Boxing Twitter is a funny (read: infuriating) place. It's the kind of joint in which various rambunctious patrons might suggest, with no hint of irony or sneer, that Anthony Joshua will have to consider retirement if he loses Saturday's heavyweight title rematch against world champion Andy Ruiz Jr.
That's trash. More specifically, it's either rubbish or basura depending on which fighter you're backing this weekend in Saudi Arabia. Joshua has years of fighting -- and freaking gigantic paydays -- well ahead of him. But what happens on the dunes against Ruiz will surely tell us, once and for all, what the man is ultimately made of. Whether he's really one of the generation's greatest fighters, or whether he's just very, very good.
Yes, in so many ways, all the pressure's on him. But that also means that the way this story is told is up to him.
Andy Ruiz, who strolls into this fight 15 pounds heavier than the 268 he was for his massive upset win when these two met six months ago, is clearly loving life. He owns more cars than numerous royal families do. A loss would make him 1-1 against Joshua and and 33-2 in his career. Sure, he wouldn't have any belts if he takes the L, but there are still plenty of great fights out there to make, and being a Mexican-American folk hero who's only lost to AJ and Joseph Parker isn't that bad of a life.
If Joshua loses Saturday, however, he basically becomes Joseph Parker (albeit a more accomplished, wealthier version).
Boxing's heavyweight division overall isn't very deep, but its second tier behind Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Joshua, and Ruiz (and Oleksandr Usyk) is an interesting group. Parker, Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin, and Dereck Chisora are a hard-hitting group, and fun besides. There's a fine career to be made in that particular facepunching tier.
But it's not the big time. It's not where the glory is. And if Joshua wants to be an idolized all-timer -- or, as he put it, to have fans and critics bow at his feet -- the bare minimum requirement is a convincing victory in Diriyah with the whole world watching. If he can't make it happen, legions of British fight fans will still treat him as something adjacent to royalty, but his window for becoming a historically great champion will have slammed shut.
There's just no road back to the penthouse following back-to-back upset losses to a man casual fans knew effectively nothing about as recently as springtime. None.
AJ's rap sheet is impressive. He's beaten Whyte, Parker, Povetkin, Eric Molina, and Wladimir Klitschko. But he's also never won a single fight outside his native UK (his very first attempt came six months ago at Madison Square Garden against "Mexican Rocky"). His stunning defeat raised questions about his mentality and drive.
And we're about to find out whether those questions constitute an overreaction or rather speak to a painful but essential truth about who this man really is.
Who he always was.