As Joshua attempts to re-establish himself as the champ after his astonishing defeat to Ruiz, he could take inspiration from these memorable rematches…
Ruiz Jr v Joshua 2, Saturday 7 December, 5pm, On Demand > Live Events. £26.95 (HD) or £24.95 (SD). Booking now open
On 1 June 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Andy Ruiz Jr shook the world of boxing to its core. Ruiz was never even supposed to fight Anthony Joshua on that day. He was a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, who was hoicked from the bout after three failed drug tests.
No one gave Ruiz – 10cm shorter, thick around the middle, a relative unknown – a hope in hell against the all-conquering world champ. Then, out of nowhere in the third round, he caught AJ with a flurry of powerful punches, knocking him to the canvas. Minutes later Ruiz dropped him again.
The boxing world was already stunned, watching mouth agape as this chunky American flummoxed a man everyone had assumed was perfect. They were beside themselves in round seven, when Ruiz finished the job. Joshua spat his mouthguard to the ground, unable to continue. The boxing upset of the century so far was complete.
Now Joshua gets a chance to exact revenge, as the pair face off again in Saudi Arabia on 7 December, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Can their second meeting be as memorable as their first momentous outing? It would take some doing, but these famous boxing rematches certainly lived up to the bill…
Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier III (1975)
Who won the first fights: Frazier (I), Ali (II)
Ali-Frazier is the greatest boxing rivalry of all time, and it produced three of the sport’s greatest fights. Their deciding meeting was the Thrilla in Manila – more punches were thrown in this fight than in any previous heavyweight match-up. Ali came out on top, Frazier being forced to throw in the towel before the final round because both of his eyes had swelled shut. Ouch.
Sugar Ray Robinson v Carmen Basilio II (1958)
Who won the first fight: Basilio
Robinson may well be the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time, but he lost his world middleweight title to Basilio in 1957, and was the underdog when he tried to regain it – aged 37 – the following year. It turned out Sugar Ray relished such a challenge: he battered Basilio (and took plenty back) over 15 relentless rounds, emerging with the belt after a split-decision win.
Evander Holyfield v Riddick Bowe II (1993)
Who won the first fight: Bowe
To some, Holyfield is most famous for having a chunk of his ear bitten off by Mike Tyson, but those people need to watch him fight. His rivalry with Bowe was one of the boxing stories of the ’90s, and Holyfield came out on top in a rip-roaring rematch that was bizarrely halted for a long period after a prankster parachuted into the ring mid-fight. Yep, really.
Arturo Gatti v Micky Ward III (2003)
Who won the first fights: Ward (I), Gatti (II)
Ward and Gatti’s first fight was so mind-blowing that round nine will forever be associated with the pair. Their deciding bout was also Ward’s last and it was as tumultuous as you’d have expected, leaving blood, sweat and tears splattered over the ring. Gatti ruined Ward’s retirement party with a unanimous decision victory.
Rocky Graziano v Tony Zale II (1947)
Who won the first fight: Zale
Rocky ain’t just a guy from the movies. Graziano battered Zale early in their first middleweight title fight, before being knocked out in round six – but the roles were reversed in a brutal rematch. This time it was Zale who came out the blocks fast, closing his opponent’s eye early on, only for Graziano to come back strong and finish the job in – again – the sixth. We love a nice, symmetrical rivalry. (Unfortunately they spoiled that with another rematch the following year, when Zale emerged triumphant.)
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This is a live event only and cannot be recorded. Price includes scheduled repeats. Repeats 8am and 2pm, Sunday 8 December.