Joseph Parker vs Andy Ruiz Jr
Record: 21-0 (18 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’4" / 76" ... Age: 24
Notes: Parker is one of those regional stars who looks good on paper and has thus far passed his tests, but there is going to remain doubt until he faces real world level competition. Maybe he’s going to be New Zealand’s all-time greatest heavyweight. Maybe he’s not.
On that subject, David Tua is the name most contemporary fans will think of, and he has an argument. There’s Tom Heeney, "The Hard Rock From Down Under," a man who challenged Gene Tunney for the world heavyweight championship in 1928, in what was Tunney’s final fight, a TKO-11 win over Heeney. Heeney also fought the likes of Jack Sharkey and Max Baer in his career, which spanned from 1920-1933.
And of course, there’s Bob Fitzsimmons, who won the world heavyweight championship in 1897, defeating James J. Corbett, losing to James J. Jeffries in 1899. (Fitzsimmons was also part of the infamous 1896 bout with Tom Sharkey, where referee Wyatt Earp disqualified Fitzsimmons amid much controversy in the eighth round. Earp, whose status as a heroic lawman is almost always overstated in popular culture, was a natural fit for boxing.)
But Fitzsimmons won the world heavyweight title weighing in at 167 pounds. He also fought as a middleweight and a light heavyweight. By modern standards, he would be a light heavyweight at best. It’s hard to compare the eras, even harder than comparing Parker and Tua to Heeney’s time.
Parker has good power, but he can be outboxed. During the portions of their May 21 fight where Carlos Takam seemed awake and in tune with his surroundings, Takam was able to score points on Parker pretty cleanly. Parker got and deserved the decision, but it was more Takam losing that fight than Parker winning it, in some ways. Since then, he’s stopped rugged Solomon Haumono and not-so-rugged Alexander Dimitrenko.
Ruiz makes for an interesting test, a boxer first with good skills, who could give Parker some real fits.
Andy Ruiz Jr
Record: 29-0 (19 KO) ... Streak: W29 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’2" / 74" ... Age: 27
Notes: Andy Ruiz Jr is fat. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what matters more: he can fight. That said, Top Rank has moved Ruiz at a snail’s pace. This year, he’s fought three times, beating dilapidated Ray Austin, Josh Gormley, and Franklin Lawrence. These are not the wins that one might hope for out of a supposed world title contender.
But Ruiz is here now, and it’s sink or swim. I theorized earlier this week on the podcast that Top Rank’s matchmakers have seen something in Ruiz that made them hesitant to move him quickly. They’re not really promoters of heavyweights by trade; in recent years, they’ve had a few projects, like Tye Fields, but nothing by the way of a real contender.
Ruiz is a good boxer-puncher, has quick hands, and can move a little bit, which you wouldn’t guess on the eye test. He’s got a solid KO percentage, but his power hasn’t always proven out against tougher foes, like Lawrence or former world titleholder Siarhei Liakhovich. If he’s going to win this fight, it most likely will come on points, and he’ll have to box his way around Parker’s power.
This is the cash out that, perhaps, Top Rank has been waiting for with Ruiz. If he wins, they’ve got "the world heavyweight champion" in their stable, and can tout that. If he loses, he loses, and that’s kinda that with him.
Parker’s a step up, even if he’s been a bit oversold. Ruiz does have the potential to outbox him, but can he do it convincingly enough to win on the road?
Matchup Grade: C+. This isn’t a bad fight to make, really, but it’s not hugely significant, either, despite the fact that the vacant WBO title is on the line. That’s more a consequence of political maneuvering and power than anything else, really. Still, as the matchup goes, I like it — both guys could potentially be big trouble for the other, and we’re going to learn something about both of them.