Kazeem Ugbodaga, with Agency reports
As former Heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua looks to capture his three belts back from his conqueror, Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, history does not favour Joshua. If we are to go by history, Joshua has 70 percent losing to Ruiz, but history are meant to be broken and re-written.
Ruiz had stunned the British title-holder Joshua in the seventh round of their fight in New York on Saturday, June 2, 2019 to become the first Mexican-American heavyweight world champion.
Joshua, previously undefeated, was defending his IBF, WBA and WBO titles but was knocked down four times before underdog Ruiz was awarded a technical knockout.
The loss at the Madison Square Garden was Joshua’s first in his stellar career. It was more stunning as the as the American-Mexican Ruiz, only took the fight at six week’s notice. He is now the owner of Joshua’s IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO world titles. Ruiz was an outsider in the match that bookmakers gave to Joshua 25-1.
Now, the die is cast for the rematch in Saudi Arabia where Joshua is aiming to get his three belts back, but Ruiz has told anyone who cared to listen that he is not letting the three belts slip from his grip. He has tasted opulence and fame since he shocked the world in brutal knockdown of Joshua.
Looking at history, some former heavyweight champions had attempted to regain their belts immediately they were defeated. Records show that in such 10 attempts, only three had succeeded, five lost and two draws. Joshua and Ruiz’s fight in Saudi Arabia is the 11th attempt to recapture a lost title by former champions. Is Joshua going to succeed?
Former undisputed Heavyweight Champion, Lennox Lewis after he was defeated by Hasim Rahman in South Africa in 2001 attempted an immediate rematch after seven months. He knocked out Rahman in the fourth round to regain his title. Joshua will hope that luck shines in his favour for the fight to go the way of Lewis-Rahman rematch.
Another attempt to regain a lost time was in 1964 when Sonny Liston lost his world tittle to Muhammed Ali, who was then Cassius Clay. Three months later, Liston’s attempt to recapture his belt from Ali was met with a brutal knockdown in the first round.
Also, Ali had his share after he shockingly lost his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks in 1978. The 10–1 underdog Spinks ended up winning two of the scorecards 145–140 and 144–141, while the third was 142–143 giving him a split decision win. Spinks became the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion after only eight professional bouts, and the only man ever to take a world title away from Ali in the ring, as Ali’s other losses were either non-title bouts or world title fights where Ali was the challenger.
September 15, 1978, Ali challenged Spinks for his title and he regained it by unanimous decision. Ali entered the rematch as a 2½ to 1 favourite. ABC televised the fight live in the United States. The network paid $5.3 million for the rights. An estimated audience of 90 million viewers watched the main event in the United States.
Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated wrote: “The plan was simple. Ali would jab, jab, throw a right and grab. When Spinks came flailing in, Ali would hook his left hand around the back of Spinks’ head and pull him into an embrace, effectively limiting Spinks to one or two punches or pulling him off balance. And Ali would dance, baby, dance. He would tie up Spinks and then dance away from him on the break, circling to the right, circling to the left. And the fight went as plotted.” Referee Lucien Joubert took the fifth round away from Ali for holding. The Associated Press scored the fight 12-3 for Ali, while the three judges had the bout 11-4, 10-4-1 and 10-4-1 all in favour of Ali giving him a unanimous decision win.
According to Boxing Scene, in 1960, Floyd Patterson had faced Ingemar Johansson, who had produced a big shock to take the title from him the previous year. Patterson won the rematch with a fifth-round knockout and one year later, Johansson became the second former champion to get a straight return fight, but he could not claim his belt back from Patterson, as the American won again, this time in the sixth round.
No boxer could have felt more humiliated by a loss than when Patterson lost the title to Sonny Liston in 126 seconds in 1962. So ashamed was he that he wore a false beard, mustache and dark glasses so he could sneak out of the stadium unnoticed and drive home to New York from Chicago. He was still wearing the disguise when he was stopped by the police for speeding two states away.
Once again, Patterson got a direct rematch, ten months later at the Convention Center in Las Vegas, the first heavyweight title fight to take place in what was to become the world’s boxing capital. Patterson lasted only four seconds longer than the first fight, being knocked down three times in the process.
More so, Michael Dokes in 1982 lost his tittle to Mike Weaver. He got a rematch five months later. The second time, the fight ended in a draw.
Larry Holmes only held the IBF title when he lost a close points decision to Michael Spinks in 1985, a defeat that cost Holmes the chance to equal Rocky Marciano’s 49-fight unbeaten record. They met again seven months later and Spinks repeated the win in another close fight.
Another rematch took place in 1997 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as Mike Tyson attempted to gain revenge over Evander Holyfield, who had stopped him in the eleventh round seven months before. The return went down in boxing history but not for good reasons as Tyson was disqualified in the third round after biting off part of Holyfield’s ear.
The month after Lewis had regained revenge over Rahman, Holyfield was seeking to regain the WBA title in an instant rematch with John Ruiz. It was actually their third fight in a row. Holyfield had won the vacant title in their first fight, Ruiz won the return. But Holyfield would be denied as he tried to win back the title again, as it ended in a draw.
These are some of the fights. How prepared is Joshua to reclaim his belts from a hungry Ruiz? Joshua says he has been forced to make “drastic changes” to his lifestyle in a bid to win back the heavyweight titles he lost to Ruiz.
“There will be no aftershock after the first fight. I will be smarter. Getting knocked down was good. If I am smarter, I know I can pull it off. I don’t want to say it will be ‘Joshua 2.0 – I know what I was doing before was working, I just have to tweak little things and I will be perfect. Losing speeds up that process.
“I have made some drastic changes, lifestyle stuff. Family, circles, what is important, priorities. The effort it takes to stay on the straight and narrow is challenging. I have to understand I am aiming to be a top athlete. Boxing was always the easiest part for me. The struggle was always keeping my life in check. If I can do that, the boxing will fall into place,” he says.
Joshua said his first career defeat at the hands Ruiz Jr. was due to a lack of experience and that he had become a “smarter” fighter ahead of December’s rematch.
“It wasn’t burnout. The issues I faced in the last camp, it’s just down to lack of experience,” he told BBC.
“Even though it was at a high level, we were still finding experience. Andy Ruiz is good but I don’t think he should beat me twice. I used to hear guys say you have to take a loss and I would think ‘why’? Now I can understand it and know what it takes. I have more understanding now and my ears are open to new information so that’s making me smarter as a fighter.
“There are things I have had to do to take me to the next level. I am confident I can be victorious and when I am I will tell everyone of how I went wrong.”
But Ruiz is determined to retain his belts. He said: “It’s been a long three months of camp. I’ve been training really hard for this fight. Like June 1, I made history, and I think the importance is to remake history on Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia. Not much to say, but I’m ready to rock and roll, I know AJ is going to come in with a different game plan. I know he’s prepared, motivated, being more cautious – I know he’s going to try and box me around. My job is to prepare for whatever comes my way.
“Of course, I don’t want these beautiful belts to go away. Remember I’ve been doing this since I was six, it’s finally paying off, and no way I’m going let these belts go. I’m going to die trying, and do anything that’s possible to get that victory. It’s been a long journey, long roller coaster in my life, and no way I’m going to let these go Dec. 7. Let the best man win.”