LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Andy Ruiz Jr. dethroned British title-holder Anthony Joshua with a stunning seventh-round stoppage at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to become heavyweight champion.
Joshua, previously undefeated, was defending his IBF, WBA and WBO titles but was knocked down four times in the fight before the referee waved off the contest in the seventh.
Joshua said he could have fought on but had no harsh words for the referee.
“I want to fight. I am never one of those fighters to disrespect a referee like, ‘he should have done this’ or ‘he should have done that,’” he added. “He called it off when he thought I couldn’t fight. It’s a shame.”
The defeat was a setback but Joshua said he would be back.
“Boxing is a tough sport. I trained hard, I stayed dedicated. And I just got beat by a good fighter tonight,” he said. “I gotta bounce back. This is all part of the journey. Fighter by heart, boxer by trade.”
Ruiz had not been given much chance of beating the champion given he had just five full weeks to prepare after Joshua’s scheduled opponent tested positive performance-enhancing drugs.
Ruiz was dropped to the canvas in the third but the heavy brawler came back to down the Brit in the same round. Joshua appeared to recover and worked his jab well over the next few rounds but Ruiz landed big body shots in the sixth.
Joshua went down again in a flurry of Ruiz punches with nearly two minutes left in the seventh and while the British fighter got off his knees just in time to beat the count his legs looked like jelly as he made his way to a neutral corner.
The referee asked him if he was okay to continue before waving his arms to end the fight, prompting wild celebrations by Ruiz.