Defending champion Andy Ruiz Jr., left, takes a right cross to the face during his fight against Britain's Anthony Joshua in their World Heavyweight Championship contest at the Diriyah Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia early Dec 8, 2019. (HASSAN AMMAR / AP PHOTO)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - It's not about the devastating knockout for Anthony Joshua anymore.
He's not going to desperately chasing Deontay Wilder for the elusive belt in his heavyweight collection, either.
That's Joshua 2.0.
Boxing is a sweet science. Hit and don't get hit, that's the name of the game
After what he describes as a "roller coaster" year, the British boxing star is back as the multiple world heavyweight champion after beating Andy Ruiz Jr. in a unanimous points decision in their rematch in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Listening to Joshua after the fight, there is a sense he is about to embark on a new path of domination of the marquee division. The drastic change to his fighting style and mind-set is an indication of that.
Against Ruiz, Joshua overhauled his approach - "I took it back to the old school, '70s style.'" he said - and used dancing feet instead of his traditional power-punching to break down his opponent.
"Boxing is a sweet science," Joshua said with a grin, "Hit and don't get hit, that's the name of the game."
For a heavyweight who made his name knockout merchant, Joshua has only won one of his last five fights by koncking his opponent to the canvas, in a period streching back 2½ years. He is becoming more cautious, more of a student of boxing.
Britain's Anthony Joshua celebrates after beating Andy Ruiz Jr. on points to win their World Heavyweight Championship contest at the Diriyah Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia early Dec 8, 2019. (NICK POTTS / PA VIA AP)
Expect that to continue in his second rein as champ after wining the WBA, WBO and IBF belts.
Joshua said he has learned his lesson after not preparing properly for his first fight against Ruiz in June, which went badly wrong when he was knocked down four times before being stopped in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden. He told the BBC on Sunday that he had an "issue with my health" before that fight that led to him putting his head in a bucket of ice because he felt "tired and drained." Joshua gave no precise detail about the issue.
I realize chasing that fight wasn't playing to my benefits. So I'm just going to let the path take its course
When asked if his fans might have expected more from Joshua in the controversial rematch in the Middle East, where avoiding Ruiz played as big a part in the game plan as punching him, the Briton said, "If I box for crowd and people's opinion, I might not have been victorious. I trusted my own process and I am the champion. I am going to follow my own instincts while I'm boxing."
The more mature side of Joshua might also come through in his seemingly-endless persuit of Wilder, the WBC champion who owns the belt Joshua needs to become the first unified champion since Lennox Lewis early this century.
"I love to unite the belt," Joshua said. "But when you are chasing..it's the same as when you are in the fight. Sometimes when I am chasing the right hand, I'm chasing the left hook, it may come crashing down on me."
"I realize chasing that fight wasn't playing to my benefits. So I'm just going to let the path take its course. When the opportunity presents itself to become undisputed heavyweight champoin in the world, I'll definitely step up and take the challenge"
So, for the time being, Joshua appears likely to fight mandatory challengers, probably starting with Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria in the spring to keep the IBF belt. Then Oleksandr Usyk - the unified cruiserweight champion who recently stepped up to heavyweight - in the summer to retain the WBO strap.
Only then could he realisticallly fight "the other guy," as Joshua often refers to Wilder.
Britain's Anthony Joshua celebrates after beating Andy Ruiz Jr. to win their World Heavyweight Championship contest at the Diriyah Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia early Dec 8, 2019. (HASSAN AMMAR / AP PHOTO)
So apparently, there is no real rush to meet the American. Not like a couple of years ago when that unification fight clearly dominated the thoughts of Joshua and his ambitiou promoter, Eddie Hearn.
The loss to Ruiz could, then, be the making of Joshua. It was a shock to the system, making him realize it will not be a straightforward ride to global domination, that he cannot switch off in any fight and expect to pull through.
"It is nice to KO and there were times when I looked into Andy's eyes and I wanted to put my fist throught his head," Joshua said. "But then I thought to myself, 'This is boxing. I need to win for myself, show people that there is a sweet science to the sport as well.' It's not like a script, it's not wrestling, this is real life and it's dangerous."
"These guys are highly skilled athletes. I just love preparing for a good challenge. This is all I have, all I got. I have deciplined myself for it."
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