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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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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