Anthony Joshua had drawn 90,000 fans to London’s Wembley Stadium to watch him fight. But now the great Brit was looking to expand his brand, making his U.S. debut inside the ring at the packed “Mecca of Boxing.”
He arrived at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night as the undefeated WBO, IBF, IBO and WBA super heavyweight champ. His belt collection was on the line in the main event, and he was a heavy favorite against Andy Ruiz Jr. The 29-year-old Californian was just announced May 1 as a replacement opponent after Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller tested positive for banned substances multiple times.
But Ruiz soon showed he belonged. He knocked Joshua down twice in the third. Then he knocked Joshua down twice in the seventh. Referee Mike Griffin stopped the fight at 1:27 of the round — TKO. Ruiz had taken Joshua’s belts, just like that.
Welcome to America.
“Sorry I let my support down,” Joshua said in the ring after what had to be one of the great upsets in boxing history.
Ruiz became the first boxer of Mexican descent to become heavyweight champ. He’s 33-1 with 22 KOs.
“I made history, baby, for Mexico,” Ruiz said.
The heavyweight fight that everyone had wanted to see was a unification bout between Joshua and WBC champ Deontay Wilder, who’s 40-0-1 with 40 KOs. But Wilder announced Friday that he will be having a rematch with Tyson Fury after their split draw in December. That’s expected to happen early next year. But Wilder first has to beat Luis Ortiz in their rematch. That fight is expected in the fall.
Joshua had been 22-0 with 21 KOs. Asked if he planned to exercise an immediate rematch clause in his contract with Ruiz, Joshua said, “One hundred percent.”
At least Ruiz was already in boxing shape when he took the fight, having KO’d Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20.
Still, Ruiz looked short and a little flabby compared with the chiseled Joshua. Ruiz is 6-2 and he weighed in at 268 pounds. The 29-year-old Joshua, who weighed in at 247.8, had a four-inch height advantage and an eight-inch reach advantage.
Joshua knocked down Ruiz less than a minute into the third. But Ruiz rose and soon knocked down Joshua with a right. Joshua got up, but just before the round ended, Ruiz decked Joshua again. Joshua rose. Then the bell rang.
“I’ve never been on the canvas until today and I got up,” Ruiz said. “I think that’s the real warrior that I am.”
Then came the seventh. Ruiz landed a flurry of punches before Joshua went down. He rose, but not for long. Ruiz sent him down again.
Joshua got up and went to a corner before the referee waved an end to the fight.
“I think that it’s going to do a lot for my community and Mexico,” Ruiz said. “Now they can say they have their first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world. I’m just happy that it’s me.”