Anthony Joshua survived a desert storm to wrest back his world heavyweight titles with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr at the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arena.
Joshua stuck to his back-foot game plan to pick off a clear 118-110 (twice), 119-109 verdict in a bout that boasted little of the five-knockdown drama which saw him lose to Ruiz in June.
In a bout which had been threatened with delay by a rare desert rain-storm moments before they took to the ring, the champion banked almost entirely on landing another big left money-shot.
Second time round, a more composed and disciplined Joshua for the most part resisted the urge to join Ruiz in battle, and there was no doubt as to the clear winner once the bell ended the final round.
Confirmation of Joshua’s win was greeted with roars of approval from a capacity 16,000 crowd in the purpose-built venue in the ancient Saudi capital, which was hosting a major title fight for the first time.
After all the speculation about his weight, Ruiz looked only a little heavier than before. The leaner Joshua was moving better and was winning the first with his jab before he clinched the round with the first big right of the night.
The smattering of British fans did their best to make themselves heard as Joshua came to the ring but this a mere whisper of the Wembley roar. The 02, even. The Saudis took sides and away we went.
Ruiz had been cut beside the left eye by that Joshua right and as the blood seeped the wound became a target for the left jab. But Ruiz finally uncorked a right of his own and now Joshua was cut also by the left eye.
Joshua was moving so much better without the muscle bulk and boxing according to plan. Jab, move, another round in the bag.
Ruiz working to close distance and although he was caught by a hefty right and left from Joshua he finished on the two fisted assault to wiin his first round on my card.
The jab-plan was working well for Joshua and that weapon opened the Ruiz cut again.
Confidence was growing in AJ in the sixth and dancing a la Ali. Frustration for Ruiz and a long lead now for Joshua.
Joshua opened up with a couple of big rights in the seventh and the chant of AJ, AJ, filled the desert night.
It’s hardly a thriller but if Joshua keeps boxing like this he will comfortably and without fuss or commotion unless he goes knock-out hunting. Which he is suddenly tempted to do and is punished for his troubled. Ruiz rocks him twice to change the complexion of the fight slightly and trainer Rob McCracken screams at him from the corner to go back to the basics.
It’s a procession now. He’s toying with the Mexican who shocked the world just six months ago
Same old, same old. Ruiz chasing. Joshua picking him off expertly and throwing in a bit of jab and hold to go with the jab and run to eke up the time.
And so to what should be the lap of honour…..on his toes…a little flurry of excitement at the finale. Thank you Riyadh and goodnight.
Clash On The Dunes. They should have called it Desert Storm III.
After a week of sun-kissed days and moonlit nights, it rained on the evening parade of the Saudis from central Riyadh to the ancient ruined city of Diriyah.
Never mind the Kingdom’s propaganda called sports-washing. Nature took care of the cleansing process. At least superficially.
It never rains but it pours in the desert. The first large splashes were the prelude to electric storms. As the clouds burst and the skies lit up was it a worrying omen for AJ?
Was lightning going to strike twice? Would Ruiz send another paralysing bolt through Joshua here in this rematch, as he had done to take over most of the world heavyweight titles in New York this summer?
The downpour came and went, came again and went again in the hours before the big fight itself. There was a canopy over the ring to protect the fighters from the worst of it but for most of those in attendance it was a case of reaching for the opaque plastic ponchos distributed in haste.
Shouldn’t we have gone to Cardiff, after all?
When you build a 16,000-seat arena in less than two months there is no time to put on a roof. Even if these oil-rich sponsors who had already invested upwards of $200 million dollars in this event had really wanted to spend yet more on a temporary structure which they will start demolishing not long after this one-ring circus leaves town.
The flower buds which sprout through the sands the instant they are wet, only to disappear just as suddenly when the sun rises, will have to be quick if they are to be gone before the stadium itself is distributed to all corners of Arabia.
Starting with the removal of the ring to a palace of one of the royal princes. A nice souvenir if you can get it.
Nice work, too, for Joshua and Ruiz at $85 million and $13 million respectively.
Mercifully, their entrance came apres le deluge.
With an unusual show of patriotic loyalty the London bookmakers kept faith with Joshua as favourite even though the majority of substantial betting was on Ruiz. Both men looked tense when pictures beamed onto the giant screens from their dressing rooms as they were having their hands wrapped.
The loudest cheers so far from what appeared to be a full house greeted the arrival of some of the Middle East’s UFC favourites.
Boxing is in its comparative infancy in Saudi Arabia and much in need of Joshua and Ruiz to supply a thriller.
Source: Daily Mail