After the shock defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr, Anthony Joshua will be looking for revenge in the fight dubbed the “Clash on the Dunes.”
June 1, 2019, a day that was set up to be a celebration of British sport. The first all-English Champions League final in 11 years was taking place in Madrid between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, followed by the American debut of British boxing’s golden child Anthony Joshua. But, as Adam Smith, Head of Boxing for Sky Sports, said: “The dream debut turned into a nightmare.” On Saturday night, Joshua has the chance to avenge that defeat when he meets Andy Ruiz Jr for the second time.
The shockwaves that Ruiz’s stunning victory sent around the boxing world still haven’t stopped reverberating. The fight was an instant classic and the result provided one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. The bout took place in the “Mecca” of boxing, New York’s Madison Square Garden, an arena that has seen so many great fights and is only reserved for the biggest names.
Ruiz Jr was a late replacement for the controversial Brooklyn heavyweight, Jarrell Miller, after he failed a drugs test six weeks before fight night. Ruiz was announced as the opponent for Joshua just three weeks before the bout. He was not expected to cause Joshua too many problems on his big night. How wrong that turned out to be.
The fight itself quickly became a modern classic, with both men hitting the canvas before it was waved off in the seventh round. The third round was described by Mike Costello, BBC boxing commentator, as: “One of the great rounds in the history of heavyweight boxing.” It started with Joshua flooring Ruiz with a lightning-fast combination of a right uppercut and left hook. Joshua, one of the best finishers in boxing, saw the opportunity to close the show with a brutal knockout. Ruiz decided to fight fire with fire and landed his own left hook, a punch Joshua has described as, “a punch from the gods”. This shot singlehandedly turned the fight on its head as a stunned Joshua was floored twice in the round. It was all over in the seventh, when the referee waved the fight off after Joshua had been floored twice more. One of boxing’s biggest shocks was complete.
Three of the four heavyweight world championship belts will be on the line when the pair enter the ring in a purpose-built stadium in Saudi Arabia. This equation is not unfamiliar to Joshua, as a previous champion, but now the belts are the property of the man in the other corner. The manner in which Joshua was defeated in June has been a big concern for his camp. They have made changes to training and the differences are clear to see. Joshua is weighing nine pounds less than he did when he entered the ring at the Garden. He is expected to be faster and slicker in an attempt to combat the sensational speed of Ruiz. It will be interesting to see if these changes pay off on Saturday night.
The fight will take place in Diriyah, an ancient town just outside the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The destination of the fight has caused a lot of controversy, with charities all around the world preferring that such a big sporting event wasn’t hosted in a country with a questionable human rights record and a history of the mistreatment of women. Prince Khalid has been the pivotal figure in bringing the fight to Saudi. He is a massive boxing fan who wants to use his passion for the sport as a vehicle to open up Saudi Arabia to the West. He is even having the ring taken down and then rebuilt, blood and all, in his palace to mark the special occasion. There can be no doubt that the financial aspect of having a fight in the Middle East is the main reason for it to take place, with the rumoured purses being £85 million for Joshua and £13 million for the champion, Ruiz Jr. While the financial benefits are huge this fight it all about pride for both men.
Whatever the result, there is no doubt that Saturday night will be one of the biggest fights of the 21st century. A win for either fighter will be career defining. Don’t miss it.
By Alex Brinton
Photo credit: worldboxingnews.net