Dust up on the Dunes: How to turn the Anthony Joshua project around

I am 29 years old, so please excuse me when I put pen to paper to write that this is the biggest upset, I have witnessed in my life so far, keep in mind I am an Arsenal fan….

I will not forget the banter that surrounded the decision to replace Miller with Ruiz, I mean look back at Andy Ruiz (then, now he is a lot slimmer). I don’t blame anyone who thought Eddie Hearn has picked a fighter from the bottom of the barrel to keep Joshua undefeated. Coming into the fight with a record of 32–1 (22 KOs) no one really thought the unthinkable would happen. What happened on the night of June the 1st will forever be etched in the memory of many a pudgy fellow when one mentions the benefits of being a buff guy.

The fight itself was box office, for the neutral fan, the AJ fan and the AJ haters. Joshua started the fight as was expected, the more confident of the two boxers and dictating the type of fight the bout was going to be. The first two rounds of the fight were slow, Joshua only landed nine punches out of forty-seven thrown, and Ruiz only three out of thirty-one thrown. After dropping Ruiz in the third round, Joshua unleashed a beast in Ruiz and was dropped twice by the end of the third round. Joshua had a worried look on his face, everyone could see he had never been to this place before. I couldn’t help but be surprised as the next three rounds (four, five, and six) saw the boxers exchange heavy leather to an extent as they looked to own the scorecards, both aware of each other’s power at this stage.

Ruiz managed to dig deeper than the British champion and dropped him early in the seventh round and Joshua managed to beat the count, but with a minute and fifty-nine seconds Joshua was dropped for a fourth time the fight after a right hook to the temple. What happened next was comical , Joshua spat out his gum guard after being floored, delayed in getting up for the count, when he did stand up he turned his back to the manager and walked toward his corner and rested his arms on the ropes. His responses as the referee put them were not convincing and he waved the fight off, Joshua wasn’t devasted by the call which shocked me. But it was plain to see he wanted nothing to do with the Mexican Destroyer.

So, before we look at how the Anthony Joshua project can be turned around let’s look at what went wrong for the former champ.

What went wrong for Joshua

Lack of Preparation: Joshua did not prepare well for Ruiz. Call it what you will, “Joshua saw Ruiz’s physic and decided that it was a walk over”, “Joshua had prepared for Miller and had five weeks to prepare for Ruiz”, or “Joshua didn’t have the fear factor going into the fight as he would had he gone in versus on of the top three heavyweights”.

Inexperience: If one looks at the type of fighters Joshua has squared up to in his career, he has fought a single archetype of fighter. That would be the taller, broad shouldered and very confident heavyweight fighter. Ruiz looked very lucky to be in this bout on a night that would surely be a big pay day for him. In the ring when Ruiz came inside to box Joshua and Joshua failed to use his jab to keep distance between the two of them, he was in trouble. Joshua’s lack of experience in fighter a shorter fighter stifled his usual calculated attack and allowed Ruiz to pick and choose his moments to land a barrage of punches that always rock Joshua.

Zero Defence: Joshua could not defend himself against Ruiz. Ruiz’s game plan seemed simple, get the bigger man to square up in the centre of the ring and then trade blows with him. Ruiz went to work every time Joshua met him in the centre, he worked Joshua high and low landing some devastating hooks to the body which tired Joshua immensely. Joshua’s lack of defence led to him asking his corner “Why am I feeling like this though?” when he was in the corner after the sixth round.

Lack of Variation: Joshua could not stop Ruiz’s pressure because of zero defence, as I have alluded to above. But the biggest thing that went wrong for Joshua was that he failed to make the necessary changes and execute the game plan his coach was feeding him in-between rounds. The gross negligence by his camp to instil some form of variation in Joshua’s game cost their man his titles. Joshua never got going with the jab and lacked the needed variation with his feet or fists to open some sort distance between Ruiz and himself to attempt to get going. Joshua had no solutions to the questions Ruiz posed, the bigger and stronger man could not get separation or land big shots and it was all down to Ruiz’s counter punching.
Shock Value: Shock value is the potential of an image, text, action, or other form of communication, such as a public execution, to provoke a reaction of sharp disgust, shock, anger, fear, or similar negative emotions. This is what I think happened to Joshua, the public execution that Ruiz pit on show not only shocked the audience in Madison Square Garden that night in June but it also shocked Joshua and his team. He had never been in the boxing ring and got into this kind of trouble. Joshua was afraid, he was tired, he was stunned, and I will even say he quit. Shock value got Joshua out of the ring with five rounds to spare.

Now here is a look at what Anthony Joshua can do to win the rematch.

Adjustments Joshua should make

Dominate Ruiz: Joshua will have to back Ruiz down by going back to the basics of boxing. What are the basics of boxing? Straight left, straight right, straight left and let the jab setup everything for him. If Joshua gets the jab going, we will have to see how Ruiz reacts something he was not expected to do in the first fight.

Dictate the Fight: Joshua must dictate what kind of fight the rematch will be. He must want to give Ruiz a taste of the AJ treatment before even getting the idea to go for the knockout. If the fight is dictated by Joshua it will be an uncomfortable night for Ruiz who has never been on the other end of what Joshua can do at his best.

Relax and Breathe in Attack and Defence: Joshua after the third round knock down failed to relax and breathe, he became tense lost his edge. Joshua is that confident and ever smiling lad who has always fought happy and confident. He needs to find his confidence in the ring versus Ruiz this will allow him to walk up and down the ring to try and execute a game plan. I saw a panicked Joshua in June and a panicked Joshua isn’t beating Ruiz no way, no how. We saw Joshua into big big trouble versus Klitcshko, but he managed to get breathing room and relaxed hence he managed to bounce back. A key to Joshua relaxing and breathing would be him keeping decent distance between himself and Ruiz. Ruiz stepping into Joshua’s chest is something I hope the team surrounding Joshua should have ways to counter.

Bring His A game: Many a Joshua hater has mentioned that he has a glass chin, I never bought into that until that night in June. Believe me I thought the man had a chin when he shook off some brain jiggling shots from Klitcshko and went on to win in Cardiff. But I swear I have been forced onto that “Joshua has a glass chin” bus. Therefore, I think Joshua has to bring his A game and shut down Ruiz because if the two get into the phone booth now way Joshua come out tops versus the Mexican Destroyer. Joshua needs to avoid a slug fest even if it means he engages Ruiz in a calculated manner then so be it.

Ruiz game plan

The chance to be the slayer of one of the heads of the three headed heavyweight monster that was before June 1st 2019, should be the only motivation for Ruiz. Ruiz will be an even better fighter than he was six months ago, and he has an added boost of knowing that he can take the best of Joshua’s punches and keep stepping forward. Ruiz will also be a better fighter than he was when the two first met, he will have his tactics down to the tee. If he pulled that off a stunning upset with five weeks of training, just imagine what kind of a fighter he will be with a full camp behind him.

The Clash on the Dunes on the 7th of December 2019, will be the biggest fight of the year. Forget Canelo v Kovalev, forget Wilder v Ortiz, forget Fury v Schwarz and Wallin, forget any other fight you have watched this year, or any fight you will watch before the end of the year. This is the fight that brings us closer to getting a unified champion, as Deontay Wilder alluded to after his seventh round knockout of Ortiz, he wants to fight the winner of this bout to unify the division.

The Clash on the Dunes on the 7th of December 2019, will either be the second coming of the heavyweight boxing Prince or the day we look at boxing and say anyone can rack up a 22-0 record without being tested. And I feel Joshua will retire if he doesn’t win his titles back, with all due respect to Ruiz, you don’t lose to that man twice and think there is another opportunity to earn in this game again.

Sources: www.boxingscene.com

Philani Mukwakwami


Sports are a hobby horse of mine, what happens in-between the lines is just as thrilling as what happens outside of them.