Once again Anthony Joshua will be calling for the biggest slice of any heavyweight pie after he regained his world heavyweight titles with a commanding victory over Andy Ruiz.
Joshua was emphatic. He dominated from range, dictated in close and soundly righted the wrongs of June when he unravelled spectacularly against the tubby American-Mexican.
Joshua blamed nothing and no one then, just saying he’d got it wrong on the night.
This time he got it bang on. Conversely, it was Ruiz who claimed he’d screwed up with 12-weeks of partying rather than tactical, strategic and fitness prep. He called for a trilogy fight, but his performance didn’t demand it. He was meek, tepid, frustrated and well beaten in every department.
His dream rise had been swiftly curtailed.
The winner was efficient, patient and relaxed from the word go, the positive words printed on the walls in his changing room taken with him into the ring, a mantra to keep his chin down, believe in the work he’d done and to have faith in himself despite the New York storm at the Garden.
He started as he meant to go on, banking the first round comfortably and cutting Ruiz with a whipping right hand.
Ruiz wasn’t as busy as many thought he would be, either made reluctant by the Joshua right hand or a lack of belief in his conditioning.
He was a stone heavier, which raised eyebrows the day before. He said he’d not cut corners. He’d said he trained hard. He said the fast life of fame had not got to him. Afterwards he changed his tune.
He’d fallen into the traps of fame and money and allowed them to erode his focus and dent his ambition.
Joshua was nicked by the left eye in the second but he was moving well, punching effectively and keeping it simple; hands high, chin down, moving, moving, always moving.
And when Ruiz stepped in, the Englishman claimed him.
This didn’t have to a be a statement fight, this had to be a reclamation. We all might like the bells and whistles and blood and brutality of a shootout and a highlight reel knockout but that wasn’t a priority.
He made the most dangerous sport in the world a game of percentages. Joshua mitigated risk by dictating terms, stabbing with the left, piercing the guard with the right. It was the simple stuff that trainer Robert McCracken had implored him to execute as the wheels tumbled off in New York.
There was a measure of redemption for McCracken, too, last night, for those who felt he needed it.
The performance was steady rather than spectacular, efficient rather than explosive and risk-free rather than riveting. Joshua delivered what was necessary.
Ruiz had his best moments as round four closed. He clubbed Joshua with rights that looked to land on the back of the head. Joshua protested as he returned to his corner but he was soon back to stalking his prey, spearing with the left, harpooning with the right, steering left hooks around the corner and grabbing when they came in close, waiting to hear ‘break’.
As Ruiz came into range, fans expected the combinations to freefall from his gloves but Joshua would throw first and Ruiz didn’t and couldn’t find an effective distance. When the American did find himself inside he didn’t do much, certainly not enough, and then he was held. The short-time champion was made to look impotent; nullified, neutered and now with a bellyful of regrets. The world was in his hands. Yes, he faced the tediousness of mandatories but the bumper paydays of Tyson Fury and PBC stablemate Deontay Wilder are gone, for now if not for good.
Critics contended Joshua’s inside game was poor in Saudi Arabia, that points should have been deducted for holding, that he couldn’t work effectively in close. The thing was, he didn’t need to. He did what he had to. It wasn’t pretty but it was measured.
The vast daylight between only increased. Ruiz was running out of ideas and running out of steam. Joshua wasn’t allowing him to land another “punch from the Gods”.
The touch paper that was lit in the third round in Madison Square Garden never caught fire in the desert. Ruiz implored his challenger to stand and trade as the sand ran out of his time as the unified heavyweight champion.
The Mexican-American, his excess flab wobbling over the top of his gold shorts, his tattoo covered pecs jiggling in the electric arena that just a few weeks ago was barren and dust.
It had been funny when the Snickers guy won the world title at short notice, making the most of his walk-on part as a late sub. He didn’t have enough time to get ready or look the part.
This was different. His lack of respect for the titles he lost was evident at the weigh in and that easy-come easy-go philosophy played out in the ring. He’d punched himself into the record books but eaten himself out of a trilogy. He’d partied for three months, he glumly said. Too little, too late.
For Joshua this could be a new version, a 2.0. We may have lost the crashing, bashing AJ for good, replaced with a more safety-first version, think Wladimir Klitschko post Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.
His jab was imperious. That doesn’t make him Larry Holmes. He immediately righted a wrong. That doesn’t make him Lennox Lewis. He took his show on the road for a controversial bounty and that, of course, doesn’t make him Muhammad Ali.
In a sport where today’s fighters are always compared to the ghosts of the past he proved he doesn’t need to be anyone else, he simply needs to do what he must to win, one fight at a time, one victory at a time. If he keeps doing that over the next few years, he could wind up with some legacy.