Andy Ruiz Chosen As Anthony Joshua's New Opponent:
After weeks of speculation and back-and-forth with numerous boxers, Matchroom Boxing has chosen Andy Ruiz Jr. to be Anthony Joshua’s opponent for their June 1 main event fight at Madison Square Garden.
For those still unaware, Joshua, the unified WBA “Super,” WBO and IBF heavyweight champion and British superstar, was going to fight undefeated New York native Jarrell Miller on a Matchroom Boxing card that will be streamed on DAZN, but Miller failed a number of drug tests in March, testing positive for HGH, EPO and GW1516. As such, Miller was taken out of the fight after the New York State Athletic Commission refused to license him for the fight.
As such, Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, set out to search a number of heavyweights from all over in order to save the main event and the card itself. The initial list of candidates had several notable heavyweights, but none of them were Ruiz. From that list, fighters such as Luis Ortiz, Adam Kownacki, Manuel Charr, Trevor Bryan, Michael Hunter among others were either considered for the fight or had some form of negotiations before it fell through.
Ruiz was never initially considered for the fight, but after beating Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20, Ruiz called out both Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder, hoping to eventually get a title shot. That was enough to pique Hearn’s interest to the point where he eventually become one of the two finalists considered to be Joshua’s replacement opponent alongside Hunter.
In the end, Ruiz was chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, Ruiz has been a heavyweight longer than Hunter and does present an interesting challenge to the much bigger and longer Joshua.
At first glance, it seemed like Ruiz really stands no shot at beating Joshua based on his physical appearance. Ruiz doesn’t have the impressive physique the unified champion has, but those who have seen Ruiz fight know that his skillset is far more impressive than what he looks like. Ruiz is not exactly a tall heavyweight, but he more than makes up for that with his ability to punish fighters on the inside with deceptively-fast combinations. The build-up to this fight will mainly focus on convincing the non-hardcore fans that Ruiz is a credible threat to Joshua. Part of the logic behind that stems from the fact that Ruiz had a very close fight against Joseph Parker for the then-vacant WBO heavyweight title back in 2016. Given that Parker is the only fighter to have ever taken Joshua to the distance, the idea that Ruiz can do the same holds some merit, at least in the promoter’s eyes.
However, styles make fights and given how Joshua’s physical gifts translate well into the boxing ring, it’s abundantly clear what the gameplan should be for the British champion to walk away with the titles: keep moving back while working the jab and use the eight-inch reach to score points and win rounds. The key for Ruiz will be his ability to take the fight to the inside as early as possible.
But there’s another reason why Ruiz was chosen over Hunter in the end. With the fight taking place in New York City, a place with a huge Hispanic population, the idea that Ruiz, one of the top Hispanic heavyweights today, could drawn in some extra ticket sales is certainly a sound one. Ticket sales for the event are still going strong, with most of the tickets at the 200, 300 and 400 level sold out. Although the 100 level tickets are still aplenty at the venue’s website, expect a decent walk-up heading to the event. To say that Ruiz bringing in enough Hispanics to ultimately have an attendance of at least 17,000 wouldn’t be that farfetched.
The rest of the card remains intact for the most part with undercard being one of the deepest in the sport so far this year. The biggest fight of the undercard (though there’s no word about this being the co-main event, but it should be) is a bout between pound-for-pound stars Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon to crown the first-ever women’s undisputed champion.
As far as the rest of the undercard is concerned, expect at least two more world title fights to be announced for the card. The first one is WBA “Super” super middleweight champion Callum Smith defending his title against Hassan N’Dam, though that fight hasn’t been finalized. Based on rumors and N’Dam, a former secondary middleweight titlist, being placed in the WBA 168-pound rankings out of nowhere pretty much cements that title fight happening on June 1.
The fourth title fight on the card is one between WBA super flyweight champion Kal Yafai and mandatory challenger Norbelto Jimenez. This fight has also not been formally announced and it isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that the fight will land on the Joshua-Ruiz card and instead be on its own card in the United Kingdom.
A number of fights had already been announced or at least publicly stated will happen on the June 1 show. Junior welterweight contender Chris Algieri will defend his WBO International title against Tommy Coyle on the undercard with the idea that Algieri is being groomed for an eventual shot at WBO world champion Maurice Hooker either towards the end of 2019 or early 2020. Lastly, undefeated prospect Austin Williams will be on the undercard, likely as one of the first fights on the DAZN undercard or serve as the one or two fights that would be exclusive on social media.
Ultimately, what this card will prove is the true drawing power of Joshua in the United States. Aside from a fight against Dillian Whyte, Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk or Tyson Fury, no heavyweight was going to get people's attention towards the fight more than they already have when Miller was Joshua's opponent. Assuming DAZN's subscription count in the United States is roughly 600,000 heading to June 1, I would think that an increase of at least 100,000 subscribers for that show and the June 8 card headlined by Gennadiy Golovkin vs. Steve Rolls would be considered solid growth as the platform will look to continue putting major fights for the next few months.
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