Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Ruiz Jr vs Joshua II: Drama in the desert? Anthony Joshua risks it all in fascinating heavyweight championship rematch
Last Updated: 10/08/19 7:09am
Anthony Joshua could never have imagined that the world heavyweight championship and everything he has ever worked for would dangle precariously in Saudi Arabia but here we are, one stray punch from a disaster in the desert but also on the precipice of glory.
There are few things more fabled in sport than the heavyweight who loses then reclaims his throne and this is the position than Joshua finds himself in, in a rematch against the underdog with a tummy, Andy Ruiz Jr, who stole his titles in a New York shock for the ages.
One loss is retrievable, but two?
It will be a long and lonely journey home from the Middle East if Joshua fell short in his bid to regain the IBF, WBA and WBO titles and his hopes of an undisputed title fight against Deontay Wilder.
But, knowing this risk, he has doubled-down on his belief in himself by jumping straight back into the fire six months after losing. We won't know if it is a calculated decision or if Joshua has been backed into a corner until the punches fly.
In terms of the titles and putting every belt on the line in a dream fight with Wilder, Joshua has little alternative except to rematch Ruiz Jr as quickly as possible. By choosing a warm-up fight (which Joshua always laughed at the prospect of doing, and credit to him) he risked Ruiz Jr fighting somebody else and the belts potentially fragmenting into different directions, around different waists. Putting them all back together might have become like trying to finish a jigsaw without knowing that one piece is missing.
The worry is that Joshua hasn't given himself enough time to mentally recover from a humbling defeat, and to technically address the reasons why it happened. He plans to add to his training staff before the next fight.
But what is really at stake, aside from the gold, is Joshua's reputation and that is what makes the prospect of him battling to avoid desperation an intriguing moment in the history of heavyweight boxing, and a generational moment that could supersede his defining win over Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley.
This fight is about a British sporting mega-star battling to address doubts that have suddenly sprung up, after a flawless start which yielded Olympic gold, a knockout streak, sold-out stadiums and world titles.
It is a spine-tingling proposition that will discover if Joshua overlooked Ruiz Jr the first time, or if the problem is deeper, in a far-flung part of the world where variables such as the humidity will become a genuine factor.
Lennox Lewis, for example, fell foul in South Africa by not acclimatising to the altitude properly then surprisingly lost to Hasim Rahman.
Joshua has been stung once and must leave no stone unturned in his mission to reclaim gold, but like Ruiz Jr, will have to readjust his training due to the location.
This will be the first fight since he beat Klitschko that Joshua will be able to solely focus on the opponent in question without having one eye on the bigger picture. The three fights and two years since have been dominated by talk of what might come next but, now, there is no tomorrow for Joshua.
It is an extra layer of intrigue as the heavyweight drama rumbles on. The stakes have never been higher.