MANNY Robles, the trainer of new WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jnr, says Anthony Joshua’s decision to pursue an immediate return with his man and activate the rematch clause in their contract is potentially a bad move.
That said, he is perfectly happy for Ruiz to grant Joshua’s wish and capitalise on any demons that may be lingering following the pair’s dramatic first encounter on June 1.
“In my opinion, if it’s the direct rematch, that’s better, because (Andy) already did two fights in a row and it was 15 weeks of work,” Robles told ESPN Deportes. “If I were Joshua’s coach, I would ask him to take a break, wait a year, choose to fight someone else and do one or two fights before fighting with Ruiz.
“My duty as a coach is to keep him grounded, talk to him and not lose ground or humility. Let’s enjoy this for a few days and weeks, enjoy it with the media and then work. The commitment is bigger; the responsibility is bigger.”
The biggest test for Robles right now is keeping Ruiz hungry but in shape and, most of all, keeping his eye on the ball. In many ways, due to the inevitability of the rematch, the job is only half done. He knows this as well as anyone.
“We knew that if we won the championship, if we pulled off the surprise, our lives would change,” Robles said. “But, in reality, you do not know to what extent this changes your life. By winning the championship fight, we were going to change the history of Mexican boxing. We wanted Mexico to have its first heavyweight world champion, but we never imagined it would happen in this way.”
Just as first time around Team Ruiz lured Joshua and the rest of the world into thinking the challenger was an out-of-shape Mexican-American happy just to pose for pictures and take part, they will no doubt look to perform similar tricks ahead of a rematch. After all, it suits them to be overlooked, and to be written off, and to be mocked. What’s more, if Robles is to be believed, it suits Ruiz to have the rematch with Joshua happen immediately – before any real healing can be done and any real improvements can be made.
If WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez could be granted just one wish before an inevitable move to super-featherweight, it would likely have something to do with fighting former titleholder Carl Frampton in 2019.
Eager to make another fight at featherweight ahead of his move up, the undefeated Mexican has told his manager, Frank Espinoza, to explore the likelihood of securing one against Frampton for later in the year.
“He asked me to (make the) fight with Carl Frampton. He wants that fight,” Espinoza said to ESPN Deportes. “The other option could be Josh Warrington (the IBF featherweight champion), in a unification, but the priority is Frampton.”
Seemingly the only fights of interest to Valdez at this stage in his featherweight reign are those against fellow champions or former champions. Indeed, after defeating Jason Sanchez on June 8, he conceded his days in the nine-stone division were numbered and that a move to super-featherweight would be something he would initiate sooner rather than later. Now on borrowed time, then, he appears keen to tie up any loose ends in his current weight class before allowing his body to breathe.
“Obviously we try to do the best for Valdez,” said Espinoza. “We want him to listen to his body and where he feels better, then we will look for the best opportunities. But he has told us about Frampton; it is a fight we know the Irishman wants and of course Oscar wants. Hopefully we can achieve something.”
Still only 28 years of age, Valdez, 26-0 (20), has made six defences of his WBO featherweight belt and is apparently now desperate to add others to the collection.
Frampton, meanwhile, last seen dropping a decision to Josh Warrington in a British classic, would no doubt welcome the chance to become a world champion all over again.