Fight Report: Joshua vs Ruiz

Shortly before the main event started, British recording artist Sinead Harnett sang “God Save The Queen” to honour the UK’s national anthem. But little did we know, it was not the queen who needed saving. The long-winded but ultimately futile Joshua vs Wilder saga came to a screeching halt as late-substitute opponent, and 15-to-one underdog, Andy Ruiz scored one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history with a seventh round stoppage of Anthony Joshua.

After a slow start, the fireworks kicked off in round three when Joshua dropped Ruiz with a left hook. It looked like it would be a short night for the challenger, but Ruiz quickly recovered and landed a left hook of his own to the temple that hurt Joshua badly and drove him to the canvas. The Briton appeared to never fully recover from that one blow, and Ruiz pressed the attack and had the champion down again late in the third. Saved by the bell, AJ came out for the fourth on wobbly legs, but managed to keep his distance and by round five appeared recovered. However, Joshua was increasingly hesitant to exchange with the challenger after that nightmarish third round.

Ruiz caught Joshua cold with a left hook in round three

By the end of round six, Ruiz had closed the distance and was landing with greater regularity, and in the seventh he only increased the pressure. Early in the round an overhand right had Joshua hurt again, with the champion too rubber-legged to hold on. It didn’t take long for Joshua to hit the canvas a third time, and by this point the end appeared imminent. The champion rose, but another right to the temple sent Joshua down again and he spat out his mouthpiece in an apparent gesture of capitulation. He beat the count, but his body language was all negative and referee Michael Griffin waved his hands and ended the contest, prompting a dance of victory and joy from Ruiz.

“I’m the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world,” said the new heavyweight king in the post-fight press conference, adding that he had to keep pinching himself to remember this wasn’t just a dream. “As soon as we start training harder and getting more in shape and looking like AJ I’m going to be an even better fighter.”

Andy Ruiz: Mexico’s first heavyweight champion.

Eddie Hearn pointed out that a rematch clause was in the contract and thus Joshua can choose to exercise his right to a return following the shocking defeat. “I know that this will burn him so bad inside because he’s the ultimate competitor,” said Hearn in the post-fight press conference. “Tomorrow, the day after, and in the coming weeks, this is gonna eat him up bad. Great fighters come back and improve; some fighters never come back the same. The future will show how Anthony Joshua responds.”

In the co-feature, super middleweight titlist Callum Smith made a brilliant US debut with a third round stoppage of Hassan N’Dam, ending an eight-month streak of inactivity following the birth of his daughter. Smith (26-0) looked terrific, scoring three knockdowns in three rounds against N’Dam before referee Charlie Fitch waved off the contest. Smith fought with remarkable poise and patience, using clever footwork to set traps for N’Dam. Smith scored knockdowns in the first and second rounds with a carbon copy of the same left hook counter, and then leveled N’Dam at the end of the third with a beautiful right hand over N’Dam’s jab that put the challenger flat on his back.

Smith showcased devastating counter-punching ability against N’Dam.

Following the emphatic victory, Smith was asked about a possible showdown with another belt-holder at 168, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. “I believe he [Canelo] is the best 160 in the world,” said Smith. “I don’t think there’s a fighter at 160 who beats him. [But] it’s a fight I would welcome and it’s a fight I do believe I can win.” However, Smith indicated he is not willing to play any catch-weight games with Canelo, who once won the lineal middleweight title in a match contracted at the infamous 155 pound “Canelo-weight.”

“I won’t do a catchweight,” said Smith. “If he wants to be a champion at 168 then he’ll fight at 168.”

In easily the best action fight of the night, and possibly one of the best fights in female boxing history, Katie Taylor won a razor-thin majority decision over Delfine Persoon to unify the lightweight division. Persoon came out like a rabid dog, forcing a hectic pace and never giving Taylor a chance to breathe. Taylor countered effectively, but was often outworked and suffered a bad cut on the top of her head in the middle rounds. As the fight appeared up for grabs going into the tenth and final round, Persoon fought her heart out, pummeling Taylor from pillar to post with everything but the kitchen sink and Taylor appeared hurt from the accumulation of Persoon’s punches. While your friendly scribe scored it 96-94 for Persoon, the judges saw it 95-95 and 96-94 (twice) for Taylor.

Katie Taylor got a majority decision in the best fight of the night.

In his first appearance on American soil, Josh Kelly faced a stern test from Ray Robinson, who pressed him throughout and held him to a hard-fought draw. Kelly got off to a strong start, landing effective potshots and showcasing impressive defensive ability, but Robinson began to come back in the fifth, as Kelly languished on the inside long enough for his opponent to land. The sixth saw Robinson keeping Kelly in his own corner for much of the three minutes, with the veteran banging away at the Brit’s body and landing effectively upstairs. Kelly managed to stop Robinson’s momentum in the late rounds as the two fought on relatively even terms, but after ten rounds, two of the three judges scored the fight even and the outcome is a majority draw.

Kelly outboxed Robinson early but faded and had to settle at a draw.

Newly signed DAZN prospect Austin “Ammo” Williams made a strong showing in his second pro appearance, blasting out an overmatched Quadeer Jenkins in round number one. Williams was too much for Jenkins as he scored two knockdowns, the second with a brutal right hook to the body that forced the referee to call off the mismatch. Williams is now 2-0.

2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist Joshua Buatsi made an emphatic statement in his US debut by blasting out veteran Marco Antonio Periban in round four. While Periban was slippery and elusive early, Buatsi remained poised and gradually closed the gap, scoring his first knockdown of the fight in round four. The UK prospect followed up with a fusillade of right hands that pummeled Periban against the ropes, prompting the referee to step in. Buatsi improves to 11-0 and looks forward to bigger and better things in the light-heavyweight division.

Buatsi gets the impressive stoppage win over veteran Periban.

In the first fight of the DAZN televised card, former WBO 140-lb champion Chris Algieri scored an impressive eighth round stoppage over UK’s Tommy Coyle after Coyle’s corner called a halt to the contest. The fight got off to a rough start for Algieri, who was hurt in the second round by a Coyle left hook. But Algieri pressed on and began to target the body, scoring a knockdown in the fourth with a riveting series of left hooks to the liver.

Algieri gets his first stoppage victory since 2013.

Coyle got up and fought bravely, but by the sixth he was noticeably hurt, appearing to be broken down by the steady assault on his abdomen. Algieri (24-3) appeared to be on the verge of a stoppage by the end of round eight, but before he could score his first TKO win since 2012, Coyle’s trainer Jamie Moore beat him to it as he stopped the contest before the start of round nine.           — Alden Chodash 

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