Sportsroom editor and boxing promoter Steve Deane answers the burning questions following Andy Ruiz Jr’s shock seventh round stoppage of Anthony Joshua.
1. Given Joseph Parker has just signed with Anthony Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s loss is a bad result for Parker surely?
Not really. Sure, in a perfect world Parker would have used his three fights with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing to nudge his way up the queue to face cash cow Joshua in a megabucks rematch – and that option just ate a thunderous right hand from a fat Mexican. However, with the division now fractured and likely to splinter further due to the complications of a Ruiz v Joshua rematch, Parker’s prospects of getting another world title challenge have actually increased. More champions equals more potential routes to a world title challenge.
2. So it’s a good thing then?
Probably. The splintering of the division when Tyson Fury abdicated his titles was precisely what led to Parker getting his hands on the WBO title last time. Through clever promotion, he managed to parlay that belt into a massive payday against Joshua. If Parker can land another belt – any one of the four major sanctioning bodies will do – then he’ll be a two-time heavyweight world champion, with his stock rising massively at that point.
3. But surely Eddie Hearn’s focus will be on returning Joshua to the top of the division?
Absolutely. Joshua’s ability to put 100,000 bums on very expensive Wembley Stadium seats and break the one million PPV buys mark makes him the most lucrative asset in Matchroom’s stable by a long, long way. But nothing lasts forever and Hearn won’t want all eggs in the one basket – particularly a basket that didn’t appear to much like being punched in the face by Ruiz. A strong Parker makes Matchroom stronger – so the Kiwi won’t be a forgotten man.
4. What is the likelihood Joshua wins all of his titles back in the rematch and we’re back to where we were before the upset?
Not as high as you might think. For starters, there is no guarantee Joshua wins a rematch against Ruiz. While the first fight was largely expected to be a mismatch, it clearly wasn’t. Ruiz walked through some of Joshua’s biggest punches to land huge shots of his own. And Joshua didn’t like it one little bit. His decision not to fight on after being put down twice in the seventh round was an eye-opener. The twin myths of Joshua’s incredible power and all-round invincibility have been utterly shattered.
There’s also a good chance the IBF will insist Ruiz fight their mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev, which would cut across any rematch. Given the likelihood of a much bigger payday from a rematch with Joshua, Ruiz might well choose to vacate the IBF title. That would be good for Joseph Parker.
5. So what happened to Joshua?
There’s a saying in combat sports that “victory defeats you”. That happens when fighters on winning streaks start to buy into their own hype. There had been signs for some time that Joshua was starting to fall under his own spell. After defeating Parker, he stated that he regretted not opening up more and knocking out Parker to preserve his 100 percent KO rate. That was arrogant and silly. Joshua utilised every advantage he had to defeat Parker, keeping his opponent at range and using his jab to eke out a workmanlike victory over a dangerous, undefeated opponent.
Had he adopted the same approach against Ruiz, he would likely have won comfortably. Instead he appeared to buy into the accepted wisdom that Ruiz posed little or no threat and was over-confident – a recipe for disaster in heavyweight boxing.
6. In that case Joshua surely wins the rematch?
I actually favour Ruiz. The tubby, but tough, Mexican American knows he has taken Joshua’s best shots – and that Joshua couldn’t handle his. Joshua failing to raise his gloves to indicate he wanted to fight on in the seventh round was described by some as “no mas in English” – a reference to Roberto Duran quitting in the eighth round of a rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.
If that is what happened, then there is every chance Joshua will again run out of desire under similar duress in a rematch. However, if Joshua’s odd reaction was down to being stunned by a blow behind the ear for the final knockdown, then it’s less of a big deal. If he was in fact more discombobulated than disheartened, and he can swallow his pride and fight a tactically astute fight, then there’s every chance he will dominate a rematch.
7. And if that happens then we’re back to square one, waiting for a showdown between Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder while the likes of Joseph Parker and Dillian Whyte whistle Dixie?
Not really. The Joshua and Wilder camps had three years to make a unification showdown between their undefeated champions happen and didn’t get it done. As stated earlier, the IBF title might already be elsewhere by the time the rematch happens, in which case Joshua v Wilder would no longer be for undisputed status. And, while Joshua’s standing may be diminished, he would still likely generate the greater share of the revenue from a fight with Wilder – and so would still want a higher percentage than his opponent. Wilder’s camp weren’t having that when Joshua was an undefeated three-belt champion. That won’t have changed now he has been beaten.
Of course, there is also no guarantee Wilder wins his planned rematches against Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury, either.
Sadly, Joshua v Wilder looks destined to be one of those contests that either doesn’t happen or only happens at a time when its relevance is vastly diminished. Sometimes, that’s boxing.
8. So where does all this leave Joseph Parker?
In many ways Parker is in the exact same position he was before Andy Ruiz Jr flipped the heavyweight division on its head over the weekend. He needs to get active and post some impressive victories to ensure he is right there knocking when doors open. His handlers have shown a great ability to make big fights happen whenever an opportunity has arisen – and there is no expectation that will change, despite the current three-fight deal with Matchroom.
As Parker’s manager, the genius behind Parker’s rise, David Higgins, is still very much involved in how the future plays out.
The currency Parker possessed as the “only man to survive 12 rounds with Joshua” may have gone from gold bullion to peso overnight, but Parker has inherited another potentially lucrative status: as it stands, he is the only man to ever defeat three-belt world champion Andy Ruiz Jr.
If Ruiz beats Joshua, there’s a Parker v Ruiz fight to be made there for sure.
Steve Deane has helped publicise boxing events for Duco in the past.