On Saturday night in front of 20,201 fans at Madison Square Garden, Andy Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs) scored a monumental upset to win the unified heavyweight championship with a seventh-round TKO over the previously unbeaten Anthony Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs).
Ruiz, who came in as an 11-1 underdog, and as a late replacement for Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who had failed multiple drug tests in the lead-up to the fight, never let the spotlight of such a huge event get the best of him.
The focus was on the U.S.-debut of Joshua at The Garden, with the hopes of an eventual unification bout with WBC titlist Deontay Wilder sooner rather than later. However, it was Ruiz, who was set to rise to the occasion, enjoying every minute of the attention, despite plenty of negative criticism about his weight and his perceived lack of credentials.
In the opening minutes of the fight, it was obvious that a competitive fight was in the works, even if Joshua would ultimately be victorious. Joshua pawed with his jab and threw one punch at a time, while Ruiz came forward looking to land quick counter punches.
After feeling each other out during the first two rounds, the action got exponentially fierce, as a left hook from Joshua midway through the third round, sent Ruiz down to the canvas. It was at that point that everything seemed like it would go according to plan, but as Ruiz rose to his feet, things were about to change.
Moments later, as Ruiz threw a combination, an overhand right clocked Joshua above his left ear, that wobbled him badly. Ruiz unloaded with a flurry of punches and suddenly the heavyweight champ was down.
The pro-Joshua crowd, many having made the trip from the UK to support their countryman, were stunned, as Joshua slowly made his way back up. Ruiz smartly kept the pressure on Joshua, and another series of punches near the end of the round sent Joshua down again.
Joshua made it back up and was saved by the bell.
The next few rounds saw Joshua regain his composure, but was still unable to keep Ruiz off of him; content to sparingly use his jab and opting to look for opportunities to land his right hand. Ruiz meanwhile, stayed busy and then pounced on his opportunity in the seventh round, when he again wobbled Joshua, sending him to the canvas for a third time.
Joshua again, got back up, but was clearly in bad shape and Ruiz would not let him off the hook this time around. A series of lefts and rights hurt Joshua once more, and Ruiz scored a fourth knockdown.
Joshua spit his mouthpiece out and slowly walked to his corner, where he laid his gloves on top of the ropes. Referee Michael Griffin twice asked Joshua if he was ready to continue, and while Joshua mumbled that he was and shook his head, he remained leaning up against the corner with his gloves on the ropes. This prompted Griffin to waive it off, giving Ruiz the stunning TKO victory.
After the fight, promoter Eddie Hearn said that a rematch clause was in the contract, and he would exercise Joshua’s right to an immediate rematch in the UK.