This was the calm before the storm, an opportunity to size up the task that awaits. Next time Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr see each other they will each step forward a few inches, hear each other’s heartbeats and feel each other’s breath.
Then, it will be time.
Have there been clues as to how the world heavyweight championship rematch will play out in the past week’s mad dash from Saudi Arabia to New York to London, or just red herrings?
Certainly both men have cut different figures to the week before their first fight, when Ruiz Jr caused an almighty shock. Ruiz Jr, then a challenger plucked from nowhere and grateful for a chance, has eased into the good life. His reappearance has seen him dress to impress with ice on his wrists and private jets ferrying him where economy airlines once sufficed. A Rolls-Royce waits for him back home.
The smile that suckered in Joshua last time is still on Ruiz Jr’s face but this time it can’t conceal as many secrets.
“People are saying that I’m not focused because I bought a little bit of jewellery, the material stuff that I always wanted,” Ruiz Jr told Sky Sports in New York.
“I’m still hungry, I still want to prove people wrong.”
Former IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Joshua was as dignified as you expect him to be considering he was travelling the world with the only man to defeat him.
The championship belts that were once his have sat precariously close to Joshua for three days in a row and, on Friday in London, he couldn’t resist playfully grabbing them.
Joshua told Sky Sports: “People say, ‘you lost your titles’. I say, ‘to lose something is to never get it back’.”
He has adopted the role of the hunter rather than the hunted for the first time in eight fights, since he challenged and defeated Charles Martin to become world champion.
“It’s a great mindset to have and you can’t lose that,” Joshua said. “The minute you lose it, you’ve got to retire. You’ve got to be hungry.
“I had a blip. We go again. I’m not shy. No fear.”
He is saying the right things and, to be fair, has done since refusing to make excuses in the immediate aftermath to losing to Ruiz Jr.
It is strange to see Joshua in a tracksuit while an opponent shows off their new Gucci trainers, literally purchased with the proceeds of knocking him out.
But it is fascinating to speculate how he will drag himself off the floor, as he did against Wladimir Klitschko and four times against Ruiz Jr, to enter a quick turnaround rematch.
“Shannon Briggs talks about the times he was down and out, and nobody believed in him.
“That’s where ‘let’s go champ’ comes into my life right now,” he said.
Ruiz Jr kidded us all with the nice-guy act in New York City earlier this summer, a happy-go-lucky try-harder who respectfully asked to touch the championship belts before the fight as a memento. Joshua, seduced by the act, allowed him and has since admitted his regret.
In that sense perhaps this three-day media tour will benefit Joshua, who spent virtually no time in the presence of his challenger prior to the first fight. This time around he will study Ruiz Jr’s body language, his quirks and his eccentricities. Once fooled, twice shy.
“Ruiz Jr is calm but he can fight. He is not a fake character who puts on a persona,” Joshua said after three days in his company.
“Sometimes the ones who are calm and chilled can bark back, and can definitely fight.”
Source: Read Full Article