovkin III – The final fight in the trilogy that will bring to an end the debates on who is the better middle/super-middleweight, and in doing so, the better fighter.

The Undisputed firmly believes that the Kazakh Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO’s) won the first fight (despite being deemed a draw) and the second fight was indeed a draw (the decision being given to the Mexican). Opinions are still split throughout the boxing business, with Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO’s) subsequently ranked Ring magazine pound-for-pound king, and only a third fight will finally end the argument.

This could happen at 160lbs (middleweight), catchweight, or anything up to 168lbs (super-middleweight). The Mexican superstar will call the shots on if, and when, this fight happens.

4. Vasily Lomachenko v Gervonta Davis – the recently demoted Ring magazine pound-for-pound king with outstanding amateur and professional pedigree versus the young, brash and pugilistically vicious upstart.

Can the Ukrainian Lomachenko (14-1-0, 10 KO’s) add to his legend by pushing back the challenge from the Floyd Mayweather promoted kid from the ‘hood ? An intriguing proposition as Lomachenko’s advancing years mean that big fights have to be made in the next 18 months to define his greatness.

The American, Davis (23-0, 22 KO’s) has just moved up and won the WBA world title at lightweight – Lomachenko’s current predatory habitat.

5. Dmitri Bivol v Artur Beterbiev – a light-heavyweight unification between two Russians – Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) the WBA Champ and Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO’s) the IBF & WBC Champ. Both undefeated, both supreme amateurs and both with concussive power. Arguably both in their prime. A mouthwatering cocktail and proposition.

Honourable mentions go to potential super-matchups – Josh Taylor v Jose Ramirez, Callum Smith v Canelo Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao v Vasily Lomachenko, and Naoya Inoue v Anyone . If we get only three or four of these fights, this year will be one to remember. Enjoy !

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

The Monday LunchBox

Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois shows off his straps
Photo by Tony Harris

Five things we learned from the weekend

1. Daniel Dubois is the ‘real deal’ – The young British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion showed again his immense promise with a devastating second round KO of Japanese heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto. This takes his record to 14-0 with 13 early wins. In doing so he captured the WBC Silver title to add to his WBO International title. He could arguably be the single-most one punch KO artist in the division outside of Deontay Wilder. Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren will draw on all his experience to carefully manoeuvre the Londoner over the next year into a major title contending position. Watch this space.

2. Liam Williams is back on track – After moving up from light-middleweight to the full 160lb (11st 6lb) middleweight division the Welshman is showing steady progress. He systematically broke down the tall American slickster Alantez Fox on Saturday to earn a crack at Demetrius Andrade’s WBO championship. Again, look for Frank Warren to move his charge into securing his shot. Williams come forward style is box office and this should enable him to nail a title fight early in the new decade.

3. Daniel Jacobs needs a new challenge Following unsuccessful steps into the elite stratosphere of the middleweight division, losing narrowly to Gennadiy Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the Brooklynite needs to quickly secure another stellar name to add to his resume and seal a marquee victory. A Golovkin rematch will be his prime target, but securing that may be beyond him due to the closeness of the first fight and the Kazak’s advancing years. Jacobs win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr at the weekend, although adding another ‘name’ to his record, is not the challenge that he is seeking, that to regain a version of the world title either in the 160 or 168lb division.

4. Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr is finished at the elite level – Coming in significantly overweight against Jacobs and the nature of his defeat, will likely mean that no promoter will take a chance on the Mexican again. He may carry the name of his Hall of Fame father but indiscipline has plagued his career. The best part of his career is now behind him and he should consider hanging up his gloves.

5. Fury-Joshua entente-cordial – Anthony Joshua’s offer of helping Tyson Fury in his preparation for the Wilder rematch is an interesting one. There are past examples of elite heavyweights using each other to prepare for major fights – Ali and Holmes springs to mind in the early to mid 1970’s – but two ‘champions’, one the linear and other holding three of four major sanctioning belts is a new one, especially when they are destined to meet further down the line. Joshua needs to be commended for offering to help his fellow Brit and Fury equally so for taking up the offer. Maybe he called AJ’s bluff, but it will be interesting to see how this one develops.

Finally, may I wish all readers of The Undisputed a very happy festive season and great start to the new decade. Also, to those of other cultures and religious beliefs I wish an equally enjoyable time.

2020 promises to be an eventful boxing year. Enjoy all and see you again. Your editor Robert Harding.

‘Dynamite’ blasts into heavyweight contention

Photo by Tony Harris

London heavyweight Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois exploded his way into world title contention with a devastating second round knockout of Kyotara Fujimoto in the Copper Box Arena, London on Saturday night.

The 22 year old Londoner recorded his fifth straight win of the year raising his record to 14-0 with 13 early stoppages.

It was the nature of Dubois win that further enhanced his reputation and promise. Showing extreme composure and control in the opening round, Dubois took the early exchanges behind a stiff jab and vicious hooks. His Japanese challenger for the second tier WBO International Heavyweight title was cautious of Dubois’ power from the ‘get go’.

Early in the second round Dubois dropped the Japanese with a short stabbing jab, a sign of things to come. After rising with time to spare Fujimoto navigated cautiously another minute of the round as Dubois pushed up the pace.

On two minutes, Dubois moved his foe to the ropes and exploded a right hand to the side of Fujimoto’s head and the Japanese dropped like a stone. Referee Victor Loughlin waved the fight off instantly. The official stoppage coming at 2:10 of the round.

By any standards this was a mighty impressive knockout, particularly by one so young, still finding his way in the sport. Dubois, a contender for The Ring magazine 2019 ‘Young prospect of the year’ also captured the WBC Silver title and with it a top 15 ranking. Fujimoto drops to 21-2, 13 KO’s.

Other heavyweights have been put on standby as Dubois moves into the next decade firmly in a position to challenge the established trio of Joshua, Fury and Wilder. Next up is likely to be fellow Londoner Joe Joyce (10-0, 9 KO’s) watching at ringside along with future Hall of Famer ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley who couldn’t have failed to be impressed by the young ‘DDD’ – Dynamite Dubois.

The fight night was promoted by Queensberry Promotions and shown live on BT Sport.

Dubois returns

Poster courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Unbeaten British heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois (13-0) steps into the ring tonight in his hometown of London for the last major fight of the year against Japan’s Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1).

The Queensberry Promotion at the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford gives the young Londoner an opportunity to register another explosive victory to further increase his standing in the complex and increasingly intriguing heavyweight landscape.

With major fights developing over the next six months (Wilder-Fury II, Joshua v Usyk or Pulev) plus the returning Dillian Whyte, a victory for Dubois will put him right in the picture. Promoter Frank Warren is moving Dubois at exactly the right pace, quietly building his record against solid opposition, certainly for a 22 year old, and capturing titles along the way. Dubois is currently British and Commonwealth champion, also holding secondary world sanctioning belts.

In the 33 year old Fujimoto, the Londoner faces a fighter with an inflated record against limited opposition. However, in the heavyweight division one solid shot can change the whole perspective of a fight and the Japanese is not to be underestimated. Despite this, look for Dubois to register a further knockout victory around the third round.

On a solid bill, world middleweight contender Liam Williams returns against Alantez Fox, from the USA and super featherweight Archie Sharp defends his WBO European title versus unbeaten Artjoms Ramlavs.

The evening is billed ‘The Fight before Christmas’ and is worthy of a decent walk up to see out the decade.

The Monday LunchBox

Photo courtesy of Bad Left Hook

Crawford marks time

WBO welterweight champion Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford defended his 147lb title in Madison Square Garden, New York City on Saturday with a ninth round stoppage of Lithuanian Egidijus Kavaliauskas.

Omaha Nebraskan Crawford (36-0, 27 KO’s) recovered from an apparent knockdown in round three, subsequently ruled a slip, to dominate the fight throughout. The strong Lithuanian (21-1-1, 17 KO’s) was dropped in the seventh and twice in the ninth before succumbing to the pound-for-pound elect early in the round.

Crawford 32, now moves onto further challenges in the 10st 7lb division which have so far denied him. He longs for a career defining fight against fellow Americans WBC & IBF champion Errol Spence, Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter. Either needs to happen in the next 12 months to avoid the Nebraskan losing his prime year.

Conlon avenges 2016 Olympics defeat

On the Madison Square Garden undercard Belfast featherweight Michael Conlon avenged his defeat in the Rio Olympics to Russian Vladimir Nikitin by registering a unanimous points victory (98-92, 99-91, 100-90).

The fight in the Games was famously remembered for Conlon’s double fingered salute to the judges after losing a controversial decision. It has taken Conlon (13-0, 7 KO’s) two years as a pro to get the Russian (3-1) back in the ring and his victory on Saturday brings closure to the rivalry.

The Top Rank Bob Arum promoted Irishman is potentially chalked in to challenge for a version of the world title in Belfast sometime in 2020.

On the same show Top Rank star Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KO’s) brutally stopped Ghanaian champion Richard Commey (29-3, 26 KO’s) in the second round to win the IBF lightweight (135lb) title. WBA/WBC & WBO champion Vasyli Lomachenko was at ringside and a fight between the two Top Rank fighters is a natural in 2020, possibly as early as April.

Joshua to face mandatory defences

New WBA/IBF & WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face either Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KO’s) or Ukrainian star Olexsandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KO’s) in his next defence. Both are mandatory contenders for the title, Pulev the IBF and Usyk WBO, and both sanctioning organisations have mandated that he defend against their champion within 120 days.

This will require both organisations coming to an agreement as to which will take precedence, as both commitments cannot be defended to the same timeframe. Early indications are the fight will be in the UK, with Tottenham Hotspur football stadium being the early front runner.

Leon Spinks hospitalised

Photo courtesy of

Former undisputed heavyweight champion Leon Spinks is currently in a serious condition in a Las Vegas hospital. A family statement said “Leon is currently in intensive care….to suppress prostate cancer which he was diagnosed with earlier in the year…a miraculous fighter his entire life, we are optimistic and hopeful that he will move out of ICU soon”. Latest updates are that he is showing “small signs” of improvement.

The 66 year old Spinks (brother of Michael) won Olympic gold in 1976 and shocked the world when defeating Muhammad Ali in only his 8th fight to win the unified championship in February 1978.

The Undisputed’s thoughts and prayers are with you champ to make a speedy and full recovery.

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

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.