SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Ruiz KOs Joshua in storybook upset

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Andy Ruiz Jr. turned the sport of boxing on its head Saturday night in New York, stunning the heavily-favored Anthony Joshua via seventh round knockout and putting the rest of the division on notice. Ruiz, a 15-to-1 underdog at the start of the night, overcame a third round knockdown to badly hurt Joshua late in the third and eventually finish him off via TKO in round seven.

Joshua (22-1, 21 KO) started the fight by methodically working his jab against the shorter, portlier Ruiz (33-1, 22 KO,) who looked like a bus driver fighting a bodybuilder in the ring against the Adonis-figured Joshua. After two rounds of feeling each other out, Joshua landed a counter left hook that sent Ruiz to the canvas. Joshua, clearly thinking Ruiz was on his last legs, moved in for the kill. But instead of ending the fight Joshua walked into a left hand that staggered him and eventually sent him to the canvas. Ruiz, who has diminutively quick hands for this unathletic body type, jumped on Joshua and sent him to the canvas again after a barrage of punches. Joshua was in bad shape but survived the round after being saved by the bell.

Joshua spent most of the fourth and fifth frames regaining his legs following the knockdowns, and looked to be back in control in round six. But Joshua, who at 6'-6 and 247 lbs towered over Ruiz, got sloppy again in round seven. Ruiz, used a barrage of quick punches to send Joshua to the canvas twice more before the referee had seen enough, calling off the action for the safety of Joshua.

The win makes Ruiz, a previous heavyweight journeyman, the unified heavyweight champion of the world, holding three of the four major world titles. Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, holds the fourth. Ruiz is the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a major heavyweight championship.

Ruiz wasn't even supposed to get a chance at Joshua. The fight was originally given to Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller of Brooklyn. But in the lead up to the fight Miller tested positive for three separate banned substances, and Ruiz stepped in on short notice to keep the card on schedule. Miller is now left to question what could have been.

After the fight both Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn indicated that they would exercise their contractual right to an immediate rematch with Ruiz. Hearn indicated the rematch, which would once again be for three of the four major heavyweight belts, would take place in the United Kingdom in either November or December. Joshua was gracious in defeat, telling DAZN's Chris Mannix that it was Ruiz's night and anything can happen in heavyweight boxing. He stayed in the ring following the loss and smiled while posing for pictures with Ruiz, who had just taken his belts.

Joshua's loss puts a question mark on the assumed unification fight between him and Wilder. Both men have been posturing for the fight for the better part of two years, with both sporting world titles and undefeated records prior to Saturday. Wilder was quick to take to social media and criticize Joshua following the defeat, saying his career was built on lies and gifts.

SMITH BLOWS OUT N'DAM, CALLS FOR CANELO

In the co-feature bout England's Callum Smith (26-0, 19 KO) made easy work of Hassan N'Dam, defending his WBA super middleweight title via a third round knockout. Smith (26-0, 19 KO) used his four inch height advantage to overwhelm N'Dam (37-3, 21 KO) with jabs and wait for openings to land damaging counter shots. Referee Charlie Fitch called an end to the action following Smith's third knockdown in as many rounds.

After the fight Smith expressed interest in challenging unified middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, who has fought at super middleweight in the past. A matchup with Alvarez would likely come in 2020, as Alvarez is penciled in for a third fight with Gennady Golovkin in September of this year. Smith's brother Liam lost to Alvarez via knockout in September of 2016.

SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Manny proves age is just a number

Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquaio outworked, outsmarted and outslugged Keith Thurman on Saturday night in Las Vegas to claim the WBA Welterweight Super Title and re-announce his presence to the rest of the division. Pacquiao looked like his old self, especially early in the fight, to win a clear but competitive decision over Thurman, who entered the ring ten years Pacquiao's younger. Ringside judges scored the fight 114-113 for Thurman and 115-112 (twice) for Pacquiao. SportsMap.com also scored the bout 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who now splits his time between boxing and senatorial duties in the Philippines, looked like vintage Manny in the early going, landing a right hook near the end of the first round that sent Thurman sprawling to the canvas. Thurman was up quickly and didn't appear to be badly hurt by the knockdown. Pacquiao continued the quick start by landing the harder, more damaging punches throughout the first half of the fight. Pacquiao routinely initiated the action by pressuring Thurman with flurries of combinations. The knockdown, paired with Pacquiao's early success gave him an advantage on the scorecards he would never relinquish.

Thurman began to feel Pacquiao out as the fight moved into the middle rounds, timing Pacquiao's volume combinations with well placed counters. While Thurman snapped Pacquiao's head back at times, he never rose beyond competitive and never seemed to take the fight back over from Pacquiao, who laid claim to it following the knockdown.

If there was any doubt the 40 year old could finish off the victory, it was removed in round ten, when Pacquiao badly hurt Thurman with a body shot. The blow left Thurman covering up to the body and leaving his head vulnerable to combinations for the remainder of the round. Thurman bounced back with a nice round 11 but the damage was done. Entering the final stanza Thurman needed a knockout. But once again it was Pacquiao who landed the heavier work.

Thurman was gracious in defeat, saying he felt the fight was close but acknowledged that he had lost. It was the first defeat in Thurman's career. He expressed interest in making a rematch.

By winning Pacquiao once again has claim to being a top-3 welterweight in the world, along with PBC stablemate Errol Spence as well as Terence Crawford. A unification bout with Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, would be easy to make. However it won't be made in the immediate future. Spence is set to fight WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in September. Spence would be a heavy favorite over Pacquiao. Because of this fact, paired with Pacquiao's marketability, a fight between the two would likely only be made it what would be Pacquiao's last fight. After Saturday's performance Pacquiao's career doesn't appear to be anywhere close to finish, so I would expect Manny to be back in the ring in the fall against the mandatory challenger for his WBA title.

UGAS DOMINATES FIGUEROA

On the undercard Cuban national Yordenis Ugas has no trouble defeating Omar Figueroa, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-107 (three times.) SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-107 for Ugas.

Ugas won every minute of every round, beating Figueroa at his own game. Figueroa, content to fight on the inside, was a step behind the quicker, more technically skilled Ugas. He was repeatedly countered with uppercuts up the middle, and never made any adjustments that led observers to believe Figueroa could solve Ugas. The fight makes Ugas the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title. Ugas fought Porter for the WBC title earlier in the year and lost a controversial decision.

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