That even goes back to when Joshua’s original opponent was slated to be Jarrell Miller before the Brooklynite had to pull out of the fight after three steroids were found in his system.
Enter Andy Ruiz Jr., the 6-foot-1, 268 pound 25-to-1 underdog inserted on about six weeks’ notice and awarded the unified title shot despite his last fight coming on April 20.
The idea was that Joshua’s super-fight with either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury would continue to marinate.
But the issue with that is what happened Saturday. Ruiz (33-1-22 KOs) scored, by many accounts, the biggest heavyweight boxing upset since Mike Tyson’s memorable 1990 loss to James “Buster” Douglas, decimating Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) and finishing him in seven rounds after recording four knockdowns.
It was Joshua’s first boxing appearance in the United States, intended to be an American coming-out party for the hopeful global icon.
Instead it was Ruiz, overtaken with jubilation after obliterating Joshua, leaving the now former WBA Super, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion battered and defeated.
Following the victory, Ruiz was enthusiastic, Joshua displayed class by calling for a round of applause in his opponent’s honor, and Deontay Wilder fired off a tweet that enraged Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
“He wasn’t a true champion,” Wilder wrote. “His whole career was consisted of lies, contradictions and gifts. Facts, and now we know who was running from who.”
Hearn responded at the presser, referring to Wilder as classless.
“Deontay Wilder has no class and never has,” said Hearn, before adding that if Ruiz were to defeat Joshua in an expected rematch in the United Kingdom, he hopes the new champion would upend Wilder as well.
Ruiz’s win is amazing on a number of levels, but isn’t the problem. Performance aside, neither is Joshua.
The issue is that we are now in a position where the WBC heavyweight champion Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) and Lineal heavyweight champion Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) have zero incentive to share a ring with Joshua, who has been plagued with a subpar chin in fights with Wladimir Klitschko, Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.
It’s another example of boxing business getting in the way of the actual boxing, leaving fans – and sometimes, fighters and those around them – to suffer.
The respective teams of Wilder and Joshua have been “negotiating” since at least 2017. The impression has always been, at least in America, that Wilder’s camp genuinely wanted the fight more, while Hearn and Joshua were content to wait it out.
This was only heightened when Fury came out of retirement in 2018 and subsequently did business with Wilder to fight last December, fighting to a memorable draw, while Joshua stood on the side.
Fury publicly said on multiple occasions that the fight with Wilder was incredibly easy to put together, and he publicly questioned Joshua’s mettle as a result.
On Friday, Wilder announced via social media that his future plans include a rematch with Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, who met in a Fight of the Year candidate at Barclays Center in March 2018, followed by a rematch with Fury, presumably in early 2020.
The thought is that Wilder would fight Joshua afterward.
Wilder says that he wants to avenge controversies established in both fights – Ortiz nearly knocked him out and Fury’s draw with Wilder was a heavily debated decision – before moving forward.
It is unknown whether or not Ruiz affects Wilder’s plan, but the indication is that Wilder didn’t see business with Team Joshua making significant progress.
If they ever fight, the bout with Wilder or Fury has lost at least a slight edge because of Joshua’s defeat, even if he does reclaim his heavyweight throne, which is far from a guarantee.
If Ruiz was able to jolt Joshua’s chin at the level in which he did, what would Wilder do? He is boxing’s best knockout artist since Tyson, and nearly ruined the face of Dominic Breazeale just two weeks ago. (Google it, you may be repulsed but you will not be disappointed.)
Hopefully this serves as a message to the promoters with overly patient business methods to give fans the fights they want when they want them, as opposed to postponing fights with a big payout in mind.
Slightly less money is better than absolutely no money, especially with happier fans.
Bottom line: Give the people what they want.