Why Referee Michael Griffin Ruled Anthony Joshua Unable to Continue
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
*Photo Credit: Daily Express UK
Neutral referee Michael Griffin did not ask Anthony Joshua to take a few steps forward. In an already sunken ship like a bad monopoly game, World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua did not pass go, and did not collect 200 dollars. He did not even raise his hands, or let go of the ropes in the corner he was standing in, after rising from the floor and turning his back to referee Michael Griffin.
When all of these factors are put together, they proved to be the dazed and confused Joshua’s undoing.
After getting dropped in the third round, after completing underestimating Andy Ruiz’ power, Joshua was a sitting dead duck with no legs, and looked the part of an exhausted dog in the sixth round, one round before his fight with Andy Ruiz was over.
So what happened?
The end of the bout echoed the lack of serious attitude Joshua projected. Joshua, after spitting out his mouthpiece, got up from the canvas after getting knocked down a second time in round seven, and then turned his back to neutral Canadian referee Michael Griffin, then held onto the ropes in a corner. When asked by referee Michael Griffin twice how he felt, Joshua said “Good, good” many times, but never moved his hands from the ropes he was holding to keep him up with any seriousness of purpose. His equilibrium was in question. Referee Griffin, who has 22 years of refereeing experience with respect, opted to stop the bout. Joshua, after going down for the third time to the canvas, still had to be able to project and convey to the referee an attitude he was seriously able to continue (as opposed to a fourth knockdown and the finish). The fighter in such a circumstance must show a serious demeanor to convince the referee to allow continuance.
The heavyweight championship situation Michael Griffin wound up in could be historically compared to referees Frank Sikora and Harold Krause allowing Floyd Patterson to continue against Sonny Liston in either of their two world heavyweight championship bouts, referee Joe Cortez allowing Andrew Golota to continue in his world heavyweight championship bout against Lennox Lewis, or referee Frank Cappuccino allowing Michael Spinks to continue against Mike Tyson. There are other examples of this.
The moral of the story is, whether a fighter beats the count or not, from a referee’s perspective, beyond a certain point, continuing a world heavyweight championship or any world championship bout under lopsided circumstances already evolved when a fighter is down several times and taking a severe beating is absolutely and completely unsafe and unwise. As evidence, everyone watching the Joshua-Ruiz bout had the expectation Joshua would win easily based on Joshua’s size and reach advantage, versus Andy Ruiz’ visual short and plump appearance. But when Griffin stopped the bout in Ruiz’ favor in the seventh round after he made his assessment and judgment call-nobody watching the bout ‘in the house’ at Madison Square Garden or at home disagreed with Griffin’s decision. Joshua, whether he liked it or not, or realized it or not at the time, was done. An upset to some, but no argument from Joshua. Ripley’s believe it or not, the ill-prepared Joshua completely underestimated late substitute opponent Andy Ruiz’ ability and stunk out the house.
Former New York State Athletic Commissioner Bob Duffy, now head of the Ring 8 boxing charity foundation, has often told me taking on last-minute substitute opponents, in his view, has often proved an unwise decision. Duffy’s philosophy sure has him looking good in the eyes of the boxing establishment right now, for he who laughs last, last best. In the words of one boxer watching the Joshua versus Ruiz scene unfold at Madison Square Garden, once Andy had the upper hand, the crowd turned into Andy’s favor and rooted for the underdog. After all, Joshua is from Great Britain, and Andy is a Mexican American. When a Mexican wins the world heavyweight title, it is like a mariachi dance which never ends. Andy Ruiz Jr. beating Anthony Joshua was a lot like Rocky Marciano knocking out Joe Louis, the difference being it did not last that long.
In April 2015, Michael Griffin refereed Wladimir Klitschko’s 12 round decision victory over Bryan Jennings at Madison Square Garden to retain the World Heavyweight title. Griffin has 22 years of refereeing experience. If Joshua’s legs were gone and he was not functional enough to continue in his bout with Ruiz, Griffin knows. Joshua telling Griffin, “I’m good!” is not good enough to fool an experienced referee as Griffin is.
In January 1939, World Heavyweight champion Joe Louis knocked down World Light Heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis three times in the first round and knocked him out at 2:29. Lewis, it was later revealed, was going blind all of a sudden, and needed the money from fighting Louis for an eye operation to regain his sight. Louis did not extend the tragic circumstances of the bout. Louis knocked Lewis down three times before referee Arthur Donavan waived it off. It would have been foolish and stupid, given the circumstances of the bout back in the day, for referee Donavan to have prolonged the torture for even a second longer, once the truth had revealed itself.