Round of the Year Nominees:
Jean Pascal vs Badou Jack: Round Twelve
Naoya Inoue vs Nonito Donaire: Round Eleven
David Lemieux vs Max Bursak: Round Ten
Maurice Hooker vs Jose Ramirez: Round Three
Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz I: Round Three
Irosvani Duvergel vs Jerhed Fenderson: Round Three
Anthony Fowler vs Scott Fitzgerald: Round Ten
Winner: Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz I: Round Three
Going into 2019, fight fans had embraced the idea that the heavyweight trifecta of Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Anthony Joshua defined the division and that, eventually, all three would square off against each other. It was being groomed as a heavyweight revival, the first time in too long that fans could peruse the heavyweight rankings and feel some excitement. And come June 1st, in the historic Madison Square Garden, fans expected to be that much closer to a megafight between Anthony Joshua and either Fury or Wilder, particularly because AJ was going to be making his debut on American soil, a perceived necessary precursor to the next heavyweight megafight.
But one unforeseen problem after another turned that precursor into a logistical nightmare, as original opponent Jarrell Miller tested positive for PEDs multiple times and was suspended. Then, Cuban heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz turned down millions to step in as a replacement, which meant Joshua and Eddie Hearn were left with once-beaten contender Andy Ruiz, a fighter who had been ridiculed by many for his “dad bod” physique.
But Ruiz created one of the biggest shocks in recent heavyweight history when he got off the canvas in round three to immediately floor Joshua with a stunning barrage of shots. The left hook that started it caught AJ completely cold, landing on the temple and rendering AJ’s Adonis-like legs into so much jelly. The champion got to his feet and tried to survive, but the underdog calmly took his time and found himself on the brink of a massive upset by the end of the round as he floored AJ for a second time.
The atmosphere was tremendous, with the packed Garden arena in a frenzy and thousands of British fans in attendance utterly flabbergasted. AJ was saved by the bell, but was clearly concussed and looked in no shape to retain his belt against a challenger who was now supremely motivated to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion in history.
Historic drama aside, round three was also one of the best action rounds of recent memory, as two massive heavyweights exchanged knockdowns and engaged in a tumultuous, punch-filled battle. It also effectively decided the outcome the bout and what will go down as one of the all-time greatest upsets in heavyweight history, as Ruiz realized his dreams and won by TKO in round seven. — Alden Chodash