Ruiz v Joshua II: Ali, Lewis, Tyson and other memorable heavyweight rematches

By Sports Desk December 02, 2019

Revenge or repeat? This week, Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua will become the latest men to answer one of heavyweight boxing's most historically captivating questions.

Joshua sensationally lost his IBF, WBA and WBO titles at Madison Square Garden, as well as his unbeaten record, to late replacement Ruiz back in June.

The flabby but quick-fisted Mexican climbed off the canvas to cause an almighty upset, stopping his opponent in the seventh round. It was a result few expected and one that sent shockwaves through the boxing world.

The pair will reconvene in the unfamiliar surroundings of the purpose-built Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and the stakes could not be higher.

Joshua has taken a risk in going straight back in with a man who shattered his aura and scuppered any short-term plans for a unification fight with Deontay Wilder – the WBC champion who recently tackled his own rematch against Luis Ortiz in emphatic style.

History suggests, however, that the Englishman is right to try and exorcise the demons. Here, Omnisport looks back at some other famous heavyweights who opted for an immediate rematch.

 

Joe Louis v Jersey Joe Walcott – Jun 25, 1948 (New York)

Louis was the longest-reigning heavyweight champion of the world at the time of his first meeting with Walcott, a former sparring partner for 'the Brown Bomber' who had started out at middleweight. What unfolded at Madison Square Garden was not the mismatch expected, though, as the huge underdog appeared to have pulled off the mother of all upsets. Having attempted to leave the ring before the verdict was announced, expecting to hear he had lost, Louis was apologetic after getting a generous decision victory.

'The Brown Bomber' gave Walcott an immediate rematch – but the judges had no need to get involved second time around. A tepid fight came to life in the 11th round when a big right hand paved the way for Louis to win by knockout. The champion initially retired after the bout, though he was back in the ring just over two years later.

 

Muhammad Ali v Leon Spinks - September 15, 1978 (New Orleans)

Olympic gold medallist Spinks was a 10-1 underdog when he came out on the right side of a split-decision in his first meeting with Ali in just his eighth pro fight. 'The Greatest' was anything but down the stretch, admitting afterwards that he had used the wrong tactics. Spinks, meanwhile, said: "I'm the latest, but he's the greatest" after becoming the new WBA and WBC champion.

Having lost in Las Vegas in February, Ali moved the venue to New Orleans for the return seven months later. Spinks had been stripped of one of the titles and his corner was chaos. He was outmanoeuvred by the old man, with Ali winning by a landslide on the scorecards to become the first man to be crowned heavyweight world champions on three separate occasions. It was meant to be his last fight, but instead only ended up being his final victory.

 

Evander Holyfield v Mike Tyson – June 28, 1997 (Las Vegas)

Holyfield v Tyson was a long time in the making. Finally, with Iron Mike holding the WBA belt, they met at the MGM Grand in 1997. They did not disappoint either, Tyson producing a fast start but unable to find a way to truly hurt his foe. As each round passed, Holyfield assumed control, eventually stopping his fellow American with a flurry of punches in the 11th to reign as a world champion in the division for a third time.

They signed up to do it all again seventh months later at the same venue, Tyson stunning the world by biting his rival not once but twice in the third round. The first offence was to Holyfield's right ear, resulting in an obvious injury for all to see. Following a two-point deduction for taking a piece of flesh, Tyson did it again – this time to the left ear – when the action eventually resumed. Referee Mills Lane, who had replaced Mitch Halpern following a complaint from Tyson's camp, disqualified the disgraced challenger.

 

Riddick Bowe v Andrew Golota - December 14, 1996 (Atlantic City)

The first clash between Bowe and Golota was eventful, to say the least. Golota was undoubtedly the better of the two in the ring but unwilling to abide by the rules. Already deducted points in the fourth and sixth rounds for low blows, two more in the seventh saw the bout called off by referee Wayne Kelly. That was not the end of the fighting, though, as things quickly turned ugly between the two different camps, while there were also scuffles among members of the crowd inside Madison Square Garden.

Bowe insisted afterwards he would not fight Golota again, yet the pair were back in opposite corners just five months later, this time in Atlantic City. The controversial Pole was once again disqualified for punches below the belt when ahead on the scorecards. "I can't defend him," said Lou Duva, Golota's co-trainer. "I wish I could. I can't explain it."

 

Lennox Lewis v Hasim Rahman - November 17, 2001 (Las Vegas)

Lewis can relate to Joshua's situation. He was the IBF and WBC champion who had Tyson in his sights - Rahman was nothing more than a stepping stone, a hurdle to clear before moving on to bigger and better (meaning more lucrative) things. Instead, the American caught out his rival in a fight held at altitude in Gauteng, South Africa, in April 2001. Lewis had come in heavier than usual having trained in Las Vegas to allow him to make a cameo appearance in Ocean's 11.

The less-than-perfect preparation saw him sunk by a right hand that laid Lewis out on the canvas. Second time around, however, he made sure not to make the same mistakes. The return later the same year was brutally swift, Lewis regaining his belts with a fourth-round stoppage that never looked in doubt from the opening bell. "I told you that punch was a lucky punch in South Africa. I had too many attributes for him," he said in the immediate aftermath.

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