Carl Froch, Tony Bellew, David Haye and Paulie Malignaggi sat down to examine the replay between Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr (33-1) and Briton Anthony Joshua (22-1) on December 7 in Saudi Arabia.
Ruiz took away Joshua’s WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts on June 1 with a third-round knockdown that changed the course of the contest, which ended in the seventh stanza, after a series of knockdowns that saw the champion from Watford well beaten by the unheralded challenger from California, who was written off by almost everybody before the fight.
Their opening statements reflected over the first fight at Madison Square Garden, which has gone down as one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history.
Unified super-middleweight world champion, Carl Froch: “I feel like I’m speaking for 95% of the people when I say that I was in shock, I was amazed, I did not see that coming.”
WBC cruiserweight world champion, Tony Bellew: “I’m forever saying don’t judge a book by its cover and he’s the prime example.”
Two-weight world champion, David Haye: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it felt a bit surreal, it didn’t look like it was AJ, he didn’t look prepared for him.”
Two-weight world champion, Paulie Malignaggi: “You have to dictate the kind of fight it’s gonna’ be.”
Did the change in opponent affect AJ’s mindset?
Froch was in agreement, “I think the late change was bad for AJ in terms of getting his mental psyche up for the fight.
“I think he was too relaxed, I think AJ would have took his foot off the gas and relaxed mentally; he’s not got Jarrell Miller growling at him anymore, not worried about the shove at the press conference… he’s gone, ‘Who we got in? We got Ruiz’, let’s look at Ruiz who looks like a physical wreck, so AJ took his foot off the gas.
“So, to answer the question, I think the late replacement was bad and went against AJ.”
Bellew disagreed, “I don’t think that played any part in it – the change. It definitely doesn’t help, it messes with his mindset a little bit, it messes with your tactical game plan, messes with your sparring that he’s had. But, ultimately, it’s a fight. I just don’t think he underestimated him, we all know Ruiz is a dangerous fighter, I think the only thing that was missing was the fear factor.”
Did Ruiz play the fool to catch the wise?
David Haye proffered, “He assumes everyone else is a fighter like him. I think the one thing people completely forget is how old was AJ when he started boxing, 13? Andy Ruiz Jr is the same age as him now and he was boxing when he was five, so he’s got 13 years more boxing experience. He’s used to fighting the bigger guys since he was five, probably got 13 years more boxing experience.
“I’m learning poker at the moment, if someone has been playing for 13 years longer than me, how long does it take to close that gap?”
What do you think of the plethora of conspiracy theories going around about panic attacks and concussion before the fight?
Tony Bellew dismissed anything out of the ordinary immediately, “Listen, it’s as simple as this, don’t overcomplicate things, the guy just got hit on the head off a man who weighs 19stone 3lbs. He didn’t see it coming and he didn’t recover. Boxing is not complicated.”
David Haye then gave an in-depth analysis into AJ’s style and pedigree, “He doesn’t slip punches. People who can’t slip a punch, can’t get a break. If you have to block every single punch, you got to put your hands up and you gonna’ get hit in the body. He needs to somehow learn how to relax. As soon as someone starts punching, he tightens up and does the high guard, which leaves his body. So, he gets hit in the body, drops his guard and gets hit in the head.
“I started boxing when I was 10; when I was 20 years old, I was fighting at international level, as an amateur. After 10 years, he’s fighting at the top level as a professional. He’s had to do some real fast-tracking. And whilst fast-tracking, you might skip a few lessons here and there.
“The amateur system was all long-distance stuff, how often has he someone on his chest mauling him?”
Tony Bellew added in, “He’s a champion learning on the job; he’s learning his craft still.”
Carl chipped in, “There’s a massive void in his pedigree in terms of amateur experience.”
Haye continued to question, “It took me 11 years to get a silver medal at the world championships. How long after he boxed did he get a silver medal in the world championships? All those teenage years of learning getting bashed up and headaches, he’s missed all that.”
On AJ's chances of winning the rematch, David Haye said, "From what I saw, it looked like he was better than AJ. To beat Andy Ruiz this time is going to be even hader for AJ. It's a 50-50 fight, it could go one way or the other. It could be an AJ points win or a Ruiz stoppage. The fact that he's taken the rematch, I'd say AJ wins."
Carl Froch also has his doubts, "An immediate rematch often goes the same way as the first fight."
When asked if AJ wins the rematch, Tony Bellew answered simply, "Yes."
Carl Froch agreed, "I think anthony Joshua wins the rematch."
Watch The Gloves Are Off debate in full here: