Anthony Joshua spent much of the past six months soul-searching, figuring out what went so wrong in his first encounter with Andy Ruiz Jr. and vowing to be better in the rematch.
He was better. Much better, as he completely shut down Ruiz in a dominant tactical masterpiece to regain his three heavyweight world title belts by lopsided unanimous decision Saturday at the rain-soaked, 15,000-seat open-air Diriyah Stadium in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
British judge Steve Gray scored it 119-109 for Joshua, and Glen Feldman of the United States and Benoit Russell of Canada each had it 118-110 for him.
ESPN had it 119-109 for Joshua, who sent Ruiz into boxing history as a one-hit wonder like heavyweights Buster Douglas and Hasim Rahman, both of whom also had one big night to win heavyweight titles by upset knockouts.
“Man, the first time was so nice — I had to do it twice,” a jovial Joshua said. “A man like me don’t make no excuses; my boy [heavyweight contender] Dereck Chisora said I could do this if I am ready to die. And look, this is about boxing. I am used to knocking guys out.
“Last time, I hurt the man and I got caught coming in. I gave that man his credit. There was no excuses. I respect Andy and his family and his trainers so much. 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.”
Whatever happens to the belts and with mandatory orders, that will be sorted out in coming months. On this night, Joshua just wanted to avenge his loss, show he was the better man in the ring and regain what was his. When the final bell sounded and the outcome was clear, Joshua wore a look of contentment rather than going into full celebration mode.
He had come to the desert of Saudi Arabia for the first heavyweight world title fight to take place in the Middle East on a mission, and it was mission accomplished.