SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 31, 2019 – British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua brings his four world titles and his boxing star power to Madison Square Garden Saturday. Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) faces an improbable and unexpected opponent in Mexican-American heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr. of California’s Imperial Valley (32-1, 21 KOs). The fight and undercards air on DAZN USA starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Saturday, June 1. Joshua weighed in Friday at 247.8 pounds; Ruiz Jr. at 268 pounds.
Ruiz Jr. got the call when scheduled opponent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller of Brooklyn tested positive for nearly every performance enhancing substance banned in boxing, a multi-million dollar mistake. Enter Ruiz Jr., who was diligently training in the gym after an easy fifth round stoppage win on April 20 against Alexander Dimitrenko without a fight booked.
Joshua is arguably boxing’s biggest international star factoring in the ability to sell tickets. His only rival is Canelo Alvarez of Mexico. Ruiz Jr. might not be on boxing’s radar other than his razor thin, controversial majority decision loss to Joseph Parker of New Zealand in 2016. It was a fight many including this columnist believes Ruiz won.
Other than both being heavyweight boxers, Joshua and Ruiz Jr. couldn’t be much different. Joshua has the chiseled physique of a Greek statue. Ruiz Jr. describes himself as a “chubby kid” with little worry he ever took any PEDs. He admits to a liking for Snickers candy bars. Joshua lives a glam celebrity life in Great Britain. He’s received well wishes from Ed Sheeran, Harry Kane, and Dame Judi Dench among others. Ruiz Jr. comes from an agricultural area near the Mexican border where more people speak Spanish than English. He says as long as his family is ringside, it’s good enough for him.
Anthony Joshua wants to impress in his U.S. debut
Joshua is the clear favorite, but he’s saying all the right things about taking Ruiz Jr. seriously. “No challenge is easy, no matter what the bookers are telling you or the odd makers. Andy is going to come in here and give me a real good fight and cause problems, and it’s down to me as a champion to think smart, box clever, out box, out strength, and out muscle Andy Ruiz to get that win.”
Joshua is right in this respect: boxing can be full of surprises, not all of them good. “Right now I’m only champion till June 1 when I have to defend my titles. I’m currently the heavyweight champion of the world, but June 1 I put them in the air and they’re up for grabs. Let the best man win.”
For Joshua, it’s also about making friends and putting on an impressive display in his American debut. Add to the mix the opportunity to fight at The Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, no small achievement in itself for any boxer. If Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is right and more than 8,000 British fans show up at the Garden in a sold out arena, Joshua’s value outside the ring and bargaining position improves even more against his top rivals.
Andy Ruiz Jr. has nothing to lose
Andy Ruiz gets it. He sees himself in the mirror and he hears the jokes. He brushes it all right off his shoulders.
“It just gives me more motivation all the guys talking crap,” said Ruiz. “I don’t know if they are mad because I have got this opportunity, but I don’t have anything bad to say about anyone, I talk in the ring with my fists. I’m so mentally strong and prepared for this fight that I don’t care what people have to say.
“A lot of people underestimate me, like I said, the way I look, my appearance, but as soon as they see me throw punches, I’m going to pull out the upset. This is what I have worked for my whole life.
Joshua vs Ruiz: a battle of power against speed
Similar to Joseph Parker, Ruiz Jr.’s best physical talent is his surprising speed for a man his size. Ruiz is nimble enough to move well and eat up space in the ring. When he can land shots accurately, he can’t be counted out.
Joshua has excellent power, coupled with the resilience to overcome problems in the ring. Joshua can be hit and he certainly can be dropped, as both Dillian Whyte and Wladimir Klitschko discovered. But in both cases, Joshua kept his wits about him, weathered the storm and came back to win. Resilience is among the most underrated skills in boxing.
Underdog American challenger brimming with confidence
If you weren’t aware Ruiz Jr. was a late replacement, and you weren’t thrown off by his less than chiseled physique, his confidence in his ability to beat Joshua is convincing.
“Everyone AJ fights is scared,” said Ruiz Jr. I’m not scared of anyone apart from the man upstairs. There’s a lot of doubters out there but I don’t care, they only give me more motivation and confidence.”
Ruiz is the most dangerous type of opponent: someone easy to overlook, and someone with nothing to lose. Other fighters would be crazy to engage in a brawl with Joshua. Ruiz can go for broke. Why not? Ruiz never expected to get.an opportunity to pick up multiple world heavyweight titles. He might as well go for broke. “It’s going to be a hell of fight, I’m going to give it all I got,”
If Ruiz can crowd and frustrate Joshua while accumulating damage little by little, it will add up. He can look for Joshua to make a mistake and move in. Joshua hasn’t had a fight in nine months, his seventh round TKO of Alexander Povetkin. Ruiz Jr. has stayed busy the last 14 months. Joshua cannot afford a slow start and allow Ruiz Jr. to steal early rounds and gain confidence.
Joshua has the power and brash confidence to end the fight early. If Ruiz Jr. hits Joshua flush early in the fight without hurting him, it will encourage Joshua to pour on the hard punches and go for the early stoppage. It will send a strong message to Joshua’s main rival, American WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
“Fighting Andy for me is just as dangerous as fighting Wilder or Fury because they both possess their own skills, so I have to take Andy deadly serious,” insists Joshua. “I don’t overlook him at all, I respect him and respect his team, and I really respect he put his name on the dotted line to take this challenge.”
Ringside Seat’s prediction for Joshua vs Ruiz Jr.
It’s fun to imagine an upset victory for Ruiz Jr., upending the entire division. When Joshua, Wilder, and Fury aren’t putting fights together, seeing a brash challenger step up and beat them at their game would be the Mexican-American version of a boxing movie. It’s unlikely, though not impossible.
Joshua has proven he’s the real deal. Ruiz Jr. should give Joshua a solid test, and might even take him the distance. This pair should deliver plenty of action. But it will be a surprise if Joshua doesn’t take all his belts back home with him on Saturday.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on aocial media at @PRProSanDiego.
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