When Andy Ruiz Jr defeated Anthony Joshua by TKO earlier this year, it was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Joshua, the former heavyweight champion, was undefeated in 22 fights, and since the shock loss the career of the 30-year-old from Watford has hit something of a crossroads.
In just a few days, however, he will get his chance for revenge when he and Californian-Mexican Ruiz Jr touch gloves for the second time in Saudi Arabia. These exciting betting odds have Joshua as the favorite to get the win this time, but Ruiz Jr is by no means expected to go down easily.
Going on appearances only, it’s tough to imagine the Californian being any sort of match. Where Joshua is one of the most imposing physical specimens on the planet, standing at just under two meters tall and weighing in at 113kg of pure muscle, Ruiz Jr looks more like someone you might see in an amateur boxing ring in Thailand. He concedes a massive 15cm to Ruiz Jr and their conditioning couldn’t be more different. But that’s the mistake many made last time; underestimating the heavy underdog (pardon the pun), who was ultimately able to send the heavyweight champion to the floor on four occasions en route to victory.
Joshua’s lead-up to this fight is vastly different than anything he has ever experienced before – indeed, the loss to Ruiz Jr was the first of his career, so never before has he been in the position of heading into a fight with revenge as a motivator. And the man himself sees that as a good thing: ‘I’ve been boxing for 11 years now and I have always been on top…this has been six months of letting Andy Ruiz take all that pressure.’
Despite that claim, however, much of the talk in the lead up to this fight has been about how Joshua will respond to the defeat rather than how Ruiz will respond to the victory. And that talk has come in a variety of forms; there has been everything from conspiracy theories about the loss to harsh criticism of long-time trainer Rob McCracken. The one constant, however, has been that much of the conversation has been directed at Joshua. Publicly he may claim that all the pressure is on his opponent, but privately, surely, he knows that the opposite is true.
Joshua is also in the unfamiliar position of having a loss to study – something he claims to have done plenty of. He has experience facing Ruiz’s left hook which caused so many problems in the last bout, as well as what he claims to be an underrated jab. But the conclusion he came to about his opponent after doing all of this homework? ‘He’s good but I don’t think he’s great.’
For Ruiz Jr, however, the question of who the better fighter is doesn’t seem to generate much enthusiasm. Repeatedly, he has made mention of the fact that the respective styles of fighting employed by the two is what enabled him to earn that unexpected victory back in June, and is what will again hold him in good stead heading into this bout. According to Ruiz Jr, ‘styles make fights and I’ve been calling out AJ for a while. I knew his style was perfect for me and that’s why I plan to do the same thing’.
In the lead-up to the fight, however, there have been question marks about whether the man who unexpectedly took away Joshua’s belts back in June has lost focus over the last few months courtesy of the riches he gained from the win. And it’s true that his life has taken a major turn – aside from the obvious financial gains, he’s also spent time with the Mexican president, become a hugely popular figure for Mexican Americans, and entered the public consciousness in a way that he could never have imagined. But Ruiz Jr insists these are just ‘material things’, and that his focus remains on Joshua as he tries to build a legacy.
In June, the boxing world was sent into shock when the chubby Andy Ruiz Jr took down one of the sport’s most iconic figures in Anthony Joshua. Since then, the two have endured vastly different six-month periods, but given the magnitude of their rematch on December 7 it’s hard to imagine they’ll be anything but ready for the fight. There is a lot of respect between these two, but it’s clear that each has plenty of confidence in their ability against the other. The bookies have Joshua as the comfortable favourite – though much less comfortable than last time – and he should be able to get the job done, but as we found out in June, anything can happen.