Anthony Joshua won his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr by unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia to reclaim his unified heavyweight titles and become a two-time world champion.
Joshua avoided the mistakes he made in his first fight with Ruiz, boxing stubbornly behind his jab in a clinical performance to win a wide points decision.
Two of the ringside judges scored the contest 118-110, with the other delivering a 119-109 verdict that saw Joshua win back his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight world titles.
“This is about boxing, I’m used to knocking guys out and last time I realised I hurt the man and I got caught coming in,” Joshua said immediately after his win.
“I had no excuses. So I wanted to put on a masterclass and show the sweet science of this sport, hitting and not getting hit.”
Joshua then suggested he would be open to a trilogy fight with Ruiz. “And – without a doubt – if you heard we’re going to do it a third.”
The first fight between the pair featured five dramatic knockdowns but – after a freak desert rainstorm that briefly threatened some of the fights on the undercard – there was precious little drama at the Diriyah Arena.
Joshua cut Ruiz above his left eye in the very first round and boxed intelligently throughout, picking out smart jabs and refusing to engage with his opponent at close quarters. He landed a fine left hook in the second and darted in and out of range at will, reaping the rewards of being at his lowest weight in over five years.
There was a moment of hope for Ruiz when an accidental clash of heads opened up a cut above Joshua’s left eye, but the Mexican-American was consistently frustrated by the man he so sensationally beat in June. He did catch Joshua with a short hook in the eighth but ended the fight desperately beckoning his rival to meet him in the centre of ring. To nobody’s surprise, a smirking Joshua declined his invitation.
Afterwards, Ruiz made the outrageous claim that he had not trained hard enough for his first world title defence.
“I gained too much weight,” he confessed in the ring after falling to his second professional defeat. “So let’s do it for a third time. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.
“But it affected me a lot, I thought I’d feel stronger. I tried to train myself, I don’t want to give excuses though. I couldn’t put together my combinations.”
However, after the fight Joshua appeared to dampen talk of an immediate rematch with Ruiz.
When asked where his career goes next, Joshua said: “I don’t know, I don’t want to talk too much. A big mouth is not what people respect. Whatever we can do, I will do.
“Let the fans decide. We are up for anything.
“I’m made for this stage. Look at this, a purpose-built stadium for a purposeful night tonight.”
Joshua – who has followed in the footsteps of boxing luminaries including Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in reclaiming the world heavyweight title – must now act quickly in deciding on his next opponent.
He has already been ordered by the WBO president to fight mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk within the next 180 days, while the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev became the IBF mandatory challenger by defeating Hughie Fury in 2018.
Joshua could also decide to fight the winner of Deontay Wilder’s rematch with Tyson Fury for the WBC heavyweight title.