WBA 'Super', IBF, WBO and IBO World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is ready to excite the fans yet again when he defends his hoard of titles against Mexican-American native Andy Ruiz Jr this Saturday, June 1.
The fight will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and DAZN.
Joshua is coming into the fight having not fought since last September when he clashed with Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium in front of nearly 80,000 fans. Now, Joshua is fighting in the US for the first time at the historical Madison Square Garden, “The Mecca of Boxing”.
The challenger, Andy Ruiz Jr, is stepping into the fight on late notice as original opponent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller fell out due to failed drug testing. Most fans and media think that Ruiz could actually offer a stiffer test than Miller would have, as he is a more seasoned professional with an extensive amateur pedigree.
Joshua will be entering the fight with a record of 22 wins, no losses, and 21 wins coming by knockout. Meanwhile, Ruiz has a record of 32 wins, 1 loss, and 21 wins coming by way of knockout.
British Boxing News Editor Tim Rickson previewed the forthcoming fight:
The first thing to note is how easily dismissed Andy Ruiz Jr has been as an opponent to Anthony Joshua. It's nonsensical to assume that a man with a combined boxing record of 137-6 won't be able to trouble the unified world heavyweight champion because his physique isn't very eye-pleasing. Not every heavyweight is blessed with an Adonis-like figure, but it should not detract from their skills and achievement in any way. Ruiz Jr is a national amateur champion with an incredible 105-5 record and his sole career loss in the professional ranks was in a closely-contested world heavyweight title fight 7,000 miles away from home.
He is a far better opponent than the original challenger, Miller, and I am much more interested in this fight now that Ruiz Jr is in the opposing corner.
Record: 22-0, 21KOs
KO Ratio: 95%
Andy Ruiz Jr
Record: 32-1, 20KOs
KO Ratio: 64%
Joshua has only been asked to go the distance in just one of his fights, which was against WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker, the only man to beat Ruiz Jr so far, who has been taking to a decision 12 times in 33 fights. Parker was fleet-footed throught the 12-rounds with Joshua, very negative and seldom engaged, and there was some shocking officiating during the contest that meant AJ just couldn't pin his man down, which meant he heard the final bell for the first time in the paid ranks.
AJ boasts a 95% KO ratio, which is a third greater than Jr's 64%.
The Londoner is undoubtedly a powerful hitter and has learnt to kill fights off the moment he senses blood, which he did acutely against Alexander Povetkin in his last fight. Although he failed to put Wladimir Klitschko away after the first knockdown in the fifth round of their April 2017 Wembley fight, he called across the ring to the Ukrainian in the penultimate round that he was tired and he was going to knock him out for good, which he promptly did with a minute to go in the 11th round.
The Californian can also finish fights early as nine of his opponents found out as early as the first round against him. He has an average of 4.36 rounds per fight, which isn't far different to AJ's 3.81 average, so the pair could be closer in strength than it seems on paper.
Despite starting boxing very late, aged 18, AJ climbed the amateur ladder meteorically between 2009-2012, winning national championships, world amateur medals, culminating in gold at the London 2012 Olympics. His amateur record ended with a highly respectable 40-3 for someone so new to the code.
Ruiz Jr was introduced to boxing by his father at the tender of six and had his first fight at seven. During his amateur career, he ran his record to an astonishing 105-5 under Cuban trainer Fernando Ferrer, winning two Mexican National Junior Olympics gold medals and won the World Ringside Heavyweight Championship. He represented Mexico at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games qualification tournaments but lost to Cuba’s Robert Alfonso and Colombian Oscar Rivas. He didn't reach the top like AJ did, but he wasn't far off those dizzying heights either.
Even now, Joshua has only been a professional for up to six years, but conquered the world within three-and-a-half-years, after only three to four years in the amateurs, where he also became world no.1.
WBA #5 Ruiz came close to conquering the world but was two rounds away on the scorecards against Kiwi Parker from doing so. He seems to be just one step behind being a world-beater in both am's and pro's, but there's still time yet.
Ruiz's weaknesses are not many, but his height and reach being the most glaringly obvious of all defecits against the far taller world champion; he will surely get tagged on his way in.
He is a world-ranked fighter who has competed at world level before, but didn't succeed. Aside from that fight, he has only conquered his native country with the NABF belt he held between 2013-2017, now in the possession of Dillian Whyte's next opponent Oscar Rivas. His world title shot was won by three successful defences of the WBO Inter-Continental strap, now in the hands of Tom Schwarz.
Despite his appearance, Ruiz starts fights a lot faster than his unsuspecting opponents think. Joseph Parker was very quick to admit being startled by his early vigour in their fight.
When he does attack, he throws a lot of combinations with very fast hands. He likes to mix it up, switching from head to body, and applies the pressure throughout the fight. Against Parker, in his only pro career defeat, he did all of this, but faded slightly in the middle rounds, perhaps trying to conserve energy or just due to his opponent growing into the fight after the surprise start, but his late surge towards the end wasn't enough to claw back the rounds he conceded. Watching that fight, you could almost argue it was his to lose.
Which brings me very neatly to Joshua, who, with his vast armoury of skills and power, should have everything he needs to combat anything that his opponent brings. He can adapt his style to his opponent and can change his gameplan to deal with different styles and statures, and go up or down in the gears according to how the fight is playing out. He's an Olympic gold medallist and unified world titlist for a reason.
With his extensive reach and lofty height, he has clearly learnt how to utilise his assets and controls the distance very well and to his advantage. He has raw power as his fearsome KO ratio can testify, if he lands cleanly he takes them off their feet. AJ does usually require more than one knockdown to kill a fight off, unlike his rival Wilder who can ice them out with one single blow. It's the speed of his straight shots that causes his counterparts to crash down. And it's not a case of if he lands, because he will land, and it'll be interesting to see how Ruiz copes with it.
We have seen weaknesses from AJ, however, but our heavyweight hero is learning on the job still. In his epic showdown with Klitschko, he looked all but beaten in the sixth round when he was miraculously saved by the bell. But he came out revitalised in the next round after looking dead on his feet only a minute before. He then killed the fight off in emphatic fashion in the 11th round. Questions were raised in the aftermath of that mega-fight on Joshua's stamina.
Against Parker, the only person to extend AJ to the distance, he was having trouble landing anything meaningful due to his opponent's movement and speed, and dropped a couple of rounds on the scorecards, but still won comfortably.
In his last fight to the smaller Povetkin, he took a bit of time adapting to his shorter opponent, but not too long as he decked the Russian twice in the seventh stanza.
I have defended Andy Ruiz Jr as a very credible opponent and someone who could potentially cause an upset if he's on his A-game, so I really hope to see him test Joshua, despite obviously wanting my fellow Briton to win. Whatever happens, the opening rounds are going to be exciting as I believe that Ruiz will be strong and dangerous from the opening bell, as he's known for starting fights brightly.
I do believe that AJ's dominance as an Olympic gold medallist and unified world heavyweight champion will guide him through any difficulties his 23rd opponent can present to continue his unbeaten run and reign as a unified champion.
His sheer size and reach advantage should keep the Mexican at bay, if he utilises it properly, whilst he works out his best plan of attack to eventually land game-changing shots that should take the legs away of his ring foe at some point, probably past round four or five to score a KO in the mid-rounds onwards.
If I had to put a number on it, I would say AJ to win by knockout in rounds seven to eight after a few early scares. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was reversed in Ruiz’s favour.