This Saturday on DAZN from Saudi Arabia, Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua hook it up again, six months after their first stunner of a bout that set the boxing and sports world ablaze.
Let’s take a look at the matchup, which certainly feels a lot different this time around.
What’s at stake?
Ruiz is defending the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles that he won from Joshua on June 1 in New York. More than that, this is just plain a huge fight, will be one of the biggest of the year. This is can’t-miss stuff.
How did Andy Ruiz Jr get here?
Andy Ruiz Jr was a good amateur boxer in Mexico with a reported 105-5 record, but he never quite broke through on the international level, with notable losses to the likes of Michael Hunter, Zhang Zhilei, Robert Alfonso, and Oscar Rivas. He went pro in 2009 at the age of 19, weighing in at 297½ pounds. 11 months later, he’d gotten himself down to 250 for his third pro bout, but a month after that he was back up to 271½.
Weight has been a common theme for Ruiz’s career and those who have tried to judge his upside. And let’s be completely honest: Andy Ruiz is fat. He’s not boxing writer fat, but he’s fat. It is what it is. And it has just never made a real difference in his career, other than how he’s been treated promotionally, at least until now.
Ruiz was with Top Rank for the bulk of his pro career, and there was constantly talk that he “needed” to lose weight, that he “needed” to look better. He never quite got the push that he might have if he were muscular and lean. In 2013, he beat Joe Hanks, then an unbeaten prospect who definitely looked the part, stopping Hanks in four. But he kept floating under the radar. It was clear he had some skills, but he wasn’t really being pushed much by his opposition, either.
In Dec. 2016, Top Rank sent Ruiz to Auckland, New Zealand, to fight Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title. Parker eked out a majority decision in a very competitive fight, one Ruiz might well have won on American soil. And then he didn’t fight for 15 months. When he returned, he beat journeymen Devin Vargas and Kevin Johnson in 2018, then left Top Rank for PBC.
A win over veteran Alexander Dimitrenko in April of this year showed Ruiz looking fiery and determined. Prior to that bout, it was reported that Jarrell Miller had lost his June 1 date with Anthony Joshua. Ruiz said if he came through the Dimitrenko fight with no injuries or anything, he’d be happy to face AJ. It was a guy shooting his shot, unlikely as it seemed.
After a lot of negotiations and rumors, Ruiz did land the fight with Joshua. Expected to get trounced by most everyone, Ruiz found himself on the canvas in round three, and it looked like everything was going as imagined. Then he roared back, dropping Joshua two times that round and twice more in the seventh, where referee Michael Griffin stepped in and stopped the fight.
It was, without question, the Upset of the Year. It was probably the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing since Douglas over Tyson. It became the boxing story of the year. A fight with little real buzz going in became a monstrous mainstream happening.
Now Andy Ruiz is fighting from a totally different perspective. He’s got the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles. He’s the defending champion on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. There are at least some expectations of him this time around.
Has the fame and success softened his demeanor? Will he fight with the same hunger he did six months ago? These are valid questions he must answer. Is Andy Ruiz Jr the real deal, or is he a one-off fluke, a Buster Douglas or Hasim Rahman?
How did Anthony Joshua get here?
Anthony Joshua didn’t even start boxing until he was 18 years of age, taking up the sport which quickly gave him a new direction in life. He won the ABA Championships (now known as the England Boxing National Amateur Championships) as a novice in 2010, and repeated in 2011. He came up short at the 2011 European Championships and took silver at the 2011 World Championships, but won super heavyweight gold at London 2012, albeit with some controversy in his first round win over Erislandy Savon of Cuba, and more in his gold medal match with Italy’s Roberto Cammarelle.
Questionable decisions or not, it was clear watching Joshua in London that this was a fighter with real professional upside, and potential star quality. He had the size, he had the power, and he just plain looked like a star heavyweight.
After turning pro in 2013, things moved pretty fast for Joshua. He won the Commonwealth belt in his 14th pro bout by stopping Gary Cornish in 97 seconds, and added the British title in his next outing in Dec. 2015, beating Dillian Whyte.
A world title came in April 2016, halfway gift-wrapped for him when the IBF stripped Tyson Fury and put that title on the line between Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov. Due to injury to Glazkov, Martin came in with the belt. Joshua wiped him out inside of two rounds.
Joshua’s reign started with wins over Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina, and he added the WBA belt with an April 2017 victory over Wladimir Klitschko, a fight that was a true test for AJ and saw him down in the sixth round before stopping the generational great in the 11th round of a fantastic war that won many Fight of the Year awards.
After a win over Carlos Takam, the WBO belt came into Joshua’s possession with a decision victory over Joseph Parker in Mar. 2018, giving AJ three of the four major titles. Alexander Povetkin challenged in Sept. 2018, and while the Russia had a little success, he was out in the seventh round.
Jarrell Miller was meant to serve as Joshua’s opponent for the British star’s U.S. debut this year, but tested positive for a handful of banned substances on various tests and was taken out of the fight. Ruiz stepped in. The rest is history.
There are questions for Ruiz to answer, as mentioned, but AJ has the more obvious ones. Does he really want this? Will he be able to rebound from a devastating upset defeat? Is he going back at Ruiz too quickly?
How do the fighters match up?
Joshua towers over Ruiz, as you can see in every photo of them together. When the fight started in June, I noted just how ridiculous the optics were, purely in a visual sense. Anthony Joshua is 6’6”, chiseled from granite, with an 82” reach. Ruiz is 6’2”, chubby, and has a 74” reach.
There was a lot of talk from Ruiz this year when he got his career going again with PBC that he’d hired a chef and was focusing more on his conditioning, then he came in at 262 pounds for his April win over Dimitrenko. That was his highest weight since 2014. And then against Joshua, with a quick turnaround right into another camp, he was 268.
There’s a line in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball about a minor league ballplayer, Brant Colamarino. Oakland GM Billy Beane was/is known for drafting a lot of guys who scouts and more traditional baseball people look at and dismiss. Word came back to Beane from a minor league coach that “Colamarino has titties,” which didn’t bother Beane. “Titties are one of those things that just don’t matter in a ballplayer,” Lewis wrote.
Colamarino didn’t quite make it, for what it’s worth, and being fair, most guys built like Ruiz don’t make it in heavyweight boxing. But Ruiz has made it. Andy can fight, and his style proved a terrible match for Joshua in June. So forget how it looks, because it doesn’t matter.
Who’s the favorite?
As of this writing, Joshua is the favorite again, but obviously by far less than the first fight. Joshua closed at -3000 last time around after opening at -2000. This time he opened at around -350 and the odds have tightened a bit, with Joshua now averaging around -275 and Ruiz at +140 or so. But there’s still the sense among the oddsmakers that the first fight was something of a fluke.
Who will win?
Check back on Friday at Noon ET for our staff picks!