Alan Hubbard

Being hospitalised last week, I missed Sky's the pay-per view telecast of the event in Saudi Arabia in which Anthony Joshua regained his various world heavyweight tille belts.

Understandably, the cash-strapped NHS opted not to fork out the extortionate fee of just short of 30 quid to allow us the privilege of watching Britain's former Olympic champion overcome a little fat Tex-Mex Andy Ruiz Jnr.

Joshua won at a canter - with Ruiz Jr offering little except a performance which suggested he was auditioning for a role in pantomime with the Roly Polys

Dull? So I gathered when talking to pals who had been at ringside just outside outside the Saudi capital Riyadh, or watching from home on the box. Yet that was not the impression I gathered from listening to the radio broadcast from my hospital bedI. It was made out to be an exciting slugfest. The BBC was OTT, which is usually the situation when Sky's cheerleaders get to twirl their batons.

Joshua, right, may have taken care of Ruiz Jr, but much tougher tests await ©Getty Images
Joshua, right, may have taken care of Ruiz Jr, but much tougher tests await ©Getty Images

But it did make a change to listen to a sports broadcast on the radio, taking me back to days well beyond even the advent of black-and-white TV, when as schoolboy I listened to big fights. They included Sugar Ray Robinson facing Randolph Turpin and Freddie Mills up against Bruce Woodcock. There is no doubt these were genuinely exciting and whetted my appetite for a sport which subsequently I have covered for well over half a century.

It is believed that 30-year-old Joshua will receive a mind-boggling £60 million ($80 million/€71 million) when all the receipts are gathered in.

Was he worth it? Fans will make their own judgement of that. He certainly deployed the right tactics this time, jabbing and moving to win by a wide margin on points against an opponent who had floored him four times when they met in New York last summer.

Yet Ruiz was a disgrace to himself, admitting that he had barely prepared for the contest. He was overweight and sluggish with no sense of timing. There was no ambition whatsoever...

Sure, AJ now has plenty of that left, with mandatory defences of two of the three belts he regained looming and a prospective showdown to completely unify the titles with the winner of the forthcoming rematch between Deontay Wilder and his own British rival, Tyson Fury. I was asked by fellow patients who also listened to the contest how Joshua would fare against either of them.

Well, I think he would get beaten. Simple as that.

Fury would have the good sense not to mix it, using his own guile, height and boxing ability to frustrate the Londoner, whose redemption was hailed by promoter Eddie Hearn aas the greatest resurrection since that one 2000 years ago.

Yet, in my view - and that of many other critics - Joshua remains vulnerable and no one is better equipped than Wilder to emphasise that vulnerability. The American's right hand has the power of a bull elephant and the venom of a cobra. I doubt Joshua could avoid taking it on the chin. So far no one has, although Fury did get up to earn a draw, a verdict that really should've gone in his favour.

Tyson Fury won't have been too concerned by Joshua's latest performance ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury won't have been too concerned by Joshua's latest performance ©Getty Images

The Saudi happening was well received and passed without incident in a specially built sports complex that was an oasis in the desert of discrimination. This was a point made numerous times during the build-up to the contest. Many heads were conveniently buried in the sand, while Joshua himself refused to get involved in any politics saying: "I've been made aware of the issues but I can only go on what on what I have experienced."

The subject of "sports washing" is indeed one which evokes fiery debate. But the Saudi regime seems determined to use sport to convince the sceptics that they are making progress on the human rights front - and indeed there has been some.

Women can now play and watch sport, and drive unaccompanied by a male. And only a few hours after the conclusion of the "dust-up in the desert", it was announced that females would no longer have to eat in a separate area in restaurants

Progress for some women, yes. Yes, public flogging and beheadings and the persecution of dissidents remain in a nation which executed in their own Embassy in Turkey a journalist who opposed such horrors. Let us remember, however, that sport did help build the road for Nelson Mandela's long walk to freedom in South Africa.

Maybe sport can do the same in Saudi. While I do not approve of the money now being thrown at sport to stage major events there, if I was a betting man, I would say that by the end of this century the world will have will have witnessed an Olympic Games in Saudi Arabia, Probably because no one else could afford them.