There is no denying the fact that ex-WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua will, in his projected and expected return fight with Andy Ruiz, face quite unimaginable pressure – of the mental kind mostly. Not only does Joshua need to redeem himself so as to be able to live with himself, such a born competitor as A.J is, there is plenty of talk, some from armchair fans, some from genuinely knowledgable fight folk, that says Joshua would have no alternative but to retire if he lost to Ruiz a second time.
But would he really?
Is it not an acknowledged fact that these days way too much is made of an unbeaten record? One loss does not in any way signal the end of a career, and neither should two losses, even three. Over the long history of heavyweight boxing, there have been a few notable greats who, after losing twice, back-to-back, to the same guy, never quit: Floyd Patterson, in his second reign as champ (X2 to Sonny Liston), Liston himself (X2 to Muhammad Ali), Mike Tyson, in his second reign as champ (X2 to Evander Holyfield) and Larry Holmes (X2 to Michael Spinks), Larry retiring for a while, only to return.
Some heavyweight champs who lost twice in a row to the same guy, did call it quits: Jersey Joe Walcott (X2 to Rocky Marciano) for example, but all these men had one thing Joshua does not have – age. Joshua is still a young guy, not even 30. If he does fight Ruiz again, later this year, and loses again, no way does he have to call it a career. Imagine if all-time greats like Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Holyfield and others even thought about, even contemplated the idea of retiring after suffering their first pro loss.
Is too much expected of champions these days. Do we expect modern day fighters to have perfect, untouchable records and numbers, lest they have let us and themselves down? Joshua, even if he did lose to Ruiz again, would have a lot left to give and to achieve. Every fighter has a bogeyman, he is simply incredibly fortunate not to run into him. Suppose A.J ran into his on June 1. Can he not still achieve greatness with wins over other big name heavies? Sure he can.
The writing is in no way on the wall yet, as Joshua may well smash Ruiz in a revenge fight later this year. But even if he doesn’t put right his wrong, retirement could, should, still be a good few months, maybe years, away. Ruiz might be all wrong for Joshua, but Wilder, Fury and others might prove to be all right for him and his brute power and athleticism. Joshua, if he does come up short against Ruiz again, should take a leaf out of Patterson’s book, out of Liston’s book, and out of Tyson’s book, and refuse to quit simply because he lost to the same guy twice (and again, Joshua is way younger than those men were).
People are too quick to write a fighter off these days. Agree or disagree?