Andy Ruiz Jr. landed the biggest fight of his career at six weeks notice in April and fully took advantage of the late cards he was dealt.
On the back of a debut win under Al Haymon over Alexander Dimitrenko, Ruiz Jr. chased a fight with Joshua after Michael Hunter was originally earmarked as the opponent.
Upon being finally selected above Hunter, Ruiz Jr. played his part of the respectful challenger to a tee.
Constant handshakes, photo ops and compliments to Joshua masked the hidden truth of a contender hell-bent on making his mark.
Ruiz displayed a steely determination in the ring. One which was a complete flipside to the persona the Mexican-American adopted during the build-up.
The 29 year-old has one of the warmest and welcoming faces to any opponent. But as evident in New York, Ruiz can be ruthless when trading blows.
Calculated moves as Joshua went for one-punch knockdowns. And for the finish in the third – was enough to do sufficient damage along the way.
In the sixth, a carefully placed body shot from the ex-amateur star effectively ended the contest. Joshua’s energy was sapped from that point. The writing firmly on the wall.
There was no way Ruiz would let Joshua off the hook. Therefore, when the end came – despite some protests – the former champion had little chance of recovery.
With the cat out of the bag for the rematch, it will be interesting to see how Ruiz plays it. Will he adopt an alternative image as the unified ruler? – Or will he allow Joshua to take the lead?
Joshua was one hundred percent guilty of taking Ruiz too lightly. This will no longer hold weight in the return.
The Olympic gold medallist didn’t even ask if there would be a second fight, such was his expectancy to win.
Whatever happens, a fascinating contest is in store as Joshua bids to come back from a devastating and highly unexpected loss.
No longer an unknown quantity at the highest level, Ruiz had earned his respect. Apparent as Ruiz is only a 5/2 underdog to repeat the win.
As high as 20/1 with some bookmakers in the first meeting, surely many punters will bite off the bookie’s hands when offered the fractions currently in the public domain.
Press coverage of the encounter has gone through the roof…and rightly. Only set to continue further once the second fight is announced.
Roll on the UK.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay