Four years later he was surprisingly defeated again, by Hasim Rahman, but retrieved his belts much faster this time, seven months later, with a four-round win.
Lewis always talked proudly about recovering from those losses. Those redemptive wins prepared the ground for his triumphs over Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko’s older brother, Vitaly. Joshua is bound to peddle the “minor setback” line and will have his chance to send Ruiz back to obscurity. Rematch clauses are standard when unheralded fighters are given a payday. Yet this was no mere kink in the Joshua global conquest narrative. It was humiliating and ominous and removes him, for now, from the box office bonanza he was building with Wilder and Fury.
Those two will be frustrated by Joshua’s downfall because it damages their own income projections. Money aside, Joshua has been dragged into a dark world of self-doubt, from which only the toughest emerge. Lewis responded to his big losses by fighting more conservatively, by not leaving his chin open when following up on his jab. It made him a less entertaining, but more successful boxer, who built on his strengths while containing his weaknesses.