WAS AJ CONCUSSED?
I hope you and your family are well. This is my second email to you from Oxford in the UK regarding the heavyweight division. I got up at 3am on Sunday morning (UK time) and walked to my local pub which was showing the AJ v Ruiz Jnr fight. As well as the usual adrenaline fueled combination of excitement and nerves I always get before a heavyweight fight, I couldn’t help feeling a bit uneasy about how AJ looked, biting down on his gumshield, leaning back on the ropes and getting neck massages. At the time I put this down to my brain being scrambled from getting up in the middle of the night. But then, by the end of round 1, I was worried. He looked slow, flat footed and out of energy, leaving himself horribly exposed every time he threw anything other than a jab. I didn’t for a second believe he would lose at this point, but I definitely felt uneasy, and we all know what happened next. Did you observe anything similar?
The possible explanations I can see are: 1. The pressure finally got to him 2. He has matured early and is, effectively, shot 3. He was ill – rumours of food poisoning, a cold, the flu are floating around 4. He was concussed from a sparring incident that he didn’t have time to recover from 5. Ruiz had a style he couldn’t deal with, leaving him out of ideas and gun-shy or 6. AJ overlooked the highly-skilled, but visually unimpressive heavyweight?
What are your thoughts? Am I just a conspiracy theorist, looking for a way out for AJ? Even if one of the more sinister explanations was in play, isn’t it fairly common anyway, but we just don’t hear about it?
With all of this considered, who do you think would win in an immediate rematch? Do you think AJ needs to change his trainer?
Finally, a single mythical matchup:
Andy Ruiz Jnr vs Oliver McCall-conquering Frank Bruno.
Thanks for the awesome mailbag – keep it going, man. – Adam
I’ll go with The Atomic Bull by close decision in a very good fight. Even on his worst day (see his emotional breakdown during the Lennox Lewis rematch), McCall had a granite chin. Nothing could put a dent in that man’s whiskers, and at his best, he was an aggressive and slightly unorthodox boxer-bomber. A real handful for any heavyweight, including the version of Ruiz we saw on June 1.
Regarding the spacey state of mind Joshua seemed to be in as he entered the big arena inside Madison Square Garden, yes, I noticed all of that at the time and I thought it didn’t bode well for him once the bell rang. However, like you, I tried my best to shove those thoughts aside and focus on the fight. (And I didn’t like what I saw from Joshua – in terms of body language and fight tactics – in the opening round.) But not “feeling it” on fight night is just part of boxing (and that goes for every level of the amateur and professional ranks). This is something I learned with my admittedly limited boxing experience. In the mid-90s I had a trainer (a former welterweight fringe contender named Kevin Morgan) who was adamant about his clients sparring and he wasn’t careful or cautious about this, he threw us in with whoever at was willing and able to beat the s__t out of us in the gym (the long-defunct L.A. Boxing Club). Some days I could handle whatever and whoever Morgan tossed my way. Other days I just couldn’t, and I often couldn’t explain why. It was seldom a physical thing. I was in tremendous condition in my mid-20s (Morgan’s grueling training regime saw to that). But sometimes I just wasn’t “up” – mentally, spiritually, whatever – for fisticuffs and simply couldn’t get my s__t together once that bell rang. I boxed in some exhibitions in the late ‘90s, even a few during the early 2000s (the last one was in 2010), and I had the same experience with those competitions. Sometimes I was untouchable, other times – even when my training was perfect and my mental outlook was pure positivity leading into fight night – I just seemed to lose everything as I walked to the ring. A couple times (including that last exhibition in 2010) I turned into a zombie just before the bout, and I boxed like the walking dead once the bell rang and it didn’t matter what my corner did or said. It happens. I’ve always figured that the truly great fighters experience this but are somehow able to overcome it. That’s what makes them great.
The possible explanations I can see are:
- The pressure finally got to him. I’m sure he felt a lot of pressure fighting at Madison Square Garden in his U.S. debut. Naseem Hamed and Lennox Lewis can tell you and AJ about having their mettle tested during their first outing in that storied arena. But Joshua is an Olympic gold medalist who has been headlining major arena and stadium events in the UK for years. He should know how to deal with pressure and butterflies.
- He has matured early and is, effectively, shot. No, if anything he’s IMMATURE. Joshua is only 29 (young for a heavyweight) and he hasn’t taken a lot of punishment in his 23 pro bouts. I think what has ultimately hampered him was that he had a limited amateur career and was rushed to win his first world title because there was an easy mark for him (in former IBF beltholder Charles Martin). The year he snatched that IBF title, 2016, was the last year he fought more than twice. He was clearly still learning before he won his first title (as evidenced by his wobbly moments vs. Dillian Whyte in late 2015) and he probably needed more than two fights against the likes of Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina before accepting former champ Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017 (one year after beating Martin). But he got through that trial by fire and was a bona-fide superstar in Europe from that point on, fighting on the typical modern-era standout schedule of two fight per year. He learned a lot in his three fights against Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, but he would have benefited a lot more if he’d have fought more often, perhaps had lesser fights against solid opposition between those stadium events.
- He was ill – rumours of food poisoning, a cold, the flu are floating around. Those types of rumors ALWAYS run rampant whenever a dominant heavyweight loses to a huge underdog. See Foreman after Ali, Ali after L. Spinks, Holmes after M. Spinks, Tyson after Douglas, Lewis after Raham, Klitschko after Sanders and Brewster. My personal favorite (after Klitschko lost to Brewster in 2004) was that the cutman rubbed Vaseline all over his legs, which caused his body to overheat.
- He was concussed from a sparring incident that he didn’t have time to recover from. It’s possible. That happens. Everybody wants to run with that rumor, and that’s fine, I guess, but Joshua isn’t using that or anything as an excuse.
- Ruiz had a style he couldn’t deal with, leaving him out of ideas and gun-shy. I think this is PRIMARY reason Joshua “wasn’t himself” on June 1. Ruiz’s style, stature and mentality was just all wrong for him.
- AJ overlooked the highly-skilled, but visually unimpressive heavyweight? I think this is also part of the equation, but Ruiz’s style, technique and fighting spirit is the main reason we were treated to a sensational heavyweight title bout upset.
What are your thoughts? Joshua had a bad night, Ruiz had a good night and that combination produced the upset of the year, so far.
Am I just a conspiracy theorist, looking for a way out for AJ? Yes, if you put any stock into your explanations Nos. 1-4.
Even if one of the more sinister explanations was in play, isn’t it fairly common anyway, but we just don’t hear about it? Like the sparring concussion? Yep.
With all of this considered, who do you think would win in an immediate rematch? I think Ruiz will always give Joshua fits (perhaps he even freaks the British star out a bit the way Tyson did to poor Frank Bruno) and I’m not sure that an immediate return bout is the best option for AJ but I do believe that he CAN win the rematch if he boxes the right gameplan.
Do you think AJ needs to change his trainer? No, I don’t.
STILL IN A STATE OF SHOCK
I pray you and your family are doing well and all the readers of your mailbag and their families are doing well. I am still in a state of shock from the Joshua vs Ruiz fight. I have been a fight fan since 1969 and in those 50 yrs. this is the most shocking result in fight I have ever seen. I’m only speaking for me. I can’t believe the result of this fight. I’m not a prisoner of the moment type of person. I didn’t see this coming at all and gave Ruiz no chance whatsoever.
The only other fights that shocked me like this are Calzaghe vs Lacy, Trinidad vs Hopkins, Foreman vs Frazier, Marquez vs Pac Man 4, Holyfield vs Bowe 3, and Rahman vs Lewis 2. Tyson vs Douglas wasn’t a shocker to me because I saw Tyson vs Quick Tillis and thought Buster had a great chance and I thought Holyfield had a great chance vs Tyson. I loved Tyson but he never appeared to be invincible to me. After Tyson beat Spinks, Eddie Futch said that Buster Douglass could beat Tyson if he was at his best. There were two Buster Douglases the one who fought Tyson and the one who fought Holyfield. Jesse Ferguson told me later that he and Oliver McCall tried to tell Tyson to not sleep on Buster.
I held Joshua in higher esteem at this point of his career then I held Tyson. I thought Rahman would beat Lewis the first time and was shocked by the result in the rematch. I really overrated Joshua. I had only seen Ruiz fight once against Parker and I thought he won but I never thought he had what it took to beat Joshua. I just saw a little fat fire plug with a lot of heart but I have been watching a few of his fights lately and didn’t realize how skillful he can be, I just got done watching a sparring session with him and Holyfield.
Joshua has his work cut out for him in the rematch and I can’t wait for it. This is why I love the sport. Fights like this makeup for all the horrible, lackluster Canelo and Fraud fights. God bless and take care. – Blood and Guts from Philly
You got the right attitude, B&G, but why throw shade on Canelo and Fraud, I mean Floyd? (Come on, Canelo has been in action fights, too!)
I like that you’re honest about your assessments of both Joshua and Ruiz, and that you can admit that you didn’t see the monumental upset coming. I’ve read too many Tweets and posts from Armchair Eddie Futches (haven’t used that one in a while) claiming that it wasn’t even an upset, that they knew AJ was headed for a big fall. My question: WHERE THE HELL WERE THEY BEFORE THE DAMNED FIGHT!!!!????? Most of those schmucks were too focused on taking sides in the Joshua-Wilder business/negotiation debates to even take a good look at Ruiz. They gave Joshua crap just for fighting Ruiz and for the past week they’ve all been taking a big crap on poor AJ for getting beat up and stopped. They’re so far gone they don’t even understand how ugly they appear to the sane portions of the world.
Anyway, enough about the cretins. Thanks for being honest about counting Ruiz out and about how much of a shock Joshua’s first loss was to you. I haven’t been following the sport as long as you have but what happened on June 1 ranks up there with the most significant upsets that I’ve seen (certainly in the top 10 of those I’ve witnessed live).
I held Joshua in higher esteem at this point of his career then I held Tyson. While a lot of hardcore heads out in the Twitterverse (especially those who were kids during the 1980s) will consider what you stated here as sheer blasphemy, I can see where you’re coming from. After 22 pro bouts, Joshua had earned three major world titles and had defeated a future hall of famer in Wladimir Klitschko (in the Fight of the Year), as well as legit top-five contenders, such as Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker. After 22 pro bouts, the best names on Tyson’s resume were Mitch “Blood” Green, Jesse Ferguson and James “Quick” Tillis. Joshua fought Ruiz in his 23rd pro bout. Tyson fought somebody named William Hosea in his 23rd pro outing. However, fighting all those journeymen, gatekeepers and fringe contenders at the frequency of 13-15 bouts per year made sure that Tyson was ready to be a world champion who could take on a variety of styles by the time he got his first title shot at the end of 1986 (mind you, he turned pro in March 1985). I can’t help but think that Joshua could have benefited from another year or two of fighting at least four or five times against gatekeepers and fringe contenders of various styles, statures and mentalities. Perhaps if he had, he would have been better able to deal with what Ruiz brought to the ring.
I thought Rahman would beat Lewis the first time and was shocked by the result in the rematch. I didn’t call the upset in the first fight but I (along with many others, including my MaxBoxing cohort Steve Kim) thought that Lewis was ripe for an upset going into that first fight. And then I made a big mistake in counting Lewis out in the rematch. Yes, I was goofy enough to think that Rahman not only had Lewis’ number, but was in Lennox’s head. Oh, how wrong I was. Lesson learned. Never count out the heart and mental fortitude of an Olympic gold medalist and a former champ. My guess is that MANY fans and boxing pundits will count Joshua out going into the rematch with Ruiz.
I really overrated Joshua. Are you sure? Maybe you just really underrated Ruiz.
I had only seen Ruiz fight once against Parker and I thought he won but I never thought he had what it took to beat Joshua. Maybe you underrated Parker, too. LOL.
I just saw a little fat fire plug with a lot of heart but I have been watching a few of his fights lately and didn’t realize how skillful he can be, I just got done watching a sparring session with him and Holyfield. Ruiz has got skills to go with those fast and damaging hands. And he’s getting better! I think his power, footwork and head-movement have all improved since the Parker fight.
Joshua has his work cut out for him in the rematch and I can’t wait for it. Agreed. If Joshua does indeed go for the immediate rematch (which is all I’ve heard from Team AJ and Hearn) the pressure will be on and the stakes will be very high for the former unified beltholder. The entire sports world will be watching with interest. I’m looking forward to it and hope that I can cover it live wherever it lands.
THE ANDY RUIZ PHENOMENON
After watching the Ruiz Jr upset tko of Joshua many times and hearing various analysis on subject and comparing the information with what I have known of Ruiz since I first saw him back six years ago against Tor Hamer in the Pacquiao-Rios underused in Macau, the more I am convinced that it was no upset at all. Andy really has what it takes to whip the highly favored Joshua.
I think Andy has through the past several years now only developed but nearly perfected the scientific style and strategy to deal with and overwhelm opponents taller and at times heavier than him.
The way I saw it, what he executed in the Joshua fight was not very different from the style and strategy he used against Hamer and Joseph Parker who I believed he also beat in his first failed world heavyweight title try and previous to the Joshua fight, the taller and longer Alexander Dimitrenko whom he bludgeoned to quitting.
While his rotund body will not convince anybody that he is a real heavyweight, looking back now he always possessed the quality of one especially in the strength and power department where he has constantly proved he can take as well as he dishes out.
Certainly he is not the first heavyweight with that beached whale figure to become famous as there have been the likes of Tony Two Ton Galento and Ancient Archie Moore and in the more recent eras, Buster Mathis, Tony Tubbs, Tim Witherspoon, Riddick Bowe, Buster Douglas even the aging Larry Holmes and George Foreman. But their rotund bodies were more as a result of aging, uncontrolled appetite and plain laziness and lack of will to get into proper shape.
Andy’s case is different. His is natural endowment which he parlays into an advantage as he usually outweighed and proved stronger and more powerful than his opponents though he was shorter. His size and looks are deceiving as he is always in great condition and has the matching or even speed and quickness.
His team has been successful in making full use of those physical qualities of Andy to make him a formidable heavyweight with the proper fighting style and strategy to deal with the like of Joshua and potentially against the likes of Wilder and Fury.
That makes me convinced that Andy Ruiz Jr is a no one hit wonder and that he will continue to be a force in the heavyweights for years to come. Regards from the Philippines! – Teddy
I agree, Teddy, even if he loses the rematch to Joshua, he can still be a major player in the heavyweight division.
I’d love to see Ruiz clash with the best big men in the PBC: Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz, Adam Kownacki, and even Efe Ajagba (when the power-punching Nigerian prospect has enough fights under his belt). Ruiz vs. Kownacki would be a clash of the most unathletic-looking physiques in boxing but it would sell out most arenas in the U.S. and would likely produce a fight-of-the-year candidate.
Hope you are keeping well.
Just a short note to ask if we’ll see any more dream-fights in The Ring magazine.
Like you I’m a huge fan of mythical-matchups, and I really enjoyed the September 2018 edition featuring the Frazier-Tyson and Leonard-Mayweather dream fight analyses.
Keep up the excellent work. Best regards. – Gerard Mullarkey
Thanks for the kind words, Gerard.
We will probably produce another Dream Fights special edition of the magazine (with a collectable illustrated cover) before the end of 2019.
‘Till then, let me know what kind of mythical matchups you’d like to read about in the pages of The Ring.
WHAT WENT WRONG? WHAT WENT RIGHT?
Hope you the family and the team are well.
Well I’ve just about got my voice back after the disturbance in force triggered by the heavyweight upset on Saturday night at The Garden.
Wanted your opinion on a few theories seen on mainstream and social media.
An interesting one was that AJ came into the fight concussed. Bruised face in fight week, changed demeanor on fight night, slow reactions and being very out of character. For example, asking his corner “What’s he goanna do” and “Why do I feel like this” between rounds. Have to admit it’s an interesting theory. I know AJ was hurt by the point he was saying this, however he wasn’t his normal seek-and-destroy self either on the night.
Are fighters screened for concussion this close to fight night?
AJ panicked? Either before or during the fight. It does happen and looking at how he responded to being hurt seems to show something was wrong.
When Vlad put him down, it was a hard knockdown. Vlad fainted with the left then bang with a straight right with his feet planted. AJ took the shot, his legs went and down he went. However, considering how gassed AJ was he still managed to recover and fight back to a win. Ruiz hit him on the temple. Maybe that was worse? Or maybe it was more to do with how AJ just wasn’t expecting it, especially just after putting Ruiz down, and he panicked.
AJ did deny this in a video in his YouTube channel, and it does feel a bit farfetched to me IMHO. However, it’s hard to ignore how he reacted compared to when he was hurt before.
Forced to Fight? There are rumours that Hearn forced him to fight.
This sounds nuts to me. I think apart from AJ’s mother, no one forces him to do anything. Also, I don’t think Rob McCracken would let AJ fight if something was wrong. However, AJ’s father did seem to angrily confront Eddie Hearn in the ring after the fight to the point AJ had to put his arm in front of his father to restrain him?
An additional observation many have made was that there was excessing massaging of the neck before the fight?
Is Ruiz really that good? He’s certainly well experienced. However if the rematch was scheduled for Sep at MSG again, AJ would again go in as the favourite. That is to say that as good as Ruiz is AJ, based on what he has shown against arguably higher calibre opponents, was expected to win.
My 2cents worth. It was just Andy Ruiz’s night. As much as people debate “what went wrong for AJ?” or “what was wrong with AJ?” we should also be celebrating what Ruiz did right. It was definitely his night. As they say it was one of those nights where nobody would have beat him. There was zero pressure on him and he just sat back and enjoyed the build-up. However he was able to switch into beast mode as soon as the bell went.
Do you think it was planned? To some extent maybe? He certainly reinforced the “no threat” message to AJ all week. Consciously or not. Was all that stuff like “can we have a selfie?” and “can I hold your belts” and “I’m an AJ fan”, deliberately designed to help AJ over look him, then shock him in the ring? Planned or not it worked.
All said and done I do like the way both AJ and Ruiz have responded. With AJ there are no excuses. It’s good to see and it seems he is already looking to learn and rebuild from this rather than taking time to get over it. The rematch clause has been triggered which also tells me AJ is hungry to set the record straight. Ruiz has been humble in victory and still is a class act. This says to me the guy is real, and all the pre-fight Mr nice guy stuff is just the way he genuinely is, just a nice guy. That is until the bell rings….
How do you see these potential matchups?
Ruiz Vs Parker (Today)
Ruiz Vs Whyte (Today)
Ruiz Vs Takam (Today)
Keep up the good work. – Tabraze, London, U.K.
I’ll take Ruiz over Parker via close but clear decision, Ruiz over Whyte by close, maybe controversial decision if it’s in the U.S. (Whyte over Ruiz by close/controversial nod if it’s in the UK), and Ruiz by late stoppage against Takam in an action fight.
Wanted your opinion on a few theories seen on mainstream and social media. WAY too much of this going on this past week. It’s silly. People just need to accept that Ruiz can fight and huge upsets happen in boxing.
An interesting one was that AJ came into the fight concussed. I guess it’s possible, but Joshua is known for running a very modern and carefully monitored training environment. I didn’t think he’d be the kind of guy slugging it out in sparring or sparring up until the week of the fight (or close to it). Regardless, it could be true. It could have happened. It’s happened countless times before in boxing. It shouldn’t happen, because it’s extremely dangerous, but it does.
Are fighters screened for concussion this close to fight night? No, not unless somebody suspects that a fighter was concussed and reports it to the commission, or the team just has the procedure done on their own (in which case I wouldn’t be surprised if some seek to keep the results from the commission).
AJ panicked? Either before or during the fight. It does happen and looking at how he responded to being hurt seems to show something was wrong. Joshua looked a little spacey to me prior to the fight and I didn’t like the way he boxed in Round 1 (to me he lacked confidence), but just because he wasn’t feeling at his best doesn’t mean he “panicked.” If he had a true panic or anxiety attack, as in the medical definition of those psychological disorders, wouldn’t he have been paralyzed with fear? To my eyes, he boxed well in Round 2. He even recovered after the two knockdowns, to get back into the fight by the end of Round 4 and I thought he won Round 5.
When Vlad put him down, it was a hard knockdown. Vlad fainted with the left then bang with a straight right with his feet planted. AJ took the shot, his legs went and down he went. However, considering how gassed AJ was he still managed to recover and fight back to a win. Yeah, but Klitschko allowed him back into the fight. His plan was to take AJ into deep water and drown him (remember, Joshua had never been past seven rounds prior to the fight). Also, keep in mind that Klitschko had been out of the ring for a long time, and had started and stopped two camps for cancelled rematches with Tyson Fury. That’s not going to help the reflexes of a 40 year old veteran.
Ruiz hit him on the temple. Maybe that was worse? Hell yeah, that’s worse! A temple punch discombobulates its victim.
Or maybe it was more to do with how AJ just wasn’t expecting it, especially just after putting Ruiz down, and he panicked. Nah! Man, you and so many others are WAY, WAY, WAY overthinking this s__t. What happened is that Joshua rushed himself after scoring the knockdown. He went for the kill too soon, got himself into an exchange and made the cardinal sin of hooking with a hooker. He got clipped. By a hook. High on the head. Bam! Everything changed after that. Again, these things happen in boxing. This is why they fight the fights. This is why we watch them fight.
An additional observation many have made was that there was excessing massaging of the neck before the fight? OK. Stop. Just stop it. Aren’t some of you fans getting at least a LITTLE BIT embarrassed by bringing up this stuff? Good Lord. I’m embarrassed for you!
Is Ruiz really that good? Yes. Obviously. He’s good enough to upset Anthony Joshua. That’s pretty damn good!
However if the rematch was scheduled for Sep at MSG again, AJ would again go in as the favourite. Joshua is still a badass, an accomplished badass. Odds makers know this. Ruiz would be about +275 (almost a 3-to-1 underdog) no matter when or where the rematch took place.
It was just Andy Ruiz’s night. That’s the beginning and the end of the story, in my opinion.
As they say it was one of those nights where nobody would have beat him. There was zero pressure on him and he just sat back and enjoyed the build-up. However he was able to switch into beast mode as soon as the bell went.
Do you think it was planned? Nope, that was just Andy being Andy.
Email Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.
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