The undercard for Joshua-Ruiz 2 is loaded with heavyweights and will take place in the small town of Diriyah on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Saturday, December 7, shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and DAZN in the U.S. Here’s a preview of the match-ups.
Povetkin vs. Hunter
Former WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin will meet Michael Hunter in the co-feature of the undercard.
Povetkin (35-2, 24 KOs) could be back in line for a title shot if he can overcome Hunter (18-1, 12 KOs). This could actually be the most interesting fight of the night pitting the 2004 Russian Olympic medalist Povetkin against the 2012 U.S. Olympian Hunter.
Povetkin 40, has been on a gradual decline and faces a much younger, faster and highly skilled opponent in the 31 – year- old Hunter. That task is made all the more difficult because Hunter is coming off an impressive 12-round unanimous decision win over tough and previous unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin in September. Hunter’s lone defeat came at the hands of former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in 2017 via unanimous decision.
Povetkin has not looked very impressive in his last five fights having only stopped one opponent in David Price back in March 2018 and was himself stopped by Anthony Joshua later the same year. He’s not faced a top 10 fighter in several years and is beginning to show his age.
Verdict: The Russian will look dangerous at times but Hunter has all the tools to neutralize him. I would have favored Povetkin 6-7 years ago but see the bigger, fresher and faster Hunter prevailing by lop-sided unanimous decision in this match-up.
Filip Hrgovic vs Eric Molina
Fast rising heavyweight star Filip Hrgovic will defend his WBC International title against Eric Molina. The Croatian fighter will be looking to make a big statement and has enlisted the help of legendary Cuban coach Pedro Diaz to oversee his preparations.
Molina (27-5, 19 KOs) a two-time World Title challenger from Texas USA, has mixed it at the top of the Heavyweight division throughout his twelve-year career as a pro. His first World Title attempt came against WBC king Deontay Wilder in 2015 when he took ‘The Bronze Bomber’ nine rounds before succumbing to a stoppage loss.
A year later, Molina travelled to the UK to face IBF ruler Joshua at Manchester Arena and was stopped in three rounds in what was ‘AJ’s’ maiden World Title defence. Fights against Terrell Jamal Woods and Dominic Breazeale followed in 2017 before Molina made his return in February earlier this year, outpointing Nick Guivas in Brownsville.
Hrgovic (9-0, 7 KOs), The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist has gotten off to a blistering start to his professional career, racing to nine wins from nine fights – with seven of those wins coming by knockout – since making his pro debut at the Arena Riga in September 2017.
Verdict: This will be a solid test for the maturing Hrgovic and we should not be surprised if Molina rocks him with hard punches throughout the course of the fight. However, the truth is that Molina has always fallen short each time he’s stepped up to face genuine contenders or champions evidenced by his losses to Chris Arreola, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Dominic Breazeale. Hrgovic should finally catch up with the older man to knock him around the eighth round.
Whyte vs. Wach
Top heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte will take on Poland’s Mariusz Wach on this huge card. The two fighters were originally set to face each other back in 2017 until Whyte pulled out because of a foot injury.
Wach (35-5, 19 KOs) has won two fights in a row albeit against soft opposition since going on a three-fight losing streak. Wach is widely known for his extreme toughness having taken on former unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2012, and lost a near-shutout decision.
Former kickboxing champion Whyte (26-1, 18 KOs) was last seen climbing off the canvas to score a points win over Oscar Rivas in their thriller at the O2 Arena in July. However, it was not revealed until afterwards that Whyte was allowed to fight by British regulators despite failing a prefight drug test.
Results of the random drug test concluded that he tested positive for the banned steroid Dianabol in his A-sample. The Rivas camp was understandably enraged by the failed drug test, which they were unaware prior to the fight. Ultimately, the WBC withdrew its recognition of Whyte as interim titleholder.
It must be noted that the positive test result was the second of Whyte’s career as he failed another drug test back in 2012 following his ninth professional bout.
Failed drug tests withstanding, Whyte has been on a hot streak winning his last 10 fights in a row since suffering a seventh-round knockout loss to Joshua for the British and Commonwealth titles in December 2015.
Verdict: Wach lost badly via 8th round stoppage to Congolese contender Martin Bakole in April. Bakolie is a good fighter but not on the elite level, which is a bad omen as he marches into high profile fight against a world challenger in Whyte. There are levels in boxing and these fighters are separated by several degrees. I like Whyte by stoppage in the 5th round in this scrap.
The Remaining Supporting Cast
As of this writing, three-time amateur world champion Magomedrasul Majidov (1-0, 1 KO) has been confirmed to face Tom Little (10-7, 4 KOs) in either a 6 – or – 8 round bout on the card. Majidov made his pro debut earlier this year in September when he stopped Ed Fountain at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 2012 London Bronze medalist has amateur wins over fellow Olympians like Anthony Joshua and amateur legend, Erislandy Savon during his stint in the unpaid ranks. Little, 32, has lost his last three fights by knockout to include a stoppage at the hands of David Price last time out at the O2 Arena in December 2018.
Verdict: This will be a good test for Majidov against a hardened veteran like Little but it will be the former’s superior amateur pedigree that will win the day.