On Friday at the weigh-in, Anthony Joshua sort of jokingly handed his belts over to Andy Ruiz Jr.
On Saturday in the ring, Andy Ruiz Jr wasn’t joking at all when he ripped the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles from Joshua’s grasp, leaving the boxing world in chaos with a nearly unthinkable stoppage upset of Joshua at Madison Square Garden.
Listen, I didn’t pick Andy Ruiz Jr, and I’m not going to go back and edit the staff picks to pretend I did. But I wasn’t totally dismissive of him at any point since the fight was signed. I had seen Ruiz fight many times. His skills have always been clear to me.
I’m not trying to argue I called it or anything. But I had Ruiz No. 10 in our rankings at heavyweight. I was a believer in his ability. Not enough to think he’d beat Joshua, obviously, but I thought he was a better opponent than I would say 95% of people did. I didn’t laugh because he’s got titties.
There’s a bit in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball about a ballplayer, Brant Colamarino, whom the Oakland scouts don’t/didn’t want to draft, but GM Billy Beane was high on him, so the A’s took him:
When Brant Colamarino removes his shirt for the first time in an A’s minor league locker room he inspires his coaches to inform Billy that “Colamarino has titties.” Colamarino, like Jeremy Brown, does not look the way a young baseball player is meant to look. Titties are one of those things that just don’t matter in a ballplayer.
Now, Colamarino never did make it to the show, topping out at Double-A ball. Ruiz, on the other hand, has the right to call himself heavyweight champion of the world as of last night.
Generally speaking, scouts are going to be right about someone with a Colamarino body in baseball — for every Kirby Puckett, there are probably 500-1000 Colamarinos and Jeremy Browns. And generally speaking, critics are going to be right about someone with an Andy Ruiz body. For every Ruiz-like story of corpulent success, there’s whatever number of Chris Arreolas who do well up to a certain point, and then their chunkiness is blamed for their shortcomings.
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KO) has done it, in the end. Whatever happens next, whatever happens the rest of his career, he’ll always have the magical night at MSG when he won three of the four world heavyweight titles.
But what is next?
Well, if we’re to believe Anthony Joshua (22-1, 21 KO), it’ll be a rematch. There is a rematch clause, as one would expect, and Joshua said after the fight that he’s going to exercise his right to a second fight.
But that was in the heat of the moment, too. Joshua, 29, may not ultimately want to run right back in with Ruiz. There are people who wonder how he’ll really respond to this, when the cameras are off, the adrenaline is gone, the shock has faded, and the reality has set in.
He dropped Ruiz in round three. He was going to do what the fight’s biggest critics expected: bulldoze the little fat guy who provided the indisputably bad optics. Then Ruiz fought back, caught Joshua, and dropped the hulking Olympic gold medalist twice in that same third round. And then twice more in the seventh, and it was over.
I do expect the Ruiz-Joshua rematch, for the record, but it’s not inconceivable that Joshua changes his mind for whatever reason.
If that happens, the biggest fight out there would obviously be a fight with WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder for all the belts. Wilder, though, has already announced a fall rematch with Luis Ortiz, to be followed by a 2020 rematch with Tyson Fury.
Now, look, Wilder, Ruiz, and Ortiz are all with PBC, so surely some kind of deal could be worked out to do Wilder-Ruiz instead of Wilder-Ortiz II, even if the ink is dry. It would take maneuvering and money, but it’d probably be worth it for PBC as a brand, in theory.
Apart from the Wilder idea, there are really a ton of potential non-Joshua options if AJ doesn’t do the rematch. Everyone will want a crack at Andy Ruiz Jr. He’s got three damn belts and he’s suddenly a name, and a lot of guys out there will think they can beat the Snickers kid. I’m sure someone like Michael Hunter would leap at the chance if it presented itself.
Expect the Joshua rematch, though. I just can’t really see AJ turning it down.
So then the question is, can Ruiz do it again? Yeah, he can. AJ’s chin isn’t going to get better, and a few months or whatever isn’t enough time to make huge improvements defensively. Wladimir Klitschko learned to protect his chin and rode that to a long run of domination, but it took time. And Ruiz has already shown he legitimately has no fear of Joshua — respect for him, yes, but no fear, just as he promised going in. Psychologically, Ruiz has the big upper hand.
For now, Ruiz should be given the chance to bask in this glory. He told everyone he’d prove them wrong. Nobody believed him. And he did it. After hundreds of “crying laughing” emojis posted in response to every weigh-in photo of him standing by Anthony Joshua on social media, it’s Andy Ruiz Jr who got the last laugh.