OPEN workouts (like the ones featuring Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua that took place tonight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) are designed to drive exposure to the impending showdown and little else. They are never, and I repeat never, a platform for boxers to give away tactical secrets to their opponent mere days before battle.
Taking the theme to extremes, Joshua shadowboxed with a high guard in the brisk air for a few minutes, smiled at his adopted local fans – who were vocal and respectful but not exactly vast in number – before heading into the crowd to pose for photos. The
Yet there were still questions about Joshua’s oh so brief ‘performance’. What did it mean? Why did he do so little? What was he hiding? The answers, I’d suggest, would be far less sinister than the questions.
“It’s about being confident and knowing your capabilities,” Joshua said afterwards, still giving little away. “I’ve had a great training camp. I will showcase my skills. I’m forever changing and that’s what training camp is about – evolution. All I’m focused on is that I’m going to win.”
What could be taken from Joshua’s appearance at the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (with assets estimated to be a cool $320 billion), was that he was looking remarkably slim. It’s not the first time that Joshua’s weight has been analysed and discussed before he’s even set foot on the scales. But it would seem fair to suggest he views speed and movement as attributes he was missing when Ruiz used speed and movement to destroy “AJ” in June.
“I’m quick anyway,” Joshua said when asked if this was the case. “I’m not looking for anything other than the win, it’s not about nothing else – the objective is to win, win, win.”
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, spoke in a little more depth about the former champion’s weight, and how his training has changed for this fight.
“He looks great, he feels great and he is lean, lean, lean,” Hearn said. “I don’t know about the weight but it is going to be light.
“It’s not intentional like he has been dieting to lose weight, he has cut out a lot of strength and conditioning work and this camp has been boxing related. Rounds and rounds of sparring, rounds and rounds of technique. He was training too hard, he is training smarter now.
Joshua looked drained in New York before the first fightEddie Hearn
“When I saw him in New York [ahead of the first fight] and for Alexander Povetkin as well [September 2018], he looked drained because he had worked his bollocks off in camp. I’m hoping he doesn’t feel like that now, he feels great. But that has been a problem. He has learnt what his body can do. He is boxing fit.
“Look at Ruiz. All he does is spar, but he is boxing fit. He could go 12 rounds whether he has put on a stone, lost a stone.
“He has had to learn things, like pacing a fight, that come naturally to Ruiz.
On the subject of his opponent, Joshua said: “Andy Ruiz Jnr has been on my mind five weeks prior to June 1st because that’s when he came in as a replacement [for Jarrell Miller]. He’s going to be on my mind forever because me and Andy Ruiz – if he’s dedicated to the game – will definitely see each other a third time down the line. This ain’t the last time I’ll see him in the ring. We make for good fights and I think there is definitely going to be a knockout in this fight because that’s what people want to see, bloodshed and knockouts.
“I feel in my heart and I’m confident that I’m going to be victorious. Please keep me in your prayers, that I’m going to be victorious, because that energy is important.”
Andy Ruiz Jnr was full of energy. He came to ring with a beanie hat balancing on top his head and that infectious smile all over his face. He showed off his remarkable hand speed and, unlike Joshua, broke a sweat as he pounded some pads on sticks (known as paddles) that were positioned by his trainer Manny Robles to make his charge look as fast and accurate as possible.
It did the trick. Ruiz certainly looked fast and accurate and even in the most choreographed of settings, the crack from his right hand hitting the pads was enough to turn heads… like Anthony Joshua’s.
He briefly turned away from his fans and watched for a few seconds. What he saw will not have told him anything he didn’t already know of course, but it may have reminded him of what he will have to contend with on Saturday night. Ruiz hits hard and often and he’s built like a giant sandbag. He seemed to enjoy the occasion, too.
“I didn’t want too show off too much of what we’re working on,” Ruiz Jnr chuckled. “I’ve been training really hard and working on different stuff, the speed, the pressure, the angles. Hopefully on December 7th I’ll get that victory.
“I’ve been doing a few different adjustments, but I’ve got all the tools and I’m focused mentally. I’m ready.
“I don’t want to underestimate any fighter because I respect any fighter that comes here in this ring. We’re all risking our lives here to perform and provide for our loved ones.
“I never predict a knockout but if it comes, it
comes. I’m just prepared to win and use all my tools that I have. I’m really
proud to be coming here as the champion and with all the belts. I’ve been
working all my life since I was six years old to become the first Mexican
heavyweight champion of the world. We’ve come a long way, we’ve overcome a lot
of different obstacles and rollercoasters. I’m just really excited to be here.
“Everybody make sure you tune in on Saturday. Let’s do it baby, we’re going to make history again.”