DATE: Saturday June 1
VENUE: Madison Square Garden, New York
AT STAKE: Joshua’s WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles
PROMOTER: Matchroom Boxing
TELEVISION: Sky Sports Box Office (UK) and DAZN (US)
THE CASE FOR JOSHUA
MUCH has been made of Andy Ruiz Jnr’s portly appearance, and while looks can be deceiving, it is plainly apparent that he is by no means in tip-top shape. The Adonis-like Anthony Joshua, in contrast, is a supreme athlete. The 6ft 6in Watford colossus is not only four inches taller than Ruiz, but also has an eight-inch reach advantage at 82ins. The physically dominant Brit commands the centre of the ring with his formidable jab, which he put to particularly good use when unanimously outpointing Joseph Parker in their March 2018 unification clash. Worryingly for Ruiz, when he dropped a contentious majority decision to Parker in their December 2016 vacant WBO title bout, he was susceptible to the New Zealander’s jab.
Although Ruiz enjoyed an extensive amateur career, during which he competed at the 2007 World Championships, Joshua achieved far more in the unpaid ranks, including a World silver medal in 2011 and Olympic gold a year later. His level of opposition as a pro surpasses that of Ruiz, too. The only opponent of serious note on the Mexican-American’s record is Parker, whereas Joshua has boxed, and beaten, the likes of Dillian Whyte (rsf 7 – December 2015), Wladimir Klitschko (rsf 11 – April 2017) and Alexander Povetkin (rsf 7 – September 2018), in addition to Parker.
With a decent but unremarkable 64 per cent KO ratio, the 32-1 (21) Ruiz is not regarded as a heavy hitter. Joshua, 22-0 (21), on the other hand, possesses incredible power. The undefeated 29-year-old cuts off the space intelligently and employs feints to locate openings for his bone-crunching combinations. He demonstrates patience and poise when selecting his shots, such as thunderous right uppercuts, shuddering left hooks and brutal body work. Last time out against Povetkin, he adapted his approach impressively after a shaky start, leading to a typically ruthless finish.
THE CASE FOR RUIZ
WHILE the vast majority of Ruiz’s contests have been held in America, fighting in the US will be a completely new experience for Joshua, who has never performed outside of the UK as a professional. “AJ” will have to make adjustments in this sense, just as he had to when it was announced that his previously scheduled challenger, Jarrell Miller, had been denied a licence to box due to drug offences. Ruiz, 29, was only brought in as a replacement for Miller at the start of May, meaning that Joshua had to alter his training and preparation mid-camp, which was hardly ideal.
Upon being confirmed as Joshua’s new rival, Ruiz branded the champion “a robot”, and it’s true that he can appear somewhat stiff and mechanical at times, due to his musclebound physique. The same cannot be said of Ruiz, who puts his punches together in a smooth and smart fashion. Boasting fine, flowing technical skills, he pumps out solid single jabs, backed up by a variety of strikes both upstairs and down. His fists are fast and busy, which could cause Joshua some problems, considering that Parker’s handspeed posed the Englishman a few questions in the first half of their matchup. Aggressive and game, Ruiz moves his head astutely when attempting to close the distance. The left hook is his favoured weapon, while his chin has stood up to some weighty blows. The Imperial, California man has comfortably won his last three bouts in a row, with the latest of these victories coming less than six weeks ago via fifth-round retirement against Alexander Dimitrenko – a giant veteran whose height and reach are almost identical to Joshua’s. Ruiz will take confidence not only from his recent productive form, but also from the fact that Joshua has been hurt in the past (dropped by Klitschko, wobbled by Whyte and Povetkin).
THE bullish Ruiz won’t give Joshua an easy ride, especially in the early stages, but it’s difficult to envisage him being able to deal with Joshua’s punishing jab. After being softened up by his adversary’s lead left hand, Ruiz will likely be forced out by thumping right-handers around the midway point, although he’ll go out swinging.