The loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in June did hurt Anthony Joshua. He acted different to the public, choosing to play the magnanimous character that fits with his brand. But he was hurt.
He had every right to be. From the suspension of Jarrel Miller who was originally on the bill as Joshua’s challenger for his June fight at the Madison Square Garden, to the emergence of Ruiz as the replacement and the seventh round knockout, everything about that fight was a glitch in Joshua’s well-planned route to unification in the heavyweight division.
So he did things differently ahead of the rematch. From staying off social media to losing weight. Even in looks, Joshua kept his hair, very unfamiliar with the clean-cut look he had curated over the years as he disregarded branding to bring his career back on track.
So on the night in Saudi Arabia, with his career on the line, Joshua could not beat Ruiz with a clear knockout but he delivered his best performance of his career to win via unanimous decision.
Boxing purist get this but fans who are just watching because of the occasion have expressed their frustration over how boring the fight was. But that’s their business.
Joshua had one business on Saturday night, which was to win and reclaim his titles and he did just that.
On Saturday night, he didn't have explosive moments you would expect from a fighter like Deontay Wilder but that has never been Joshua's style. Joshua is an insanely skilled boxer who relies on the deftness of his hands and brains to try and expose opponents before using his punching power.
His methods are not as reckless and brazen as that of Wilder but what Joshua does is art and should be respected.
It was what he did on Saturday night against Ruiz Jr. feinting and swiftly changing directions to keep the Mexican at bay while he was getting spaces to score jabs.
It was his movement, an elite skill in boxing that frustrated Ruiz who could not cope due to his weight. It was a one-sided fight that saw the three judges give the win to Joshua.
A knockout would have been the best storyline for Joshua’s comeback but this wasn’t a movie. It was his career on the line and the nerves were there. He couldn’t risk going for a knockout with him clearly in the lead from the first bell.
A moment could have changed everything for Joshua, get a knockout or get knocked out. He was n’t going to take a chance so he went with his strategy.
Aided by his skills, he got his win and it’s now back to regular scheduling in his quest for continued dominance in the heavyweight division.