Anthony Joshua floored by Andy Ruiz Jr. on US debut
This was never how it was supposed to be.
Anthony Joshua could be forgiven for wondering how the heavyweight division has disentangled itself from his grasp in quite such spectacular fashion over the last twelve months, after his dramatic win over Wladamir Klitschko in Wembley, London.
Andy Ruiz Jr. was never supposed to be the former three-belt world champion's opponent on his US debut at Madison Square Garden - Jarrell Miller was the man chosen to face the then-undefeated Joshua, but a failed drugs test lead to Ruiz stepping in with mere weeks until fight night.
And boy, did he ever step in.
After being caught by a big left hook from Joshua in the third round, the Mexican fighter sent the Brit crashing to the canvas three times. Remarkably, Joshua - famed for his chiselled, bodybuilder-like physique - looked totally gassed as the fight wore on, while Ruiz Jr., who has been forced to contend with disparaging comments about his own physique throughout his life, just kept coming forwards.
There has been so much talk of three all-time great heavyweight fights being lined up between Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, but for now, Joshua's name will surely have to be withdrawn from contention for those super fights, as he looks to rebuild what will be a damaged reputation on a sorry night in New York City for the 29-year-old.
For his own part, Tyson Fury sent a classy message out to Joshua on Twitter last night.
"We have our back and Forth’s but
@anthonyfjoshua changed his stars through life. heavyweight boxing, these things happen, rest up, recover, regroup and come again."
By contrast, Deontay Wilder had a less magnanimous message for the former world champion.
"He wasn’t a true champion. His whole career was consisted of lies, contradictions and gifts. Facts and now we know who was running from who!!!!
Tyson Fury faces the undefeated Tom Schwarz next, while Wilder announced last week that he will run it back with Luis Ortiz in a rematch of what was a highly entertaining bout the first time round.
For Joshua, a rematch with Ruiz Jr. looks certain, but those who witnessed his collapse last night will know that there is much work to be done if he is to reclaim his three belts.