When Anthony Joshua met Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1, 2019, it provided one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
The 29-year-old Ruiz Jr (32-1) from Imperial, California took the fight on only a few weeks notice after Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller failed drug tests for multiple PEDs. And the bookmakers chalked him up as big as a 30-1 underdog for the showdown in boxing’s spiritual home.
Joshua, 22-0 and the reigning IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion, was making his Stateside debut and was confidently expected to see off this stand-in opponent in comfortable fashion.
But Joshua – promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and with Robert McCracken heading up his corner – would find out that nothing is ever really certain in heavyweight boxing.
Meanwhile Ruiz Jr – trained by Manny Robles – would somehow produce a stunning upset to TKO Joshua in the seventh round and leave New York as the new heavyweight champion of the world.
Canadian Mike Griffin was the referee for the fight, while the judges were Michael Alexander, Julie Lederman and Pasquale Procopio.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr results and report
As well as being a late stand-in, Ruiz Jr – carrying plenty of condition around his mid-section – hardly looked the part of somebody built to destroy Joshua’s unbeaten record and aura of invincibility. But looks can be highly deceptive.
Rounds 1 and 2 were fairly pedestrian in terms of what was about to unfold, and they failed to hint in any way at the mayhem which would shortly ensue. Cue a third round of epic significance for the world of heavyweight boxing.
Early in the round things were still going as expected as Joshua finally connected flush to send Ruiz Jr sprawling to the canvas. But not only was the American back up swiftly, he was also onto the attack in a remarkable recovery. A flurry of power punches had Joshua in trouble and a blow to the temple clearly dazed the champion – after that AJ was soon forced to the floor though he did get up swiftly.
Before round 3 could end, Joshua was forced into a corner as Ruiz Jr’s punches hammered into him and was forced to take an eight count as he looked to regain his senses.
Joshua was able to at least regain some sort of composure in the immediate aftermath of that wild third round, and the next three sessions provided nothing which could come close to matching it. If anything, those nine minutes gave hope that AJ could still find a way to retain his titles by producing the widely expected result.
All that changed again though in round 7 when Joshua was floored for a third time early in the session by another powerful flurry from Ruiz Jr. He again rose to his feet but was soon on his back again for a fourth and final time. This time Joshua spat out his mouthpiece before rising unsteadily to his feet, and referee Griffin decided he was in no shape to continue.
It was widely acclaimed as the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing since Hasim Rahman stunned Lennox Lewis in 2001, and before that James ‘Buster’ Douglas shocking the fearsome Mike Tyson back in February 1990.
Many conspiracy theories have been aired since when it comes to reasons for Joshua’s stunning loss, but AJ was magnanimous in defeat and promoter Hearn also refused to go into reasons for the upset.
Instead the pair concentrated on putting together an immediate rematch to give the Watford man the chance to regain his titles swiftly. That fight would take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 7, 2019.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr scorecards
The scorecards at the time of stoppage were close and proved the point that even after that crazy third round, Joshua was still very much in with a chance of retaining his titles.
Both Alexander and Lederman had Ruiz Jr in front, but only by a score of 57-56 through the six completed rounds. Procopoio meanwhile – somewhat surprisingly – also had a 57-56 card but with Joshua on top.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr TV and PPV
As well as Joshua’s Stateside debut, his meeting with Ruiz Jr was also a big night for fledgling streaming service DAZN, which aired the bout in the United States and a number of other territories. DAZN had inked a whopping eight-year $1billion contract with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing when it launched in the US market in the middle of 2018.
DAZN does not publicly reveal subscription figures or viewing figures, but it can be expected this fight performed significantly better than AJ’s previous appearance on the platform – a stoppage of Alexander Povetkin in September 2018 at Wembley Stadium. That bout not only had to contend with a lack of American involvement, but a UK timezone which meant the fight aired live in the US late on a Saturday afternoon and competed with the likes of college football for all-important eyeballs.
Sky Sports Box Office aired Joshua vs Ruiz as a pay-per-view bout in the UK and reportedly drew more than 400,000 buys despite the start time – which was around 0400 in the UK.
The plague of piracy again came to the fore with estimates suggesting a record 13million viewers worldwide watched the bout via illegal streams.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr purses
According to finance experts Forbes, Joshua eventually took home around $25million to help him get over the pain of a shocking first career defeat. Meanwhile Ruiz Jr pocketed around $7million and now had the potential for a much bigger payday in the rematch.
Per Ring magazine, base purses filed with the New York State Athletic Commission were $3.2million for Joshua and $1.3million for Ruiz Jr.
Joshua vs Ruiz Jr weights
The weigh-in for Joshua vs Ruiz Jr took place on Friday May 31, 2019 – 24 hours before the fight itself. Joshua weighed in at over 247lbs (17 7lbs) while Ruiz Jr was the bigger man at 268lbs (19st 2lbs) – it was the heaviest he had been for a fight in almost five years.