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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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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