Andy Ruiz Jr shocked the world when he knocked out Anthony Joshua to become heavyweight champion back in June. Will the first ever Mexican world heavyweight champion prove it was no fluke?
Road To Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua 2
Anthony Joshua’s rise up the heavyweight ranks was a swift one. In only his 16th professional fight he became world heavyweight champion, taking out Charles Martin in just over four-and-half minutes to claim the IBF belt, and in his 19th outing he was able to stop the legendary Wladmir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium to add the WBA (Super) and IBO titles to his growing collection. In his 21st fight he claimed the WBO prize by recording his first ever decision victory in the pro ranks, moving him within one victory of unifying the entire heavyweight division, but as quick as his rise was, his fall from the summit was even swifter and more spectacular.
Boasting a perfect 22-0 record with 21 of his wins coming via stoppage, Joshua took his talents across the Atlantic to make his American debut back in June. The 29-year-old was set to face Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but just weeks before the fight was supposed to take place it was announced that the challenger had failed a drugs test, forcing promoter Eddie Hearn to scramble for a replacement. Andy Ruiz Jr got the call and those unfamiliar with him wrote off the chances of this short, rotund Mexican somehow dethroning the physical specimen that is Joshua.
Those within the sport were not as quick to write him off however – they considered him a step up from Miller in terms of quality and while he hardly had a physique that would put him on the front cover of Muscle & Fitness, it was well known that he was a skilful heavy-hitter with deceptively fast footwork. He had also taken Joseph Parker the distance when he challenged the New Zealander for the WBO heavyweight title back in December 2016, with a large portion of those who saw that fight feeling that he was robbed of a deserved victory as Parker took it via a majority decision on his home soil. Ruiz Jr clearly was no slouch, but surely it was only a matter of time before Joshua detonated one of those big punches on the challenger that ended the night in highlight reel fashion? Joshua did drop the Mexican on the night and we did get a sensational stoppage finish, but the result was not what the vast majority had expected.
From the moment Joshua stepped out of his dressing room there was a sense that something was not quite right with the world heavyweight champion, but it was difficult to really put a finger on what was ‘off’. Whatever it was, it did not look to be a gigantic issue when Joshua caught Ruiz Jr with an uppercut and followed it up with a left-hand that dropped the challenger to his backside for the first time in his career in the third round. Ruiz Jr did not look massively shaken but it appeared as though Joshua had made the breakthrough and would now go on to dispatch the Mexican in routine fashion – that assumption could not have been more wrong. Joshua recklessly went in for the kill and as the two men trader shots in rapid-fire fashion Ruiz Jr landed a left-hook that wobbled the champion and left him prone for a flurry of shots that sent the champion to the mat. Joshua got back to his feet, but unlike Ruiz Jr moments earlier he was on shaky legs and it was no real shock when the challenger hunted him down and sent him crashing into the ropes in the final few seconds of an explosive round. The bell came to Joshua’s rescue, but it would not save him in the seventh round. Moments before the round began a bemused and confused (and apparently concussed) Joshua asked Rob McCracken “why am I feeling like this”, and at that moment it looked almost inevitable that his reign would come to an end in the ‘Big Apple’. Inside the first 35 seconds of the round a flurry from Ruiz Jr dropped the champion for a third time in the contest, and another 30 seconds later it was all over as Joshua dropped to his knees and spat out his gumshield, causing the referee to wave off the fight and crown the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion.
An immediate inquest into the shock defeat began. Had Joshua overlooked the late replacement? Was Joshua ill? Had he really been knocked out in sparring while preparing for the fight? Had trainer Rob McCracken got it all wrong? Joshua and his camp dismissed all of those rumours and shot down any suggestion that he should split with McCracken, and later a video documentary was released on the fighter’s Youtube channel chronicling his camp all the way through to what happened postfight. Joshua told his father that he would go “back to the drawing board” and study to “become better, become stronger”. But has the former world heavyweight champion gone back to the drawing board? Will he come back better and stronger in Saudi Arabia?
Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua 2 Tips
This is an incredibly tough fight to call. Joshua has now been dropped and rocked multiple times in his career and having dropped the former Olympian four times in that thrilling contest back in June, Ruiz Jr will be more than confident that he can prove the first time was no fluke. He will come into this contest even more prepared too, having had several months to train and not just a couple of weeks, so you have to think that Joshua is facing a much more dangerous opponent than the one he faced in New York.
And then there are the questions surrounding Joshua. Was his career well stage-managed and crafted to make him a world champion? Is there really an underlying reason why he did not look like a fighter that was ready to go on June 1? Can he overcome such a brutal knockout loss? Is his confidence shattered? Has he learned lessons from the mistakes he made? All of these questions cannot be answered until the moment that opening bell rings in Saudi Arabia, but we already appear to know the answer to one question – had Joshua got too big for his own good? The former champion was a huge mass of ripped muscle when he stepped into the ring for the first meeting, and questions were asked about whether not that increased size had slowed him down, made him less agile and result in him blowing up faster? Recent photographs have shown Joshua looking a lot smaller than he did for the first meeting, so I would imagine we will see a much faster and more agile Joshua as he tries to cope with the stifling conditions in Saudi and fight a much smarter fight.
And by smarter fight I mean not standing in the pocket and trading bombs with Ruiz Jr. It would be unfair to say that Joshua has a glass jaw – this is the heavyweight division – but the simple truth is that one punch can change a fight in an instant in this division and he is coming up against a man who dropped him four times at MSG. Ruiz Jr knows he has the power to get the job done inside 12 rounds again and although he was knocked down himself during the first meeting, he knows that he can cope with the power of Joshua to an extent. What the challenger needs to do here is make the most of his height and reach advantage, utilise his jab to the fullest, pepper Ruiz Jr at range, maintain his poise, patience and focus throughout, and pick and choose his moments to go on the attack. Basically he needs to watch some tapes of the Klitschkos! It may not be pretty but that is the road to success for Joshua here.
Can he do it? I believe he can. We saw when he beat Joseph Parker that he could produce a mature, and composed performance for 12 rounds and the key here is weathering the early storm that will almost certainly come from Ruiz Jr. The champion, buoyed by those four knockdowns in June, will believe that he can be produce an even more spectacular victory in the rematch by taking out his challenger in even less time, but as long as Joshua can keep his much shorter opponent at range the less opportunities Ruiz Jr will have to land real bombs that will test his chin. It may not be pretty and it may not be entertaining, but Joshua will not care if he can carefully manage this bout for 12 rounds and get the nod from the judges.
Of course, there is also every chance that Ruiz Jr is simply all wrong for the former champion and he has shown that he only needs to land one big punch to swing the fight in his favour. That is why I am also suggesting backing Over 8.5 Total Rounds for a spot of insurance. I do not see either fighter being taken out in short order here and this bet will, of course, be a winner no matter who wins the fight, as long as it passes the halfway point of the eighth round.
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What The Experts Are Saying
Ex-world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury talking to Business Insider: “It’s heavyweight boxing. One punch can change a fight drastically. It’s a bizarre location in Saudi Arabia and the heat might affect both fighters. If anything, Andy Ruiz might be more used to the heat because he’s Mexican and lives in California. It’s always hot there whereas Joshua lives in London and it’s not always hot there. He’s already been knocked out, so that favours Ruiz. I think fighting fire with fire with someone who is quicker than you and puts better shots together is a disaster. I don’t really see the fight going any differently unless AJ comes out and boxes on his toes, which we know he can’t do.”
Former world champion turned promoter Oscar De La Hoya: “I think we’re going to have the same result. I think Andy Ruiz probably has his number. The fact that Ruiz is going to get better. He’s going to get faster, and probably stronger. I don’t think Anthony Joshua is going to correct anything. He’s been fighting all these years. As a fighter, it doesn’t make me think he can change things up, but who knows? In boxing when you’re a heavyweight, and he has that heavy punch, anything can change. But I just think Ruiz has the better chin, and has less distractions than what Joshua has.”
Former undisputed world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis on Twitter: “If AJ fixes what needs to be fixed, it will be a different fight. Ruiz hasn’t faced the best AJ yet. If AJ doesn’t get things fixed, could be a repeat for Ruiz in same fashion.”
Former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko talking to Seconds Out: “I am definitely looking forward to the rematch, Andy Ruiz, as a champion, against Anthony Joshua. We know Anthony has lost, as anyone can lose, and now we’re going to watch how he is going to manage this challenge to become champion again. I could think anything but the reality is everyone can lose a fight but not everyone can recover. It’s the next challenge and I really wish to Anthony that he’s going to make it. No disrespect to Andy Ruiz, I think he’s done an amazing job, but I’ve always been a fan of Anthony since we fought, we’ve met, since actually I was watching him win an Olympic gold medal. To both the fighters – good luck, let the strongest win. I just really hope Anthony is going to make it.”
Ex-super-middleweight world champion George Groves talking to BetVictor: “I though it [the first fight] would be a foregone conclusion that Joshua would beat Ruiz comfortably. I felt that he wasn’t right – I’m not part of the Joshua camp, I don’t know what went on behind closed doors, but he didn’t seem right on the night. He’s denied that. For me the ideal situation would be to bring it back to the UK… have that home advantage and make Ruiz travel to you. The fact it’s gone to Saudi Arabia, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion now that he’s going to recoup his belts. It makes it much more interesting and maybe it’s down to who copes best with travelling to Saudi Arabia.”
World heavyweight title contender Dillian Whyte talking to IFL.tv: “I just think Joshua needs to do what he does best. I don’t think he should listen to all this negativity. That’s all nonsense. He needs to do his thing and do what he does best. What he does best is to be strong and aggressive and be on the offensive. That’s what he does. Ruiz clocked him with a good punch, behind the ear, and he didn’t recover. It’s boxing. Everyone gets put on their arse sooner or later. Now it’s his turn. He just needs to listen. If he uses his jab more against Andy Ruiz he knocks him out. He just needs to jab more.”
Trainer Peter Fury talking to Sky Sports: “Anthony Joshua was bending over, making himself 5’8″, so what do I make of that? Box tall. You have seen what he did against Andy Ruiz – boxed short and got knocked out. Use your attributes. Use your height, use your boxing. Stop going around in a circle like that, when all your body is totally still. Get some lateral movement from the hips, because it’s not just about going around in a circle. Go that way, go that way, go that way and get on your jab. Be loose. That’s all he needs to do, and [Ruiz Jr] will tire out, because he’ll start throwing caution to the wind. He’s still going to be there, but I think with the power of AJ, if he starts catching him with long shots on the way in, ties him up and uses his weight, he’ll win the fight. He could get a late stoppage or easily on points… he’s only got to keep turning him and keep him on that long jab, keep tying him up, and he’ll win it, landslide it. Same way as he fought Parker. If he does that, repeats that, he’s winning it.”
Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua Tale Of The Tape
What The Fighters Said
Anthony Joshua: “I am looking at myself in the mirror and saying I know I’m better than that [first fight]. Andy is still the same person. He will come game and I’ve got to change some of my bits and bobs. I was 50% of the way towards getting a win [in New York] and just got caught. It was a punch from the gods. It wasn’t a lucky punch from him, it just caught me on the head and I couldn’t recover. It was pitch perfect. Getting to the top is one thing, but staying at the top for an amount of years, that’s a whole other story. I’ve got to up my game to get my title back.”
Andy Ruiz Jr: “I know that Anthony Joshua is going to come hard, he’s going to come strong and will be preparing really well but so am I. The hunger still remains. I don’t want 15 minutes of fame, I want this to last for a generation. I want to be a champion for many years and I have a good fighter next to me who is going to try and take these belts, but god is with me and we’re going to be training really hard for December 7. I expect a tougher test this time round, he is more hungry and wants his belts back, but that is what is motivating me and making me more hungry. I want to train harder because I know he is. I only had a month, month and a half, to train for the first fight, but this time we have a whole camp so it benefits me. It is going to be an exciting fight, a hell of a fight.”