Anthony Joshua spent much of the past six months soul-searching, figuring out what went so wrong in his first encounter with Andy Ruiz Jr. and vowing to be better in the rematch.
He was better. Much better, as he completely shut down Ruiz in a dominating tactical masterpiece to regain his three heavyweight world title belts by lopsided unanimous decision Saturday at the rain-soaked, 15,000-seat open-air Diriyah Stadium in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, in the first heavyweight world title fight to take place in the Middle East.
British judge Steve Gray scored it 119-109 and Glen Feldman of the United States and Benoit Russell of Canada each had it 118-110 as Joshua sent Ruiz into boxing history as a one-hit wonder such as heavyweights Buster Douglas and Hasim Rahman, both of whom also had one big night to win heavyweight titles by upset knockout.
Joshua got off to an excellent start. He boxed Ruiz from the outside throughout the first round, landed a good right and picked him apart before opening a cut over his left eye in the final seconds of the round.
Joshua continued to box him with ease in the second round, but Ruiz got something in because Joshua suffered a cut over his left eye.
Joshua controlled Ruiz with his jab, which kept Ruiz, clearly much heavier than in their first fight, from getting too close on the inside.
By the end of the fifth round Ruiz’s face was marked up from eating so many clean jabs from Joshua, who was on his toes boxing, boxing, boxing and jabbing, jabbing, jabbing. It was a much different style than employed against Ruiz in June.
Joshua continued to pick apart Ruiz in the sixth round and also landed a powerful left hook to the head that shook Ruiz and forced him to hold on. Ruiz tried to launch a few haymakers but they missed by a mile.
Referee Luis Pabon warned Ruiz in the ninth round for illegal punches, but he still had his best round of the fight to that point as he finally landed a few hard right hands that backed Joshua up and made Joshua hold on.
Joshua continued to stick and move in the 10th round, refusing to allow Ruiz to drag him into a slugfest.
Ruiz didn’t seem to have much urgency in the 12th round even though it was obvious he needed a knockout to win. Joshua continued to box and jab but also fired some heavy right hands in an effort to leave no doubt as blood streamed down the side of Ruiz’s face.