In conversation with Michael Bentt: reflections on Joshua vs Ruiz

Luke G. Williams
04/06/2019 9:11am

Former WBO heavyweight champion Michael Bentt talks Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr with Boxing Monthly's Luke G. Williams...

Online editor Luke G Williams writes...
And now for something somewhat different!

Over the past year and more I have enjoyed a fruitful and fascinating correspondence with former WBO heavyweight champion and acclaimed actor Michael Bentt.

Michael is one of the most erudite and perceptive analysts of boxing and human nature that I have ever had the pleasure to know and I've long thought that BM readers would enjoy his insights too.

Throughout Sunday, in the wake of the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr fight we shared a series of Whatsapp messages which display Michael's typical thoughtfulness and 'on the money' analysis.

Michael has kindly consented that we publish the conversation - which consists of my limited promptings and Michael's fascinating insights.

It's a different sort of article to the norm, and we hope you enjoy it.

Sunday 05.43 UK time:

Michael Bentt: Hey Luke.

Oh boy! Not to brag.

But I called that one. One never sees the work of a really talented fighter. Though competent in areas AJ shows his work. And though he looks the part on the outside, his mechanics aren't in his bones yet. He went into the fight thinking that the other guy wouldn't throw back as furiously/ hungrily as he did. Not to mention, he forgot - or his team forgot - that when one is a Champion, the Champion becomes prey. Champions get comfortable and forget the sandpaper that must rub against your every thought, reminding you not to believe the hype and congeniality the masses shower you with.

For the fighter, it's death. Now he has to fight from the lonely place of something to prove and ridicule...great material to pull and push from.

Amazing.

And Luke... AJ never expected to get hurt like that. That's why he was unable to respond.

No one said to him "If you get hurt and you will, relax, accept it, buy yourself some time, tie him up....etcetera".

Luke G. Williams: Mike... I've got to be honest, I slept through it! Didn’t wake up in time!

When I did wake up the fight had just finished and my messages had gone crazy!

Well done Ruiz for believing and let’s see what AJ is made of now ...

A great lesson for him and us all

MB: Luke. I just re-watched it on youtube.

Oh boy...Anthony's going to have a hard time dealing with this. Not the loss necessarily but the way he lost and on that stage.

But kudos to Andy. He fought the fight he had to.

Beautiful for him.

LW: Sounded like AJ checked out mentally - will try to watch it later...

MB: Yep, a clear case of being too civilized, fighting in the Garden and 'I'm the star' syndrome. Winning the title is 'easy'. Keeping it, not so much.

But yeah, you're right that's how we learn.

Another thought: for a heavyweight with that body type Ruiz is very deceptive. Fast hands, good chin and he puts punches together better than most. Hand speed equals punching power.

LW: Yeah, Ruiz has some tidy skills I’ve always thought. I didn’t think it would be enough against AJ but that’s why heavyweight boxing is so intriguing!

MB: Yes 'tidy skills; is a nice way of putting it. I agree.

I think the way the fight ended is the most intriguing part, as it looked to me like a simple case of Joshua ostensibly raising the white flag.

Which I completely get on many levels as a retired fighter.

He was exposed in more ways than one tonight. I get it.

I also kinda see parallels of...I know this is a stretch...but parallels of Ali-Foreman.

Foreman - Olympic Gold Medallist.
Joshua - Olympic Gold Medallist.
Foreman came to the sport 'late'. Joshua came to the sport late.

Both Foreman & Joshua exuded "loudly" the static of confidence even when saying nothing, rather than the quiet conceit of on-going determination that resided in Muhammad 40-odd years ago and Andy Ruiz a few hours ago.

Both Foreman & Joshua possessed magnificently intimidating physiques, ones that gave the untutored observer hot flashes of the rage and destruction to come....or perhaps something else equally as passionate but less taxing on the body.

LW: The Foreman comparison is a good one. Another comparison for you - I’ve always found AJ a bit Bruno-esque.

MB: Absolutely. I simply cite Foreman as an indication and example of the tone of what was 'expected' to occur once he and the underdog-Muhammad-danced in Zaire.

And yes, I too have also stated that AJ is a better, more athletic version of Frank. Again though, the 'tiny' thing that separates the Frank Brunos and Anthony Joshuas from the Andy Ruizs is a solid, nuanced, welded to the DNA skill set.

Case in point: when Andy was dropped the subtext of his energy was: "Mmm. Okay! Nice one. Let me see you do it again."

When Anthony was dropped: "Uh oh...This is not supposed to be fucking happening."

LW: Just watched it at last - Ruiz applied really intelligent pressure. AJ so uncomfortable backing up. When he stood his ground and planted his feet he looked much better!

MB: Yes, when he stood his ground and planted his feet, he looked much better. But dare I say - take away the pomp and circumstance of the position he held atop the heavyweight mountain- being 'comfortable; while one plants their feet to punch is rudimentary.

I'm not being a dick, but I prefer my fighters to possess seamless, unmanufactured, creativity.

I'm not saying that one has to have the pizzazz of a Muhammad Ali circa the Cleveland 'Big Cat' Williams fight, but at that level, one has to have tools that at the very least suggest it.

Andy did.

If that makes sense?

LW: Perfect sense. The questions AJ was asking his corner prove your point I'm paraphrasing here but they were along the lines of: “What’s he going to do in the next round?” “Why do I feel like this?”

MB: Wait Luke... AJ was asking his corner crew questions?

I sincerely feel sorry for him. Seriously.

When that was happening and he obviously didn't get the answers that would enable him to thwart Andy's attack, he knew he was on the way to being exposed.

That's a nightmare, my friend.

LW: Yeah definitely sympathy on my part for AJ. By the way, Graham Houston our editor told me his biggest heavyweight title upsets list is 1. Tyson Douglas 2. Lewis Rahman 3. AJ Ruiz or some fella called Michael Bentt against Tommy Morrison...

MB: The good thing, I guess, is that society has somewhat evolved to where athletes - particularly boxers, the emotionally and physically nakedest ones on the biggest stage of them all - are viewed as human beings.

And as such they receive the empathy from the public they aren't equipped to ask for or - sadly - even expect.

The counter though - in this age of technology - is that every sentiment of well wishes and compassion expressed by the public is accompanied by the flipside of abject scorn, ridicule, repudiation and contempt.

Oy!...human beings!

And that fella named Michael Bentt, I'm not that familiar with him, myself. You say he knocked out Tommy Morrison?
Surely that was staged...

By the way, I would love to share my rather unorthodox thoughts and impulses with your audience.

Of course, we must bear in mind that some of those thoughts may result in a ban being issued that I never enter the UK again.

Just kidding...

Ends Monday 11.38am UK time

For more on Michael Bentt, check out his website www.michaelbentt.com