WHEN it was announced at the beginning of May that Andy Ruiz Jnr would be stepping in as Jarrell Miller’s replacement to challenge world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, a video interview was posted online by Matchroom Boxing, who are promoting the contest.
During the footage, which showed Ruiz discussing his June 1 date with Joshua in New York, the Mexican-American branded his upcoming rival as “a robot”. This didn’t go down too well with the WBA, IBF and WBO title-holder.
“I heard him say that! I’m going to smack him up now!” Joshua chuckled. “It’s like in the [Alexander] Povetkin fight [in September last year]. When he hit me, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to f**k you up now.’ Because he didn’t speak English, he didn’t trash-talk too much before the fight, so I respected him. But when you’re in there, you take the fight as it comes.
“Miller was going to get peppered – straight up. [The American missed out on a Joshua fight after failing three drug tests.] If Ruiz wants to go down that route of talking s**t too, then I’m gonna want to break his jaw and hurt him really bad. But if he wants a good boxing match and he gets hit with a shot he didn’t see, and we shake hands after, then it’s best not to say anything.”
When pressed on how he likes his adversaries to behave in the lead-up to bouts, Joshua was clear on his preference.
“Like [Wladimir] Klitschko and Povetkin,” the unbeaten 29-year-old stated. “I come from that amateur background where you fight the best and respect the best. Miller comes more from that gritty gym background where it’s all trash talk. You’ve got to talk and talk. In amateur boxing, it doesn’t really matter what you say. The medals, the accolades, the fights show what you’re about.
“Look at [Vasyl] Lomachenko. He doesn’t have to say too much. You just respect him as a fighter and that’s the background I was introduced to. I like that. And Klitschko was the same – an Olympian. Povetkin is the same, too. I’m more down that route and those are the kind of fighters I respect.”
Ahead of the Ruiz clash, some observers have criticised him as a choice of opponent for Joshua. However, the Brit believes that this is due to his portly, unathletic appearance, rather than his ability in the ring.
“It’s his look,” Joshua opined. “They’re just going by his look. Put a six-pack on Ruiz and some pecs, then they’ll say he’s OK. Then they’ll say he’s a future world champion. That’s how it goes. You could put 15 bodybuilders in the ring, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be champions just because they look good. It’s what’s inside you that matters.
“He has the mentality and the heart. If it’s all about aesthetics, you might as well go to a bodybuilding gym and pick one out and say, ‘We’ve got the next world champion on our hands.’ It’s not about that.
“Ruiz works hard. He’s dedicated. He’s had 30-odd fights. He’s done it time and time again and this is his chance to prove to the world that he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Despite being a massive favourite in the betting stakes – as short as 1/100 for some bookmakers – Joshua is adamant that he won’t be taking anything for granted against Ruiz, who he rates as a fighter.
“He works the body early with a stabbing jab,” Joshua said of the California resident. “It slows you down when you get hit to the body early. I think he has a very good punch selection – doesn’t waste shots. I haven’t seen him get tired in a fight yet either, so I think he has a one-track mind when he’s fighting. He doesn’t waste too much energy in the ring. When you hop, it takes a lot of energy. He stalks you down and has a good guard. He’s got a one-track mind to pick that shot which will do some damage.
“He’s still a bit unknown because he didn’t get the win over Joseph Parker [for the vacant WBO title in December 2016], so he’s still a challenger. But anyone who fights me will be 20 per cent better than we’ve seen before, so I expect the best Ruiz.”