Fifth Avenger: Anthony Joshua can emulate legends with Andy Ruiz Jr. win
Anthony Joshua has the opportunity to join boxers with their place in history secured when the Briton challenges Andy Ruiz Jr. on December 7.
Losing badly in the first outing, when by his own admission taking Ruiz too lightly, Joshua is not the first to attempt the rectification of his defeat.
Saudi Arabia will provide the backdrop at a purpose-built arena in Diriyah as AJ and Ruiz trade blows again, six months on from their first battle.
Firstly, in that New York meeting, Ruiz stepped in at late notice to a mass of ridicule over his condition. Looking blubbery as he always does, Ruiz was completely written off.
To Joshua’s peril, the 30 year-old was supremely confident, and all seemed to be going to plan early on. Joshua dropped Ruiz hard and almost finished the clash there and then.
Ruiz rallied, and once Joshua was hurt, he never fully recovered. Blaming concussion, Joshua was downed four times as his universe imploded.
Heading home to contemplate what had transpired, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist now has to do what few have been able in the past.
A revenge win for Joshua will place him alongside four of the great names. Only four men in history have regained the world heavyweight title after losing it to that same opponent.
Facing a mammoth task, which has amazingly been done twice by compatriot Lennox Lewis, Joshua will be forced to change tactics in order to correct the result in his favor.
Lewis did it, and it some style. Losing to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, Lewis halted both in the return to become a three-time champ.
The likes of Mike Tyson, Jack Dempsey and Sonny Liston all failed in their bids. They succumbed to previous conquerors in Evander Holyfield, Gene Tunney and Muhammad Ali.
Ex-Lewis opponent Holyfield, the great Ali himself and Floyd Patterson are the only other fighters to complete the same feat Lewis managed on those two occasions.
Holyfield did it against Riddick Bowe, whilst Ali versus Leon Spinks and Patterson against Ingemar Johannsson.
Losing is never easy, but to become a two or three-time title holder you have to start somewhere. This is the only upside to Joshua’s current predicament.
Facing a top division blackout if Ruiz repeats his feat, a heavy pressure weighs on the shoulders of the former ruler.
Above all it’s a must-win fight. In which the upside is massive. So roll on December 7.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News and an Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay