Defending WBA, IBF and WBO titlist Anthony Joshua makes his debut on U.S. soil against underdog Andy Ruiz Jr., who will be looking to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion. Their matchup will be broadcast live on DAZN this Saturday, June 1 from Madison Square Garden.
How Did We Get Here?
Joshua was originally scheduled to face Jarrell Miller before the fight was scraped because “Big Baby” failed three drug tests for a banned muscle growth hormone discovered within his system. Miller was subsequently refused a license by the New York Athletic Commission and has since issued an apology for his actions.
Team Joshua scrambled to find a late replacement in the intervening weeks as potential opponents like Ortiz and Kownacki ruled themselves out.
Enter the California-born Ruiz, 29, who fought for a world title once before losing narrowly to Joseph Parker for the then vacant WBO world title back in December 2016. Promotor Eddie Hearn was particularly impressed by Ruiz’s fighting spirit and said that he “will do anything” to become a world champion.
Tale of the Tape
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) is the hands-down betting favorite in this contest between known punchers. He will hold a four-inch height and substantial reach advantage over the 6’2” Ruiz (32-1, 21 Kos).
The champion is coming off a pulverizing 7th round TKO victory over experienced top Russian contender Alexander Povetkin in September 2018 but has been inactive for nearly 9 months and will be looking to put on a show in his U.S. debut.
AJ might also be under some added pressure to outshine WBA titlist Deontay Wilder, who knocked out common opponent Dominic Breazeale in one round two weeks ago to keep their eventual mega-clash alive.
Standing in his path of course is the portly yet deceptively skilled Ruiz. Ruiz turned pro in 2009 following a good amateur career where he reportedly compiled a 105-5 record, but he didn’t make a big impact either. He competed in tournaments throughout Mexico and just missed qualifying for the 2008 Olympic games.
While Joshua has wins over the likes of Dillian Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Eric Molina, Carlos Takam, Wladimir Klitchschko, Joseph Parker and Alexender Povetkin, Ruiz narrowly lost to Parker in his biggest fight to date.
However, Ruiz is no pushover having never been stopped and holding his own against the aforementioned Parker albeit in a losing effort.
Neither man is particularly built for speed as the champion is a bit too muscular and robotic at times while Ruiz is a chubster. That said, Ruiz has very good hand speed and is at his destructive best when fighting on the inside and has a powerful right hook.
It is still a big step up for Andy, whose probably not been matched tough enough throughout his 10-year pro career for a fight of this magnitude against the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and reigning unified heavyweight champion.
We can be assured though that Ruiz will come to fight and realizes that now is the time to prove that he truly belongs in the upper echelon of boxing’s flagship division.
Keys To Victory
Chin/Heart – Joshua has excellent power but his chin is still a question mark. He does not react well when hit flush and has been rocked by Whyte and dropped (and nearly stopped) by Klitchshko. Of course Andy is not in the same league as these fighters but has respectable power and the ability to reach Joshua’s chin if he can get past the Brit’s ram-like jab and daunting reach advantage. It must also be noted that AJ boasts remarkable recuperative powers and shows great resilience when hurt.
Conditioning – The most obvious knock on Ruiz is that he does not always enter the ring in the best of shape. He was 262Ibs against tough but faded veteran Dimitrenko. The Mexican puncher has endured much criticism over the years for his fluctuating weight and physical appearance although he has continued to win impressively. You figure that Andy will need to be in the best shape of his life for this particular fight to have a chance against a specimen like AJ. Then again, the champion has appeared gassed at times but only against the few opponents that have been able to push him. Will Ruiz even be around long enough to take Joshua into deep waters and test his stamina in the later rounds?
Defense – As imposing as Joshua might be, he does not take many risks in fights or they are most often calculated risks. A cursory study of his past fights reveals that he usually stays away from slugfests preferring to box opponents from the outside and use his size advantage. However, he is an excellent finisher and almost always goes after an opponent when they are hurt. Andy can be hittable and needs to use head movement as well as make himself a smaller target to minimize damage.
Ruiz has the seemingly impossible task of beating Anthony Joshua. He is virtually overmatched in every category and the bookies are right to favor the Brit to extend his perfect streak to 22-0. However, ‘The Destroyer’ has both stamina and durability, traits that he will need in abundance to compete against Joshua much less defeat him. Ruiz’s best shot to pull off the upset is to mix up his underrated boxing skills with measured aggression to unsettle Joshua early on and earn his respect. He has the above-average discipline to pull it off. However, the more likely scenario is that AJ will simply have too much for the American-Mexican and this one will end inside the distance.
Joshua by knockout in Round 6