Steve Bunce: Serious, fearless Joshua ready for hungry underdog Ruiz rematch

Just over 100 days ago, in the Madison Square Garden ring, Anthony Joshua lost his world heavyweight titles because of an anxiety attack, a lucky punch, the wrong attitude, a lingering concussion, dark forces in the night or none of the above.

That week and night in New York, Andy Ruiz ignored the insults, recovered from a heavy knockdown, simply gritted his teeth and broke Joshua’s heart to become champion.

It ended in round seven and the planning for the rematch in Saudi Arabia started; in just under 100 days they fight again.

“This is the only fight I considered,” insisted Joshua in London at the third and final conference in the third and final city of the press tour on Friday.

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“I never wanted a warm-up or two: I wanted Ruiz from the night. He beat me fair and square and now it is my turn.”

Once again there were no excuses for the loss in June, no coded message to explain how Joshua was rocked, dropped and stopped in a fight he was expected to win with ease.

“I got caught with a good shot and I never recovered - that’s heavyweight boxing,” Joshua said.

Ruiz promised to do the same again and dismissed any suggestions that he is not taking the rematch seriously.

“I bought a house, I looked after my love ones, I bought some jewellery. I did that, sure, but it never changed me - I’m even more motivated now. I still have to think like the underdog, the hungry underdog,” claimed Ruiz.

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Ruiz Jr and Joshua on their promotional tour (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Manny Robles, the coach in Ruiz’s corner confirmed that training camp for the December 7 fight will be harder this time.

“You are going to see a better, faster and slimmer Andy Ruiz. He knows that one win is not enough - he has to get in the ring and win again. He has to prove now that he is a real champion.”

Joshua also hinted that this time the training camp would be harder, more severe than the days and weeks before the fight in June.

“He will be pushing himself like he always does - he just might be doing it slightly earlier in the morning,” said Robert McCracken, who has been in Joshua’s corner since 2010.

That will be part of the ‘drastic’ changes that Joshua has been talking about; this fight is serious and Joshua knows that he has to get his head in the right place and make sure he treats Ruiz with respect.

In New York in June a perfect storm of details - some big and some small - combined and Joshua lost for the first time in his career.

It was Joshua’s seventh defence and a lot of the effort and concentration before the Ruiz fight was on a massive fight with either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder. Joshua took his eyes off the prize, that’s for sure.

Ruiz Jr lands a punch on Joshua (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

“I don’t overlook opponents - that’s the rule,” said Joshua, who insisted that there is less pressure on him now.

“I’m fighting for the titles now in this fight and he is under pressure. I’m not looking at fights in the future - I just want to fight.”

Joshua was quick to deny that the loss would change him or even make him consider walking away from the sport.

“I have lost before and I never walked away. There would be no now if I just gave up. I’ve been down and I came back and I will do the same.”

Ruiz was selected at just five-weeks notice for the first fight, was abused because of his shape and dismissed. During the week nobody outside of Ruiz’s tiny entourage thought that he could triumph.

Joshua lands a right hand on Ruiz (Photo by Anthony Geathers/Getty Images)

There are now a lot of people who believe that Ruiz will always be able to solve a riddle like Joshua.

That is possible, it could happen again if Joshua fights in the same reckless way. However, there is very little chance of him going in the ring with the same sense of invincibility.

Most fighters have a man they struggle against, an opponent who gets too easily In their head and seems to understand everything they try in the ring.

Ruiz might be that man to Joshua; they have proved that they can hurt and drop each other and they will probably do the same in Saudi Arabia.

Both are fearless and both have something to prove in a fight where the vast sums being paid are not the most important factors. However, without the vast sums and the guarantees the rematch would not be happening.

“I know what it is to lose. I have overcome the doubters, the people who told me I would never do it,” added Ruiz.

“I have done it, I will do it again because people still think Joshua had a bad night.”

Ruiz Jr celebrates his seventh round tko against Joshua (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ruiz will return to America for his camp and Joshua and McCracken will move to
Sheffield to resume their partnership.

“There might be a few more early nights,” warned McCracken. That will suit Joshua.

“I can’t wait to jog to the ring, crack my neck and fight,” said Joshua on Friday in London.

“I just want to fight, I have that stubbornness. I have had to fight, people might have forgotten that. Not just in the boxing ring - that grit gets you places in life.”

Joshua sounds different now, more serious.

“This might be the fight of the century,” said Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter.

That is a big claim, but it will be a good fight, a fight with intrigue, some desperation and there will be no shortage of shocks before the winner has his hand raised.

Joshua and Ruiz just might be made for each other.

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