“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Anthony Joshua’s victory last night revealed much about the character of the man, and the capability of the fighter. In a career which has seemed preordained as success followed success, endorsement battled endorsement, as millions were stacked upon millions, the ‘Stay Humble’ hashtag Joshua hung on every action and endeavour had begun to irritate rather than soothe those of us craving that defining match up with Deontay Wilder.
Last night, and in the corrective steps Joshua took in the prelude to the fight, he secured redemption for the nightmare of defeat in June, but demonstrated a humility in the process to match the much worn sound byte.
Any attempts to dilute the quality and significance of his display because of the lack of drama, or the shocking state of Andy Ruiz in the opposite corner, reveals more about the accuser than the subject.
He proved doubters, like me, wrong. Demonstrated his ability to adapt, to listen and to acknowledge the flaws of attitude and preparation that had begun to envelop him prior to his shocking defeat in New York.
That took humility. Character. And once the bell went, it took skill and control to resist the urge to attack and, as Lennox Lewis used to say, “give the other guy a chance he doesn’t deserve”.
And there have been few heavyweight champions or challengers who have done less to deserve a chance than the morbidly rotund Ruiz has this past few months.
In victory, Joshua reestablishes his credentials and has clearly become a fighter with a little more nuance to his skill set in the process he’s completed this past six months. Ruiz, by contrast, was consumed by consumption.
There remain reservations about Joshua, notably his lack of faith in his chin. On the rare occasions Ruiz got through, Joshua appeared horrified as to what might happen next. Perhaps a natural response given the trauma of their first fight but one he will need to grow past if he is to overcome Wilder at some future point.
For those critical of the lack of excitement, or for Joshua’s reluctance to join Ruiz in a remake of the original, perhaps greater criticism of the Mexican-American’s own lack of diligence would be a more suitable focal point.
Both fighters, across the story of their two fights, showed they are but two ordinary men, doing extraordinary things. For the fact Ruiz elected to celebrate and party his way out of the titles is a reality that would befall many of us if subjected to the same notoriety and wealth that Ruiz earned in June. Just as Joshua’s own arrogance and distraction did before his loss showed he too was flawed and human, just like the rest of us.
Neither man should be dismissed or denigrated unduly for proving to be fallible, it only makes their achievements all the more remarkable.
And the story of the heavyweight title richer for the variety too.
Now, and for the good of all, we need the humility Joshua has shown to stretch to the negotiations for the Fury and Wilder fights.
Then he will be getting somewhere meaningful. And the likely hood is, the somewhere those fights may eventually materialize in, may be, alas, back in the sand and tyranny of Saudi Arabia.
Proving, again, nothing can ever be perfect.