Sun | Jan 26, 2020

Joshua beats Ruiz on points, reclaims titles in Saudi Arabia

Published:Sunday | December 8, 2019 | 12:45 AM

Britain’s Anthony Joshua celebrates after beating  Andy Ruiz Jr. on points to win their World Heavyweight Championship contest at the Diriyah Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.
Britain’s Anthony Joshua celebrates after beating Andy Ruiz Jr. on points to win their World Heavyweight Championship contest at the Diriyah Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP):

Anthony Joshua jumped up and down in the ring with his massive entourage, celebrating being around US$70 million richer and having three world heavyweight belts back in his possession.

For the British boxing superstar, it was well worth this controversial trip to Saudi Arabia.

In the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the Middle East, Joshua toyed with an out-of-shape Andy Ruiz Jr over 12 unspectacular rounds to win a unanimous points decision, reclaim the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts, and avenge a stunning upset by his Mexican-American opponent six months ago.

Joshua got his game plan spot on, using his lighter frame to outmaneuver Ruiz and selecting his moments to go on the attack.

In the final seconds of a bout fought in a relatively cool 19°C(66 66°F) for this part of the world, Joshua was almost running around the ring and Ruiz – exhausted and outfought – was planted in the middle, urging him to come closer.

“I am used to knocking people out,” Joshua said, “but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.”

Two judges gave the fight to the Briton 119-110, and the other awarded it to him 119-109.

No complaints

Ruiz, who weighed in at 283 pounds to be the second heaviest boxer to fight for a world heavyweight title, had no complaints.

“He boxed me around,” Ruiz said, acknowledging that he came in too heavy after putting on 15 pounds since the first fight.

“I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give excuses. He won ... If we do a third fight, you best believe I’m going to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

Whether Joshua agrees to that remains to be seen. There is no rematch clause this time round, and Ruiz, short, with quick hands, is an awkward opponent.

Joshua proved he had another side to his boxing skills other than a big punch. His career is back on track, for sure, but his reputation might be sullied for other reasons.

The fight was played out to a backdrop of concerns that Saudi Arabia was using this and other big sporting events to divert attention from its human-rights violations. They include the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Joshua has shrugged off concerns that he was being used in what some, like human rights organisation Amnesty International, called a “sportswashing” exercise, and he thanked Saudi Arabia for hosting the fight afterward.