It was okay.
It was satisfactory to a large degree.
It made sense.
Anthony Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz in 12 rounds to regain the WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO titles. He did it fair and square. No argument. He did the very thing that George Foreman (back in June) said he would not be able to do – to figure out what he did wrong and correct it it a mere six months. He went from being a search-and-destroy heavyweight to being a dancer – a Jim Corbett. He adopted the same strategy that Tyson Fury used to wrench these same belts from Wladimir Klitschko. (To be fair, I think Joshua threw a lot more jabs than Fury did. Joshua’s victory may have been boring but not farcical).
It was fair, it was a correct decision. But it was not compelling. It was not convincing in the same way a knockout would have been.
And no, it’s not that same as what Ali did. Ali stung like a bee. He jabbed and bounced away, jabbed and stepped aside, but then he hurt you too. You can’t ask Cleveland Williams, or Sonny Liston, (because they’re dead) but you can see the films of those fights. Ali danced, and he devastated. His defense lead to offence. Fury and Joshua left that part out.
Ali used the rope-a-dope on Foreman. That was simultaneaneously the opposite of dancing and yet an alike strategy in that it was not boxing. The rope-a dope is standing still, dancing is running away. My dad, and many other dads back in ’74 grumbled that Ali’s victory was hollow, or somehow less than valid because he used this non-boxing strategy. But the difference here is that Ali knocked Foreman out. Joshua and Fury just frustrated Ruiz and Klitschko. They were an irritation, like a mosquito that whines near your head in the summer twilight, you try to swat it, but miss. Hell, I find Spongebob Squarepants pretty irritating, but I’m not ready to give him a championship belt.
When a boxer employs a strategy that is at it’s core a means to avoid boxing, I get impatient. When a boxer devises such a strategy and wins, I grumble. When a fighter uses such a strategy and wins a world title, and the press loves it, I retire to Bedlam.
Joshua was rightly praised for keeping to his fight plan the whole twelve rounds. The commentators said, and I too thought I saw him start to revert. From time to time he would stay in the pocket for a moment, trade a couple shots. But then he’d remember what he was supposed to be doing, and force himself to step out, to once again fire from long range, out of range of his opponent. That was what George Foreman said he couldn’t do, to become a different fighter. That was impressive.
The commentators tried to put a shine on what Joshua was doing by more than once referring to Lennox Lewis and his pair of fights with Hasim Rahman. They offered the story as a sort of hopeful vision. When Lewis was ‘starched’ by Rahman, the boxing world was turned upside down, but then when he won the title back right away via immidiate rematch, the offense of the Rahman rein was quickly forgotten. The stain of that loss did not, in the long run, tarnish Lewis’s legacy.
The implication was, that if Joshua could right the wrong of this little fat champion’s existence, than everything would be right in the boxing world again, just like it was when Lewis beat Rahman.
A couple problems with that:
(First, I mean no disrespect to Hasim Rahman and his long and illustrious career. It was good to see him in the corner of a hot prospect Saturday. I hope they go far.)
First, Lewis was knocked out because he was clowning. He was taunting Rahman and showboating for the crowd. He dropped his hands, and Rahman dropped his ass. That ain’t the way this happened. Joshua got beat at his own game. He was in full search-and-destroy mode, trying to knock Ruiz out when he got starched instead. He was hit with many blows, but it was that first hard left in the third round that did the real damage.
He got beat at his own game. He. Got. Beat.
Second, Lewis floored Rahman with a beautiful and terrifying combo. Joshua didn’t floor Ruiz, never even came close. Lewis got revenge on the man that beat him, Joshua did a Spongebob Squarepants for twelve rounds. They’re very different things.
Now I’m reading pundits and such opining that Ruiz’s career is in ruins, or at least in peril, because he gained weight, did a “Buster Douglas”. “He’ll never live it down”. “He’ll regret not training harder”. Even Ruiz was saying it. “I partied too much”. What did I miss? Did I miss Ruiz gasping for air? Did I miss him slowing down, throwing fewer and fewer punches as the fight wore on? Did I miss him dropping his hands in exhaustion so that Joshua leveled him? No. Because none of those things happened.
So, in what way was his weight a factor in the fight?
That’s what I thought.
One final thought: as of this writing, (Tuesday the 10th) Ring Magazine, in teir inscrutable wisdom, still shows Ruiz as their number 3 man (behind Fury and Wilder), ahead of Joshua at number 4. Their records are up to date, Ruiz showing two losses, but still he is ahead of Joshua. How do you spell irrelevant?