Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn says the fight between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and former IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua will be just as huge if AJ defeats Andy Ruiz Jr. in their rematch later this year. Hearn believes the Joshua-Wilder fight can be just as big as it was before the previously undefeate Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) suffered his humiliating seventh round TKO loss to Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs) last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Hearn seemed a little in shock following Joshua’s upset loss to Ruiz last night. Joshua had Ruiz on the canvas in the third round. Despite Ruiz, 29, looking cleared eyed while on the canvas, Joshua made a critical mistake in charging in like a wild man in throwing punches with reckless abandon. Ruiz countered Joshua with a perfect left hook to the side of his head and was badly hurt. Ruiz then dropped Joshua twice in the round. Joshua never fully recovered from that round, and was eventually stopped in the seventh round.
“If he wins the rematch, it’s huge. He rights the wrong, and I see him in the same position he was in before this fight,” said Hearn to Seconds Out about Joshua facing Ruiz Jr. in second fight later this year. “I will say if he beats Ruiz in the rematch, the Wilder fight is huge. But all these guys are capable of losing to those type of guys; Ortiz, Ruiz, Povetkin, Parker, Hrgovic. All those guys have a shot at beating all the heavyweights. They’re underdogs, but it’s not like we’re supposed to leave here saying, ‘That was easy, wasn’t it?’ I would have much preferred we win. We got beat by the better man,” said Hearn.
You hate to disagree with Eddie, but he sounds like he’s dreaming in talking about the Joshua vs. Wilder fight being just as big as it would have been had he not loss to Ruiz. It’s not going to be as big. It can’t be. The image of Joshua being knocked down four times by a heavyweight with a body of Lou Costello is hard to shake. Further, Joshua quit in the fight in the seventh round, and that makes the defeat look even worse. It would have been far better if Joshua had gone out on his shield, because at least the boxing public would see that as a brave thing. Instead, Joshua held onto the ropes and showed no interest in walking towards the referee when he asked him if he was okay.
There’s talk that Joshua was knocked down in sparring this week, and that he wasn’t the same after that session. Joshua didn’t look right for the fight. He wasn’t there mentally from the first round. He fought in a passive way, and didn’t look as aggressive as he’d been in the past. If Joshua had bum rushed Ruiz in the first round, he might have gotten him out of there right away. In the past, Joshua would unload on his opponents with nonstop combinations when he didn’t respect their power. Joshua treated Ruiz like a live grenade, and ultimately made the fight unwinnable.
Joshua tasted the canvas four times in the fight last Saturday night. Two of the knockdowns came in the third, and the last two in the seventh. Hearn admits that Joshua would have been knocked out if there was another 20 seconds in the third round, because he was badly hurt.
“Anyone else that went down in round three [the way Ruiz Jr. did] would have backed up, held and got knocked out,” said Hearn in talking about how Ruiz Jr. fought back hard after being dropped by Joshua in the third round. He held his feet, swung away, and hit AJ on the top of his head, and he never recovered in the whole fight. You have to give him massive respect. In the third round, he hit Ruiz with a beautiful combination. He [Joshua] stepped in to finish it; he came in Klitschko style. He tried to hook with a hooker, and got caught on the side of his head. His legs didn’t react. He [Joshua] somehow got up.”
“The final knockdown, he was done. Thank God, the bell rung. 20 more seconds, and the fight is over most likely. In the fourth round, he managed to use his feet, and hold his distance and survive. Nothing really happened. In the fifth round, he came back, boxed well, and hit Ruiz with some decent shots. I’m thinking, ‘we’re OK now.’ Sixth round, he started to look tired again. He got backed up a little bit, and his legs didn’t look right. I thought, ‘You know what? He’s not right.’
“In the seventh round, it’s all over. The ref asked if he could continue, but he couldn’t. He was exhausted, he was concussed. He was holding onto the ropes. I don’t think he wanted to let go of the ropes, because he would show the referee he wasn’t good on his feet. He would have got up all day. He would have got up 100 times, but his legs weren’t there.”
It’s extremely doubtful that Joshua would have gotten up if he’d been knocked down a fifth time in the fight. Joshua looked done after the fourth knockdown of the fight in the seventh; hence, he held onto the ropes, and wouldn’t let go when the referee was asking him if he was fine. If Ruiz Jr. had a shot at knocking Joshua down a fifth time, that would have been it. It sounds heroic what Hearn says about Joshua getting up 100 times, but that’s not how it would be. Joshua could barely stand, let alone continue to fight after the second knockdown in the seventh. Ruiz was beating him senseless.
“You can’t win all the time, even when you’re supposed to win,” said Hearn. “Every day that passes, he’ll want to win those belts back. At the moment, I want the rematch, but he’s talking about Wilder. He said to the BBC, ‘No, I want Wilder.’ It’s never been about the belts. He just wants to fight Wilder, but now he’s going to have to go back to Ruiz to do it. Ruiz will believe hell win the rematch easy. They won’t think they’re not the favorite. Actually, after tonight, I don’t know who’s the favorite in the rematch,” said Hearn.
Of course, Ruiz Jr. will be the favorite in the rematch with Joshua. That goes without saying. If the odds-makers have no clue about boxing, then yeah, they might make Joshua the favorite, but it would be silly of them to do that. Just going by the way Joshua looked last night, Ruiz Jr. will knock him out no problem in the rematch. Joshua’s career will be finished after that loss.
This writer can’t see Joshua fighting more than two or three more times before he retires after a second defeat against Ruiz. That’s why it’s in Joshua’s best interest not to fight Ruiz in an immediate rematch. Joshua needs to get a few confidence builders under his belt before he goes to avenge his loss. Let Ruiz Jr. gain some more weight, and then go after him when he’s a little older, and heavier.
“He’s probably the most relieved man in the world, because ‘nobody can talk about Joshua fighting me,'” said Hearn about WBC champion Deontay Wilder. “I said in the build up that all those fights have to be made, because if you get greedy, someone can lose. Tonight, Joshua lost,” said Hearn.