On a night where Anthony Joshua took center stage at the legendary Madison Square Garden in his US debut, the night could not have unfolded in any more dramatic fashion than it did. With two of the earlier undercard fights ending in controversial decisions favoring DAZN fighters, one could only wonder what serious chances Andy Ruiz had of winning the fight as he already entered the contest a 25-1 underdog. Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) would be making his seventh title defense, while Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs) was making his second appearance in the ring in a 5-week span after accepting the fight on short notice because Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller failed three subsequent tests for performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, Ruiz accepted the challenge and was very confident entering the fight.
Round 1 began in what is a usual feel-out round for fighters as both boxers stuck to that script. Joshua was able to get his jab going and showed good movement to start the bout, while Ruiz tried to gauge his distance. Joshua kept Ruiz on the end of his jab for the majority of the round. Ruiz was able to close distance a little better during the second round, but was still being caught with jabs as he inched his way closer to the defending champion. Joshua was simply jabbing at the same time Ruiz threw a jab. Ruiz was able to land a few combinations in the round, which made it a close round to score as neither landed anything heavy at that juncture in the fight. Round 3 was the most exciting round of the fight as it started very fast with Ruiz coming out throwing heavy leather. He let his hands go and landed a solid right hook that woke up the crowd. The two had an exchange in the center of the ring that Joshua got the better of as he landed a powerful left hook that sent the challenger to the canvas for the first time in his career. Joshua landed another right hand flush after Ruiz beat the count to begin another exchange. However, this time Ruiz threw back and landed a left hook that wobbled the champion. Ruiz continued to stay on top of the champ and landed a right hand that sent Joshua down to the mat. Joshua got up but was still on unsteady legs and Ruiz landed another right that made Joshua’s legs buckle again. Ruiz continued to let his hands go as Joshua looked to clinch. Joshua was still clearly hurt from the previous knockdown and was in survival mode. Both of Joshua’s hands were down as he flailed lifeless jabs while looking very fatigued. Ruiz leaped in with a thudding left hook that sent Joshua sprawling back to the ropes and he followed it up with a straight right hand. He landed another right hand on the side of Joshua’s head that sent him down for the second time in the round. The champion was able to beat the count and was saved by the bell. It was a round that will definitely be in candidacy for round of the year.
In round 4 Ruiz came out firing, but composed himself seeing that Joshua may have recovered in between rounds. Ruiz kept busy throwing his jab to the body of Joshua who still appeared to be fatigued from the previous round. It was a tentative round for both as there was a significant decrease in output from both in the round. Joshua appeared to have his legs back under him to begin round 5 as he began flicking his jab again. Ruiz continued to inch his way forward, barely missing Joshua with several power shots. Joshua was able to win the round by landing a left hook that left Ruiz stuck in his tracks for a brief second. Joshua was unable to capitalize on the moment but at least appeared to be back in the fight after the previous few shaky rounds. In round 6, Ruiz wasted no time closing distance on Joshua by doubling up with his jab. Joshua did not throw a lot of volume in the round as his output mainly consisted of one jab at a time while using some lateral movement around the ring. Ruiz was able to mount offense in the last minute of the round, landing combinations to the body and head of Joshua while they were within close distance as Joshua tried to clinch unsuccessfully. Round 7 started slowly but quickly turned into a barnburner as Ruiz landed a thunderous left hook while Joshua simultaneously tried to land a left hook of his own. The hook wobbled Joshua and Ruiz wasted no time following it up right the the head of Joshua and a flurry that had Joshua covering up. However, Ruiz landed another right hand that would send the champ to the canvas for the third time in the fight. Joshua immediately rose from the knockdown and looked in the direction of his corner as if he were in trouble. Joshua’s mouthpiece was half-way out as the two combatants started to fight again. Joshua attempted to mount an offense throwing numerous lazy left hooks. Ruiz answered back with a straight right hand that was set up by a jab. Ruiz followed it up with a left hook that made Joshua drop to his knee for the fourth knockdown for Ruiz in the fight. Joshua looked dejected in the corner as he looked toward his cornermen. The referee took that as a negative sign apparently and called for a halt to the bout.
Ruiz upset the applecart as a huge underdog and ruined any immediate plans for a potential megabout unification between Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder with the stoppage. Ruiz also made history becoming the first Mexican to win the heavyweight title as he captured Joshua’s IBO, IBF, WBO and WBA belts. One can only wonder what is next on the horizon for Ruiz. Although there was a rematch clause stipulated in the contract for the fight, Joshua may not have to exercise it immediately. Eddie Hearn mentioned in the post-fight interview that a rematch would take place in the UK if Joshua chooses to exercise it, which Joshua stated he would definitely do. Ruiz improved his record to 33-1, 22 KOs with the stunning knockout.