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.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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