- Anthony Joshua was defeated and dethroned as boxing’s heavyweight king on Saturday.
- Andy Ruiz Jr. fought the fight of his life to better Joshua, battering him in rounds three and seven until the referee waved the fight off for good.
- It was the first defeat of Joshua’s professional career, but there were warning signs that he had been declining since he toppled Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.
- Shortly after beating Klitschko, Joshua won the praises of Floyd Mayweather, who invited him to work with the Mayweathers in Las Vegas to work on his porous defence.
- Joshua did go on to visit the Mayweather Boxing Club in Nevada but only for a fleeting visit in the middle of the year.
- After his humiliating setback last weekend, he should make a second trip. Only this time, he should stay for much, much longer.
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Anthony Joshua was defeated and dethroned as boxing’s heavyweight king after losing to Andy Ruiz Jr. under humiliating circumstances on Saturday, proving he should have listened to Floyd Mayweather two years ago.
Mayweather befriended Joshua after the Briton’s up-and-down classic with Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, and he told him that if he worked with him at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas, then he’d keep him at the top of the boxing world for years to come.
Joshua, Britain’s hulking puncher with the million-pound smile, went a different route. He stayed loyal to his team, one that hoped it could help him conquer the American market and emulate Mayweather by earning $US1 billion from prizefighting.
Joshua left Madison Square Garden in New York City $US25 million richer. But his team’s ambitions of turning the 29-year-old into boxing’s global superstar, the fight game’s equivalent of Lionel Messi or Roger Federer, suffered a knockout blow so shocking that only time will tell if he is able to recover from it.
This is because Joshua was not beaten on Saturday from one lucky punch. He was beaten because Ruiz fought the fight of his life with calculated aggression, throwing punches in bunches and taking advantage of a lackadaisical Joshua who was second best for much of the fight.
Joshua finished the night trying to balance himself on the top ropes in a neutral corner, completely beaten, having been knocked to the floor four times.
Ruiz had been peppering his body, chin, and even his ear with accurate, debilitating punches until the champion didn’t know where he was. His promoter, Eddie Hearn, the group managing director of Matchroom Sport, told the Seconds Out reporter Radio Rahim backstage that his fighter had been concussed.
Joshua can rebuild, but it will take hard work and dedication
It is a far cry from the high Joshua experienced when he climbed off the canvas to knock out Klitschko in a back-and-forth heavyweight battle for the ages in 2017.
Klitschko landed a bow-and-arrow right hand in the sixth round, a thunderous punch with such power it cracked Joshua’s cheek, buckled his knees, and dropped him to the floor. But Joshua recovered, fought his way back into the fight, and twice toppled the former champion with unanswerable flurries in the 11th round.
It was a victory that saw Joshua add the World Boxing Association (super) and the International Boxing Organisation world heavyweight titles to the International Boxing Federation belt he won two fights earlier.
Though his name grew in stature around the world, there was one who was not completely impressed by Joshua. In footage filmed by the YouTube channel FightHype, Mayweather told Joshua that he is a “mother f—– that has got some dog in him.” He praised him and said he acted like a champion in the Klitschko war but was ultimately flawed because he was getting hit too much.
He said Joshua needed to “tighten up” his defence and invited him to his Las Vegas gym, the famed Mayweather Boxing Club, so that his defensive game could become “real, real sharp and real, real slick.”
Since the Klitschko win, Joshua appears to have regressed rather than evolved. He had his nose busted up by Carlos Takam in 2017, saw his knockout streak come to an end when he was awarded a decision win in a drab bout with Joseph Parker in 2018, and started sluggish before stopping Alexander Povetkin in September.
Now, most famously, he was put on the canvas four times by Ruiz, a fighter he was expected to beat with ease, setting up $US100 million paydays against his unbeaten rivals Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
For now, those paydays have reduced in value, if not disappeared entirely. But he can restore his worth worldwide should he rebuild, rematch Ruiz, and, most importantly, win.
To do that, change is needed, but it perhaps does not have to be drastic. After all, he said to iFL TV post-fight that he would not be blaming the referee, his promoter, his manager, or his trainers for his loss.
But the manner in which he was beaten – with such a porous guard and little to no head movement – proves Mayweather was right two years ago and that an extended stay at the Mayweather Boxing Club could work wonders on Joshua’s development, even if he retains his original coaching setup for whenever he is training in the UK.
The art of boxing is to hit and not get hit. Mayweather did that better than anybody and has the greatest defensive numbers since CompuBox began tracking punch statistics. At the Mayweather Boxing Club, there are numerous coaches, from Floyd Mayweather Sr. to Roger Mayweather and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who can offer decades of knowledge on ducking, blocking, foot placement, and movement. One assumes Floyd Mayweather himself also knows a thing or two about it.
But it is not just textbook defence that Mayweather could help with. The 42-year-old is also regularly working out in his gym and running on the streets of Vegas to maintain his cardio, and he is the dictionary definition of being fighting fit. He never had a problem with endurance or distance fights. Joshua, in contrast, has questionable conditioning.
Away from the sport, Mayweather could teach vital lessons in how to balance promotion, media, and sponsorship obligations so none of those come at the cost of padwork, bagwork, or sparring. Joshua’s on-camera duties prefight may have distracted him from the ultimate goal – knocking Ruiz out in style.
There is a lot for Joshua to learn, and even though he is approaching 30, he remains teachable. His motto has always been “stay hungry” and “stay humble,” but perhaps it is time he adopts Mayweather’s mantra of “hard work, dedication.”
One loss does not suddenly make a boxer bad, and it does not delete his gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games or his thumping professional wins over Dillian Whyte, Klitschko, and Povetkin from the record books.
But to return to the top, he will need to further emphasise his strengths – his physical prowess, his brutal power, and his solid punching repertoire – while doing all he can to disguise his weaknesses: his poor defence, his questionable conditioning, and the fact he has been turning into a brand rather than a boxer.
Two years ago, Mayweather was asked how far Joshua could go in the sport of boxing. Mayweather told FightHype that “it all depends on who he works with.” The American added that if Joshua was working with the Mayweathers, they would get him on the fast track to success in and out of the ring, putting him on top of the boxing world.
Joshua has made one fleeting appearance at the Mayweather Boxing Club that we know of. He told FightHype that he was there in 2017 to pay “homage” and simply watch Mayweather “prepare” for the Conor McGregor fight that summer. He therefore did not stay long enough to develop new skills over the course of a three- to six-month training camp.
But Joshua remains a friend of the gym. On the official Mayweather Channel on YouTube, he is often spoken of highly. And Mayweather himself has sided with Joshua when it comes to the Wilder argument by saying it is the Englishman who has a greater name value and deserves the bigger payday.
Joshua will have kept Mayweather’s mobile phone number after his last trip, and now is as good a time as any to call him so he can ask to return to the Mayweather Boxing Club.
Only this time, he should be staying for much, much longer.