You felt it, didn’t you? Sunday morning when you woke up? The world was somehow . . . righter. It was as if the whole planet was spinning on its axis tilted one click closer to good and justice. The sun shone a little brighter, the birds sang a little merrier. Even my old frame seemed a little lighter.
Andy Ruiz was the heavyweight champ.
He did it by beating the “invincible” Anthony Joshua, and not by a controversial decision, bestowed by rogue, glue-sniffing judges, but by knockout, and not once, but twice.
That’s right. He knocked Joshua out the first time in the third round. He floored Joshua toward the end of the round, and while he got to his feet, he was not steady. The ref asked him to walk forward and he didn’t. It looked like didn’t understand the ref’s instructions.
The ref cut him some slack, you know, because he was the champ. He let him continue, having heard the ten-second knock, and the round ended without Joshua absorbing any more blows. If the positions were reversed, and it was Ruiz hanging onto the ropes with noodle-knees, the fight would have been halted, no doubt.
But that was okay. I understand. You don’t want to turn over the title in a potentially controversial manner. The commentators said that the ref “gave him a mulligan” in that round. Seems fair.
Then in the seventh round, Ruiz floored Joshua two more times, and this time the ref had no choice but to wave it off. The talking heads tried to stir up trouble, saying that Joshua was ready and willing to continue, that the ref stopped the fight too soon, but that was malarkey. After the count (and true, Joshua was standing), he asked “Are you okay?” but Joshua had spit out his mouthpiece and turned his back on Ruiz, walking to his corner. There, he leaned on the ropes, as if taking a break (not allowed in this sport). The ref asked him again if he wanted to box, to which he said “yes” while still leaning on the ropes.
Let’s be clear. Joshua was not cheating or expecting preferential treatment. He was addled, after the noggin knockin’ he got from Ruiz. The ref then gave him a couple more mulligans, letting him turn his back, ignoring the mouthpiece, etc., and Joshua didn’t even recognize it. He didn’t know where he was, or thought the round had ended. Like I said, the ref had no choice but to end it there.
So Andy Ruiz, who by fight time was an 11-1 underdog, won the title. Not as surprising perhaps as Tyson / Douglas, but still one for the ages. I’ll never forget it. Those of you who opted to go to Aunty Petunia’s quilting bee missed out. Big time. The bee will be there next week. These fights only happen once.
“So why is the sun shining brighter?” you ask. “I mean, Joshua’s a good guy, why celebrate his defeat?”
You misunderstand. There were no villains in the ring. But what Andy Ruiz did was to upset the whole corrupted apple cart. He was supposed to be the opponent, the lamb. He was supposed to get knocked out like Breazeale, to raise Joshua’s stock among American fans. That was the plan. I wrote about this recently, bemoaning the lack of a real title fight, like Wilder / Joshua or Fury / Joshua, and how Fury and Joshua were taking time off it seemed, fighting lesser men to boost their record and fatten their wallets.
But that’s not on the fighters. I believe if left to their own devices the top fighters would readily face each other. But there is this cadre of promoters and sanctioning bodies and venues and TV networks, etc. steering the whole thing. They’ve got a big pie to slice up, and they aim to make it bigger, not necessarily better. They rule without scrutiny, turning screws and pushing buttons, moving men like game tokens, running a lucrative business in the name of sport. And their shadowy presence in the world of boxing is as parasitic and intractable as a tapeworm.
It was this body that made Pacquiao / Mayweather five years late, when it was no longer relevant or even very credible. It was this same body that decided that Fury would fight Tom Schwarz and Joshua Jarell Miller. When Miller crapped out, they picked Ruiz.
Remember when Don King tried to get the result of Tyson / Douglas reversed?
No, sportsmanship and fairness are merely sizzle to these guys. They sell the sizzle and keep the steak.
Well, Ruiz didn’t read the script they gave him, and substituted his own. He turned the boxing world on its head like others have done before him. Men like Braddock, Clay, and Douglas. Rarefied air, and the fact that he is breathing it makes me smile.
And I readily admit that I had little hope for him. I too made jokes about his paunch, his “dad-bod.” But there have always been heavyweights that were overweight. Buster Mathis fought both Frazier and Ali with boobs. Buster Mathis, Jr., and the aptly named Tony Tubbs fought Mike Tyson. Hell, Eric “Butterbean” Esch fought and won weighing as much as 400 lbs. You saw the layer of insulation on Dominic Breazeale two weeks ago. George Foreman in his comeback had a spare tire. Even Buster Douglas had a little upholstery on him. But not like Ruiz. They talk about him being the first Mexican heavyweight titleist; well he’s also the first fat one.
Ruiz has a ritual – he eats a Snickers bar right before he enters the ring. “It gives me energy,” he says. He’s not trying to lose weight and failing, he’s just trying to knock your head off and have fun while he’s doing it. If you watch the slow-motion replays of the highlights from Saturday, you’ll see a real athlete working. Between those rapid-fire punches, he’s shifting and stepping and leaning and all to make each blow land as hard as possible. You can miss it in real time because it’s so fast.
The beast, meanwhile, is squirming and turning and will (of course) make for itself a bigger payday, whether that means making a rematch, or having Ruiz fight a succession of dead men. Time will tell.
In two weeks is the Fury / Schwarz fight, which I’ve already referred to as a “debacle.”
Now I wonder . . . .