By Alfonso Gomez
It’s been a while since we used to eagerly anticipate heavyweight championship bouts. Although long-time unified champion, Wladimir Klitschko was revered during his decade of dominance, his title defences weren’t always enjoyable to witness as he knocked out overwhelmed victim after overwhelmed victim. They waited like death row inmates almost accepting of the inevitable defeat that lay ahead.
Nowadays we have world heavyweight title fights that genuinely create a buzz amongst not only boxing fans, but the entire sporting world. On December 7th, in the unlikeliest destination for a prizefight – Saudi Arabia – brings us the most interesting of heavyweight championship fights. Andy Ruiz Jr. defends his IBO, IBF, WBA & WBO world heavyweight titles against the former holder of all the aforementioned gold, Anthony Joshua.
After the earth-shattering events of June 1st in New York at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, this second episode of Ruiz/Joshua is palpably intriguing. I’ll never ever forget the vivid memory of walking away from MSG in a daze, having been stunned at what had taken place before me.
Surely my eyes had betrayed me? No, thousands of Britons saw it too. How could Andy Ruiz Jr. not only defeat the imposing gargantuan gladiator, but knock him down multiple times and stop him? Surely the stuff of fantasy? It evoked memories of Buster Douglas killing the momentum of Mike Tyson back in 1990 and rivals it for how surprising the outcome was.
So, now we move across the globe to the Middle East as Saudi Arabia welcomes the sporting world to its hosting of Joshua/Ruiz Jr. 2. ‘Clash On The Dunes’ is the billing for the event of which it’s hoped to one day be compared to iconic global heavyweight events such as ‘The Rumble In The Jungle’ and ‘The Thrilla In Manilla. Like it or not, Eddie Hearn is bringing boxing to a new audience away from the typical hotbeds of professional prizefighting.
Will we see June 1st repeat itself or will we see AJ emphatically win back the IBO, IBF, WBA & WBO world titles he’d proudly earned and defended? Prior to his maiden loss at MSG, Joshua had captivated huge crowds in the UK at Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Stadium. Attendances peaked at around 90,000 and his mammoth attraction appealed all over the world. He was almost single-handedly bringing the heavyweights back to the front and centre of our sport including the iconic night he defeated Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium.
It’s not only the December 7th epic we have to look forward to; coming soon is the second instalment of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in early 2020, provided Wilder gets past Luis Ortiz in a PPV rematch of their very entertaining 2018 war. ‘The Gypsy King’ is currently bringing even more eyes to the sport as he brawls with Braun Strowman on mainstream WWE television shows. Will pro-wrestling fans start to follow Fury’s journey? We’ll have to wait and see how many PPV buys Wilder/Fury 2 can garner. An undisputed title fight in late 2020 is something we can all wish for, but likely won’t see come to fruition. IBF and WBO mandatories will almost certainly fragment the belts once again.
The entire sport of boxing is healthier when the heavyweights are at the forefront. Expect the likes of Oleksandr Usyk, Filip Hrgovic, Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce, to be challenging for world honors in the near future. In the land of the giants – one shot can change everything. Heavyweight boxing is back and the world is watching.