Anthony Joshua’s Return to the Ring?

Not since February 1990, when 42/1 outsider James Buster Douglas knocked out undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, has there been such a shock as Anthony Joshua’s defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr last month. The question, now, is exactly where Joshua goes from here.

‘Why’ not ‘who’ – the First Step

Exactly like Tyson’s loss to Douglas nearly thirty years ago, the preamble to Joshua v Ruiz was simply how soon in the first round the fight would end, and which official would be tasked with picking the underdog’s severed head off the canvas. Such a notion stood to reason, with Joshua seemingly honed to perfection, in marked contrast to the clearly overweight Andy Ruiz Jr.

Still a prime fighter at 29 years old, Joshua will come back from the Ruiz defeat more determined than ever. However, he can only do that effectively if he identifies the main reasons behind his almighty setback. The media has not abstained from mentioning that it was his Stateside debut, potentially leading some – intentionally or not – to believe that it was a major factor.

Given Joshua’s previous fight record, it would be ludicrous to place any of the blame on a hostile American crowd – any true champion can turn a deaf ear to hostility and let his fists do the talking. Quite simply, it seems as though complacency was the key to his defeat, and there is every reason to believe that he may have followed the wrong training regime.

Unfortunately, it is the case with many successful boxers that they fight opponents who are unlikely to so much as lay a glove on them. Though he was obviously no match for Joshua in terms of stamina, any version of Andy Ruiz Jr – young, old, fat or chiselled – has the ability to hit hard and throw opponents off balance with a single punch.

Any blows struck by Ruiz would always be opportunistic, and he was in no state to throw combinations. Joshua had clearly failed to appreciate this basic consideration, showing an unusually lax guard, as he aimed to get the early win that would silence his remaining doubters.

Career Stats Justify Hope for Fury Bout… Eventually

It is very unlike Joshua to underestimate an opponent’s punching power, and this is apparent when looking into the boxing markets at Marathon Bet .

After all, nobody goes into a fight 22-0, with 21 wins by knockout by allowing their guard to be breached easily. Aside from his fight record prior to the Ruiz loss, there are other stats, which indicate that Joshua fought to nowhere near his full capability against Ruiz.

Impressively, Joshua’s first seven professional fights were won by knockout or TKO inside the first two rounds. Furthermore, his first major belt, in the form of the IBF heavyweight title, came after just sixteen fights.

Additionally, his last two knockout victories (including his most recent, versus Alexander Povetkin) have also been scored with more than sixty seconds remaining of the round in question, showing that he can still utilise his corner’s instructions to good effect – rather than buying into his own hype:

While Joshua will learn much from his first professional loss, there is one potential drawback, and that is the injection of fresh doubt as to whether Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury will ever meet.

Like Joshua, Fury has much to prove, despite completing a truly remarkable turnaround from a decadent lifestyle, and holding the supposedly invincible Deontay Wilder to a draw back in December.

With two more fights on Fury’s agenda, including a February 2020 rematch with Wilder, Fury’s chances of ever meeting Joshua get more distant by the day. Indeed, if they ever do cross paths, it could well be on exhibition terms, although many previous matches of ‘fate’ in boxing have not lacked entertainment after a long delay.

For instance, the November 1996 meeting of Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson (appropriately dubbed ‘Finally’) served to cement Holyfield’s status as a true champion in the eyes of most boxing fans.

Of course, there were others that identified it as a far cheaper win. For those sceptics, it was far less meaningful than it would have been had Tyson simply dispatched of Douglas, on that fateful Tokyo night in February 1990, and fought Holyfield next as planned.

Hence, any victor of a future Fury v Joshua bout would add relatively little to their standing on the world stage. There is also the consideration of getting a good PPV buy rate from the US to cover the overall cost of staging the event.

If not Ruiz or Fury, Who Next?

Ultimately, relatively few Americans would want to see a match that a rejuvenated Joshua could end in seconds, against a Fury who may well pass his prime over the next couple of years. Even though it might well smash all PPV buy records in the UK, the globalised nature of pro boxing dictates that a strong transatlantic influence is the true mark of an event’s potential success.

There can be no doubt that Joshua’s stock has taken an almighty dive. The Ruiz loss was an embarrassing one that can never be repeated, and with a dream match against Tyson Fury now a more distant prospect than ever, identifying a good comeback opponent is vital for Joshua’s camp.

Dillian Whyte is one good potential alternative to Ruiz, as he himself seeks to restore his place on the path to a dream matchup against Fury. Joshua himself has identified how he would beat Whyte in a rematch, strengthening existing links to the event making flesh.

Whyte put up an admirable battle against Anthony Joshua in their clash for the WBC International, Commonwealth title, and vacant British heavyweight titles. In the end, it was a mismatch, with Joshua holding every conceivable advantage en-route to a seventh-round knockout.

Whyte has gone undefeated since that loss to Joshua, and the common ground the two men share provides a sufficiently good narrative to justify a potential rematch.

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