Joshua's Upset Loss Shakes Up Heavyweight Boxing Renaissance
Following Anthony Joshua's upset loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. at MSG on Saturday, the "larger question is what's next for a heavyweight division that boxing enthusiasts in recent months had been hyping as on the brink of a renaissance after roughly a decade and a half of slumber," according to John Eligon of the N.Y. TIMES. Boxing has "always craved an exciting heavyweight division" because it has the "best chance to attract mass appeal." The emergence of Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury "seemed to present the kind of intrigue and marketability that would attract fans." Although Ruiz' upset "dampened, for now, some of the hype of Joshua potentially fighting Wilder or Fury, some speculated that it might only add to the allure of the division." Ruiz, the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title, may have "nudged himself into the conversation of elite heavyweights, and in doing so he gives the Mexican fan base -- which is rabid for the sport -- a reason to show interest in the division" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/3).
TURNING HEADS: CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Campbell wrote it "would seem as if Ruiz's upset win would be the worst thing that could happen to the division." But the reality is that this development "likely ends up being for the best as Ruiz turned the division upside down in one night, shifting the balance of power and creating yet another exciting and marketable character for a division that's undergoing a much-needed renaissance period." The only thing lost in Ruiz' win is the "glossy ability to market an eventual Joshua-Wilder fight as unbeaten champion versus unbeaten champion for the title of undisputed king." However, the positives of Ruiz' win "far outweigh the negatives for the division at large." Not only did Ruiz "create a viral moment that instantly elevated the brands of himself" and DAZN, it "provided the division with another must-see fight when Joshua likely kicks in his mandatory rematch clause this fall" in the U.K. (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/2).
WIDE-RANGING IMPLICATIONS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jim Chairusmi writes the upset loss is a "devastating blow to Joshua, who was fighting for the first time as a professional outside the U.K., in an effort to expand his profile." He is now in a "weaker position to dictate terms in a rematch against Ruiz, or in any potential negotiations" with Wilder or Fury. The circumstances "may make it difficult for him to regain his footing in front of big Wembley Stadium crowds in London that have become his trademark" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/3). In L.A., Lance Pugmire writes Joshua has now been "reduced from a heavyweight who called all the shots after drawing 90,000 to Wembley Stadium two years ago to a fighter who must take the rematch" (L.A. TIMES, 6/3). The AP's Dan Gelston wrote for Joshua, it is "back to challenger status, a setback that will cost him the megafight he craved this year" (AP, 6/2). In London, Rick Broadbent writes the U.S. "will not be in thrall" to Joshua after his "disastrous debut." His market value "has crashed." Joshua's next fight "really will be make or break," as he will "need to live up to that hype or face the end of the road" (LONDON TIMES, 6/3). ESPN.com's Steve Kim wrote it "wasn't just Joshua who suffered a defeat," as Wilder was a "big loser too." While Wilder "might eventually face Joshua in the future, that fight will never have quite the same importance or buzz as it did for the past year." Once again, the business of boxing "got in the way of the sport" (ESPN.com, 6/2).
NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES: The LONDON TIMES' Broadbent writes Ruiz is the "story that boxing needs." He has been an "unmitigated delight throughout the big-fight experience too, ditching trash talk for heartfelt pride." Ruiz' team "wore bandanas" and some were "bigger than him." They had jeans and "ill-fitting T-shirts." It "seemed natural and home-made compared with the sleek Under Armoured livery of the entourage surrounding Joshua" (LONDON TIMES, 6/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Chairusmi writes Ruiz "habitually eats a candy bar before his fights and joked that he was hopeful for a Snickers deal" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/3). THE RINGER's Kevin Clark wrote, "If you think Ruiz's win is bad for the sport of boxing, I cannot help you" (THERINGER.com, 6/2).