In modern boxing, even a solitary defeat can be considered the end of the world for a dethroned champion.
When elite fighters engage in the biggest bouts on the biggest stages and end up losing, the immediate aftermath can feel like a plummet from the mountain’s summit all the way back down to its base.
In truth, this is seldom ever the case.
While the majority of the sporting world may be talking about how a champion has been ‘exposed’ and is now ‘finished’, those with true grit and determination will already be plotting their comebacks.
For Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr, one brief three-month period saw both of them abruptly thrust into this position.
At the start of December 2019, the pair held all four major heavyweight world titles between them.
By the end of February 2020, neither had any belts left.
For Ruiz Jr it was a steep incline followed by an equally steep decline.
The Mexican-American had claimed his titles just six months prior when he stunned Anthony Joshua in an historic upset at Madison Square Garden.
AJ was floored four times and stopped in round seven by Ruiz Jr who found himself propelled to overnight superstardom.
The underdog champion was suddenly a celebrity doing the late-night talk show circuit in America and hosted LA parties at his new mansion where he was surrounded by famous influencers.
By the time the contractually-obligated rematch came around, Ruiz Jr was woefully under prepared, shockingly overweight and, as a result, comprehensively outboxed by Joshua.
It was not his first loss as he’d previously dropped a close decision to Joseph Parker for a vacant title back in 2016, but this time defeat stung worse than before.
In contrast to Ruiz Jr, Wilder was a longtime champion and had reigned since the start of 2015.
When he first met Tyson Fury in December 2018, the Brit boxed cautiously off the back foot and appeared to win most of the rounds.
However, Wilder scored two knockdowns – enough to earn a draw on the judges’ controversial scorecards.
The American did not shirk the rematch though and it was Fury who delayed and had two interim bouts before challenging him again in February 2020.
The ‘Gypsy King’ promised pre-fight that this time we’d see a different contest altogether, he’d come out aggressive and take the fight to the feared power-punching champion.
His claims were laughed off by Wilder, but that smirk disappeared from his face in round three.
Fury lived up to his word, dominated the bout and floored the ‘Bronze Bomber’ twice.
Wilder’s corner threw in the towel to end the beatdown in round seven.
Ruiz Jr’s immediate reaction to defeat was an apology and a short-lived campaign for a third fight with AJ.
Wilder responded with excuses, then a period of silence for six months, then conspiracy accusations and further excuses.
In the midst of his bizarre comments, Wilder activated his contractual clause to force the Fury trilogy.
This was planned for July, then October, then December, until injury and pandemic postponements caused the Brit’s team to draw a line.
Fury’s representatives now claim the contract for their third fight with Wilder has expired and are therefore instead negotiating a undisputed clash with Joshua.
Wilder’s team argue against Fury’s claim and have activated the dispute resolution provision within the deal.
The parties entered mediation with a retired judge to try and work out a solution. But this failed and so the mediator will rule on the matter in binding arbitration.
If things work out in Wilder’s favour, he still may not get another crack at Fury next.
Assuming Fury goes on to fight Joshua – the Saudi Arabia deal is edging ever closer to being finalised – then Ruiz Jr is the perfect future foe for the American.
Ruiz Jr returned to the ring on Saturday night with new trainer Eddy Reynoso and defeated Chris Arreola.
Should Wilder have his own comeback bout and do the same, the pair could be on track to meet towards the end of the year as they both fight under Al Haymon’s PBC.
A win for either man would irrefutably place them right back among the heavyweight elite and position them perfectly to challenge the winner of Joshua vs Fury.
Wilder vs Ruiz Jr is the fight that makes perfect sense.