Joshua can still bounce back from his Madison Square Garden nightmare (Picture: Getty)The boxing world drew in a sharp gasp of breathe when Anthony Joshua fell at the feet of Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday night.
On his big introduction to the American public, Joshua was undone by a ‘chubby Mexican kid’. AJ’s three world titles, the WBA (Super), WBO and IBF, now belong to Ruiz Jr and it appears Joshua’s heavyweight empire lies in ruins.
But hold off on the funeral procession, Joshua is far from finished as an elite champion. Here’s why…
There is a rematch clause that AJ is set to activate (Picture: Getty)Fight week in New York was subdued, to say the least, with Joshua unsure whether to talk up Ruiz Jr or continue to slam Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Wilder did an excellent job at overshadowing Joshua with two fight announcements in three days, and it seems as though the British champion had once again been left on the outside, looking in on the super-fight action.
It was unclear who Joshua would fight in December, and there was genuine concern any fight might be a difficult sell to fans who craved the big-name clashes.
But now, AJ’s future is clear. He will rematch Ruiz Jr, and Eddie Hearn will do everything within his power to ensure the new champion agrees to a rematch. Hearn insists the rematch clause in the original fight contract is bullet proof, although nothing is ever certain in boxing.
The defeat was a major shock in the boxing world (Picture: Reuters)There’s nothing like a good comeback to boost your profile, just ask Tyson Fury. Joshua has the chance to rebuild on some of the firmest foundations ever built in the boxing world. As well as that, beat Ruiz Jr and his reputation and status will be revived.
Joshua will be expected to win the rematch and there is, presumably, zero chance the 29-year-old would deploy such a relaxed approach the second time round. All the heavyweight greats have had comeback fights – Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Muhammad Ali – it’s not bad company to find yourself in.
Defeat is not the end of Joshua’s dominance in the division and it’s certainly not the end of Matchroom’s golden goose, as some have put it. Joshua’s return will generate a huge amount of interest, far more than what a fight with Kubrat Pulev would have. It’s not unreasonable to even suggest the second encounter with Ruiz Jr would be the biggest fight of AJ’s pro career since his war at Wembley with Wladimir Klitschko – especially if it’s in the UK.
Path to Wilder & Fury
Super-fights with Wilder and Fury remain on the table for AJ (Picture: Getty)Should Joshua win the rematch, then super-fights with Wilder and Fury are back on the table. Even better for AJ, his vulnerability will be like a red flag to a bull, and should make it easier to agree terms with the Gyspy King and the Bronze Bomber.
Joshua was going to be made to wait until at least mid 2020 to fight either man after his rivals agreed their own rematch terms, so there’s little room to argue of a missed opportunity for Joshua. Though, that argument would be given a new lease of life were Ruiz Jr to beat Joshua again.
Joshua has been beaten before as an amateur (Picture: Getty)Where there is turmoil, there is the potential for triumph. Joshua has lost three times before as a boxer, each time in the amateurs.
In every one of those clashes he was out-fought in some manner, and each time Joshua was able to regroup and grow stronger. It’s virtually impossible to go an entire career in the heavyweight division without at least one defeat, and Joshua has never suggested his goal was to remain undefeated forever.
The plan was to remain unbeaten for as long as possible, and that mindset should stand the defeated champion in good stead. It’s a blow to his reputation to be beaten by such a massive underdog, but Tyson and Lewis each suffered similarly humiliating defeats and still established themselves as greats of the weight class.
Now we will see what AJ is made of, how deep his character goes and just how good he can be. Defeat is not a disaster for Joshua. Losing the rematch with Ruiz Jr might be, but in adversity we will discover if Joshua is indeed destined to go down as a heavyweight legend.