RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world heavyweight titles Sunday by producing a disciplined and smart display to beat an out-of-shape Andy Ruiz Jr. on points in their rematch in the first title fight to be staged in the Middle East.
Joshua won a unanimous verdict after an unspectacular fight, with two judges giving it to the Briton 119-110 and the other 119-109.
Ruiz knocked down Joshua four times on the way to a seventh-round upset win in New York in June but there was none of the drama in the rematch as Joshua controlled the fight with his movement and better timing of his punches. Neither boxer was sent to the canvas.
â€œI am used to knocking people out,â€ said Joshua, who bounced back from his first professional loss, â€œbut last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.â€
Joshua won back the WBA, WBO and IBF belts and got his career back on track, earning a reported $70 million in the process for his biggest-ever pay check.
By the end of an unspectacular bout fought in the early hours of Sunday in a relatively cool 19 C (66 F) for this part of the world, Joshua was almost running around the ring and Ruiz was planted in the middle, urging him to come closer.
â€œHe boxed me around,â€ Ruiz said, adding that he came in too heavy after putting on 15 pounds since the first match.
â€œI didnâ€™t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I donâ€™t want to give excuses, he won … If we do a third fight, you best believe Iâ€™m going to get in shape. Iâ€™ll be in the best shape of my life.â€
The fight was played out to a backdrop of concerns that Saudi Arabia was using this and other big sporting events to divert attention from its human-rights violations. They include the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Women who attended the fight at the purpose-built, 15,000-capacity Diriyah Arena did not appear to be segregated, as they have been in sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia since being allowed into them for the first time last year.
The fight began at 12.15 a.m. local time soon after rain fell in the desert venue.
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