When Anthony Joshua met Andy Ruiz Jr for the second time – in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 7, 2019 – AJ was entering new territory for the first time.
‘Clash On The Dunes’, as the promotion was named, signalled the first time the British superstar had entered a professional ring as a former world heavyweight champion.
Just six months earlier the man from Watford – then 22-0 and reigning IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion – had been stunned by late stand-in Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden, New York in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Ruiz Jr – distinctly chubby and as big as a 30-1 underdog – recovered from a third-round knockdown to unleash bombs of his own en route to a seventh-round TKO victory.
Some fighters might have taken a breather and paused for thought before trying to win back the belts, but not Joshua. He was magnanimous in defeat and within days exercised his contractual right to a rematch.
AJ – promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and again with Robert McCracken heading up his corner – would surprise many with his gameplan as he did indeed accomplish his ultimate mission by registering a revenge victory to improve his professional record to 23-1.
Meanwhile Ruiz Jr – trained for the last time by Manny Robles – will surely regret spending the months between New York and Riyadh by enjoying the fruits of his shock victory rather than getting into proper condition for the rematch.
Luis Pabon of Puerto Rico was the referee for the fight, while the judges were Steve Gray, Glenn Feldman and Benoit Roussel.
There was controversy beforehand regarding the decision to take the fight to Saudi Arabia, with the territory paying a reported $40million (£30million) site fee.
Joshua went into the fight an odds-on favourite at 2/5 with Ruiz Jr a 2/1 shot to repeat his shock June victory. The draw was a 25/1 chance.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 results and report
Joshua’s professional career before the rematch with Ruiz Jr had been very much one of offensive dominance, systematically breaking down opponents with an aggressive style and heavy punches.
But after that stunning loss to the Mexican-American at Madison Square Garden, AJ adapted his style significantly for the rematch and decided to use some of his other physical advantages to box from the outside and limit the risk posed by Ruiz Jr’s fast hands and damaging flurries.
The British star used his reach advantage to land the more punishing shots in the early stages, bringing blood from around Ruiz Jr’s left eye in the opening session. AJ himself though had suffered a cut over his left eye by the end of the second.
The rest of the night though – for the most part – was a Joshua masterclass as he showed remarkable discipline and focus to stick to his plan and box smartly from the outside against an opponent who struggled to find a way to get past that first line of defence, the Joshua jab.
AJ did have a mini-scare in the eighth round as for about the only time in the bout Ruiz Jr landed a couple of significant rights and followed up with flurries to try and disturb the challenger’s rhythm.
Ruiz Jr clearly knew by the final third of the bout that he likely needed a knockout victory to retain his titles, and he came out with more aggressive intent in a bid to do so. But most of his shots either missed completely or were comfortably blocked by the cruising Joshua.
When the end came there was little doubt (barring a scorecard controversy of almighty proportions) that AJ would regain the belts he had lost just six short months earlier.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 scorecards
Championship boxing often brings major scoring controversies in major fights, but ‘Clash On The Dunes’ offered nothing of the sort.
Joshua’s gameplan worked to perfection and nullified any opportunity for the out-of-condition Ruiz Jr to get in range often enough to unleash those deceptively fast hands. The result was Joshua regaining his belts via a wide-margin unanimous decision.
Steve Gray gave Ruiz Jr only one round as he scored the bout 119-109 in favour of Joshua, while Glenn Feldman and Benoit Roussel were slightly more generous to the Mexican-American, each giving him two rounds as they both scored 118-110 in favour of AJ.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 TV and PPV
While Joshua vs Ruiz 2 may not have been the most gripping spectacle for fight fans, it was still a major success at the box office. Indeed it shattered UK pay-per-view records by encouraging almost 1.6million buys on Sky Sports Box Office at a cost of £24.99 each.
Subscription streaming platform DAZN again aired the bout in the United States as well as a string of other markets, and according to The Athletic correspondent Mike Coppinger the event was its most successful of the year – drawing 1.8million viewers across all markets and 200,000 new subscribers (mainly in the United States).
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 purses
Not surprisingly given those PPV numbers, the bout was a significant success financially – particularly for Anthony Joshua. According to the Sunday Times Rich List of 2020, the bout enabled Joshua to double his financial fortune in a year as he took home an estimated £60million before taxes and deductions for his evening’s work.
Ruiz Jr meanwhile is believed to have earned $9million for the bout – a fee that was fixed in the initial contract for the first bout and rematch. It was still the best payday of his career to date.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 weights
The weigh-in for Joshua vs Ruiz Jr in hindsight was perhaps the most intuitive event of fight week – as it told us sadly that Ruiz Jr had spent as much of his time as champion in the dining room as he had in the gym.
When the champion took off his T-shirt the bookmakers almost immediately shortened the odds of Joshua regaining his belts as the man from Imperial, California looked decidedly rotund as he tipped the scales at 283lbs (20st 3lbs) – some 15lbs heavier than for the first fight.
Joshua meanwhile looked perfectly sculpted and in great shape as he came in lighter than first time around – at 237lbs (16st 13lbs) – some 10lbs lighter than Madison Square Garden when he weighed 247lbs (17st 9lbs).
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 undercard
While Joshua vs Ruiz Jr 2 represented the very highest level of heavyweight boxing, the undercard featured a number of notable potential challengers for world titles in the future.
WBC mandatory contender Dillian Whyte outpointed Pole Mariusz Wach while former WBA heavyweight king Alexander Povetkin and dangerous American Michael Hunter fought to an entertaining draw.
Croatian Filip Hrgovic – another heavyweight prospect – was also on the undercard and stopped Eric Molina inside three rounds.