Anthony Joshua jumped up and down in the ring with his massive entourage, celebrating being around $70 million richer and having three world heavyweight belts back in his possession.
For the British boxing superstar, it was well worth this controversial trip to Saudi Arabia.
In the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the Middle East, Joshua toyed with an out-of-shape Andy Ruiz Jr. over 12 unspectacular rounds to win a unanimous points decision, reclaiming the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation belts and avenging a stunning upset by his Mexican-American opponent six months ago.
Joshua got his game plan spot on, using his lighter frame to outmaneuver Ruiz, relying on his longer reach to stay clear of trouble and selecting his moments to go on the attack.
In the final seconds of a bout fought in the early hours of Sunday, Joshua was almost running around the ring and Ruiz — exhausted and outfought — was planted in the middle, urging him to come closer.
“Sometimes simplicity is genius. I was outclassing the champion,” Joshua said.
“I am used to knocking people out, but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.”
Two judges gave the fight to the Briton 119-110, and the other awarded it to him 119-109.
Ruiz put on 15 pounds since the first fight to weigh in at 283 pounds (128 kilograms), making him the second heaviest boxer to fight for a title. He said he hadn’t prepared hard enough for the rematch and got “boxed around.”
“The partying got the best of me,” Ruiz said of his brief time as champion, during which he went on talk shows, had an audience with the Mexican president and bought new cars for himself and his parents.
“I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give excuses, he won,” Ruiz said. He added: “If we do a third fight, you best believe I’m going to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”
Whether Joshua agrees to that remains to be seen. There is no rematch clause this time around and Ruiz, short with quick hands, is an awkward opponent.
Joshua proved he had another side to his boxing skills other than a big punch. His career is back on track, for sure.
Ruiz finished the fight with blood across his face, having been caught with a right hook by Joshua in the first round.
There were straight lefts from Joshua in the fourth and ninth that rocked Ruiz back, and a right hook in the fifth that also hurt the deposed champion.
“I just wanted to put on a great boxing master class and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport. It’s about hitting and not getting hit,” Joshua said.
“Sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way.”