The British fighter won unanimously on points after a much-improved performance to regain his WBO, IBF, IBO and WBA heavyweight titles
On a night when a storm raged across the Saudi Arabian desert, Anthony Joshua becalmed the Mexican tempest in front of him to make history and a whole lot of money by regaining his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles.
But after his wide points victory over Andy Ruiz Jr, Joshua risked more controversy after being criticised by human rights groups last week by using the word decapitate when talking to the US broadcaster DAZN in a post-fight press conference.
I know that my fans like to see me knock people out and I can do that but sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter, said Joshua. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way.
The fight itself was far from a classic. But Joshuas cute transformation from gunslinger to boxer was effective enough to befuddle and neutralise Ruiz. Two judges had it 118-110, which felt about right, with a third scoring it 119-109.
It means that Joshua becomes only the fourth man in the 127-year history of the world heavyweight title to successfully regain their title in a direct rematch, from the 10 fighters who attempted it: Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis are the others. That is the company the Briton now keeps although he will have to kick on smartly to get anywhere near Ali and Lewis in the pantheon.
I can box, I can really box but I like to fight, Joshua said afterwards. Im a warrior at heart. When you are used to knocking a man out, sometimes it may happen to you. I knew I would correct my wrongs, Im a man who learns from his mistakes.
He certainly did. When Ruiz ripped the belts from Joshuas grasp in New York in June he disrupted one of boxings most indomitable laws that a good big fighter usually beats a good smaller one by stopping Joshua in seven. This time around the natural order reasserted itself as the Briton used an eight-inch reach advantage and better side-to-side movement to keep his opponent off balance.
Man the first time was so nice, I had to do it twice! added Joshua. A man like me makes no excuses, this is about boxing, Im used to knocking guys out. I got caught last time, no excuses, I gave him the credit. I respect Andy and his trainer so much, I wanted to show the sweet science of this lovely sport.
It was hard to dispute any of that. But he was certainly helped by Ruiz, his belly sagging over his shorts, being every bit as ponderous as his 20st weight had advertised. As the final bell rang, he beat his chest angrily and said fight me. But deep down he knew he had been outfoxed and out-prepared.
As the Mexican-American admitted afterwards: I dont think I prepared as good as I should have. The three months of partying affected me. I should have trained harder. I gained too much weight and I wasnt able to throw my combinations.
But I dont want to give no excuses. I believe I hurt him a few times but he was boxing his life out. He won, he boxed me around but if we do the third, [you] best believe I will come in the best fucking shape of my life.
When asked why he didnt train harder, Ruiz admitted: There was a lot on my plate. Food, no doubt.