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Anthony Joshua ‘may have struggled with motivation for Ruiz’

Down and out: Joshua is floored in the seventh by Ruiz on his way to defeat in New York PICTURE: AFP/GETTY

FORMER world champion Darren Barker has suggested Anthony Joshua’s motivation may have been found wanting as he was sensationally beaten by the unfancied Andy Ruiz Jr.

Joshua was stopped in the seventh round in New York on Saturday night after being knocked to the canvas four times by Ruiz, who took his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight belts.

Ruiz had a decent, if not overly impressive, pedigree and had been seen as an ideal opponent for Joshua to begin his US charm offensive against with a win. Instead the Mexican inflicted a first professional loss.

Barker, Britain’s former IBF middleweight champion, was at ringside and told Metro: ‘It must be hard to be that motivated all the time as he has to be.

‘I remember when Mike Tyson suffered his first career loss to Buster Douglas in 1990 — he said a big weight had been lifted from his shoulders. I’m not saying Joshua will be relieved but everyone expects him to win.

Shock: Lewis rebuilt his career after a 1994 defeat by McCall PICTURE: HOLLY STEIN/ALLSPORT

‘A fight is always a two-horse race and you could lose a boxing match.’ Barker dismissed talk other factors — including a rumoured knockout in training — could have contributed to the shock result. Injury or illness during Joshua’s training camp have also been cited as possible explanations for his subdued showing.

‘I think maybe that shot in the third round scrambled his senses briefly,’ said Barker, referring to a punch from Ruiz that hit Joshua on the top of the head. ‘Maybe he was concussed.

‘There are always rumours about what goes on in sparring. Ruiz was so hungry and AJ was beaten by someone who wanted to change his life and rewrite history.’

Barker, who now trains British heavyweight prospect Dave Allen at his 12×3 gym in London, believes fans must rally round Joshua. ‘There’s no doubt he can bounce back,’ he said.

‘I’d take an immediate rematch and show it was just an off-night. Get back on track. Lennox Lewis bounced back from defeats to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman — defeats can happen.

‘We will find out what he is made of now — he might just go unbeaten again now.’