Alexander Povetkin vs Michael Hunter
I love this matchup, this one’s flown under the radar because it’s on a massive fight’s undercard, but this is terrific matchmaking on both sides. Povetkin is still a quality heavyweight contender, but he’s also 40 years old now. Hunter is a former cruiserweight who’s been looking really good since his move up to heavyweight in 2018, going 6-0 since the jump.
Povetkin is definitely a naturally thicker guy, but he’s not particularly bigger than Hunter. At 6’2” with a 75” reach, Povetkin weighs between 220 and 230 for fights, and has been consistent with that through his entire pro career. Hunter is 6’2”, will have about a four-inch reach advantage, and might weigh less than Povetkin but probably not by a ton. Both guys have solid technical skills, both have some pop. Just a good matchup.
Picking a winner here is tough for me. Hunter is definitely the fresher, younger man, but Povetkin has proven a good deal more at heavyweight, too, and hasn’t looked washed by any means yet. A little over a year ago he gave Joshua a decent fight through six rounds before being stopped, and he was still plenty good enough to outpoint Hughie Fury in August. But I’m going with the American, in part because woo USA, and in part because I think this is a guy starting to come into his own, starting to truly find his groove as a fighter at 31. I think it’s going to be competitive and close, but Hunter gets the nod. Hunter MD-12
Michael Hunter enters this fight as the betting favorite but I’m not all that sure how I feel about him as a fighter. That’s because I don’t think he really has a signature win yet that convinces me that he’s at the world title level and I’m not overly impressed by his style. Povetkin is no world titleholder, but he’s been there several times at least, against fighters much better than Hunter has ever faced.
While Hunter carries the reach and youth advantage, Povetkin at 40 has mostly been able to keep himself intact physically, whether by natural means or otherwise. That aside, Povetkin knows how to close distance and get in his power shots, and he seems to still be pretty strong, so I think he presents a dimension that Hunter hasn’t really seen yet. Maybe Hunter by decision would be the safe bet, but I’m going to take Povetkin to pull it off on the cards after 12 rounds pushing Hunter back. Povetkin UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
I’m all for cruiserweight-sized fighters testing their mettle against the big boys, but I can’t say I was terribly impressed by Hunter’s victory over Sergey Kuzmin last time out. He lacks the eye-catching speed you’d expect from an undersized heavy, making up for it with volume and fluidity, and though that’s good enough against lumbering hulks like Kuzmin and Alexander Ustinov, it remains to be seen how it’ll stand up to genuine technicians with genuine knockout power.
Unfortunately for Hunter, Povetkin is one of those. I’m not convinced Hunter has the overall boxing skill to befuddle Povetkin, a far less stationary target than the men he’s dealt with before, and the punches he absorbed from Kuzmin have me thinking that “Sasha” will find the mark sooner rather than later. Povetkin goes tit-for-tat until a big right hand ends things. Povetkin TKO-6
This is a great matchup between two guys at very different stages in their career.
Povetkin has seen pretty much every boxing style in the game, with Hunter unlikely to pose the Russian a threat he hasn’t overcome previously. This isn’t to say that Hunter isn’t meeting Povetkin at the perfect time in his career. “Sasha” has shown he is open to getting tagged in recent outings, with a win over Hughie Fury more of a reflection on Hughie’s reluctance to throw a right hand than Povetkin’s current standing amongst the heavys – still, he negated a slippery, awkward, yet limited fighter in Fury.
Hunter has a solid skillset, with speed and fluid mobility a possible problem for the 40-year-old Russian. It’s still a big jump up from his previous wins since moving up to heavyweight, but if he can stay away from that big right hand he could quite possibly get this one on the cards. It would certainly be a statement win for Hunter. Hunter UD-12
And the staff winner is...
We have a draw (2-2)!
Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua 2
I’ve said for a while now that I wouldn’t make up my mind about Ruiz-Joshua 2 until I saw how they were behaving closer to fight week. I was curious about the mindset for both guys. Would AJ really be able to bounce back, or would a shock loss ruin him? Would Ruiz let the sudden jolt of fame and success go to his head and screw him up?
I still don’t think we’ll really know until the fight is over and done with, honestly. I don’t know these guys personally, I’m not spending time with them when the cameras are off, I’m not a therapist or anything, I don’t know where their heads really are. But what I do think is that Andy Ruiz is an awful matchup for Anthony Joshua. I’m not saying AJ can’t crack him and get him out of there, because AJ has the sort of power to do that to anyone. He dropped Ruiz in the first fight and can certainly do it again, and this time he might finish, maybe a little more aware that Andy is going to come back firing if/when he gets hurt.
I know Max Kellerman took a lot of heat for that “muscle memory” comment about Ruiz and Joshua after the first fight, but I honestly don’t think the idea is particularly out there. Joshua is a lot stiffer and more robotic than Ruiz, whose punches flow more naturally. He reacts differently than AJ does, whether he’s in control or his back’s against the wall. I think he sees chances quicker than Joshua does. And Joshua has a problem, dating back to the amateurs, with the left hook — which Ruiz throws well.
I’m going with Andy to repeat. The pressure here is still pretty much all on Joshua, and I think he’s going to crack again. Ruiz just might have this guy’s number, period. Ruiz TKO-6
Ever since Andy Ruiz upset Anthony Joshua last summer there have been tons of people publicly claiming that Ruiz is just an awful style match-up for Joshua. And while there were definitely at least some folks who said before their first fight that we shouldn’t count Ruiz out, the general sentiment was that Joshua was going to roll over Ruiz en-route to a much bigger fight against Deontay Wilder. Well, Joshua lost to Ruiz in pretty spectacular fashion, and I’ve seen a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking since.
Ruiz, despite his looks, is a really competent fighter who’s been doing it his whole life. He’s not really an easy out for anyone, I think. But is Ruiz really a ‘special’ fighter? I personally don’t think so. Joshua certainly isn’t looking all that ‘special’ himself at the moment, but I’m not going to write him off completely. I mean, Joshua did drop Ruiz pretty hard himself in their first meeting, so it’s not like he can’t get to Ruiz, and the more I watch their first fight the more it’s clear to me that Joshua simply never got his legs back after one shot behind the ear that ruined his equilibrium. The effect of those kind of shots can be fluky, but I certainly don’t think it’s a fluke that Ruiz fought to the best of his ability.
But in this rematch I think Joshua is simply in a much more desperate position than Ruiz, and that’s because so much more is expected of him. This time I think Joshua is much more careful to limit exchanges on the inside with Ruiz and tries to keep the fight at range (whether or not that makes for an appealing fight). If Joshua does that, I see Joshua taking the fight on the scorecards over the distance. Joshua UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
For all the whining I’ve done about immediate rematches, I’ll admit that there’s some intrigue to this one. Between both men’s changes in strength and conditioning and the fact that the first fight was competitive before Ruiz’s left hook, there are enough questions swirling about to dash the fear of a cookie-cutter sequel.
That said, there are enough answers swirling about to be confident in the final outcome. The fact that Ruiz’s durability proved superior will be paramount in both men’s heads, and even if Joshua is fully mentally recovered, I don’t think he can avoid a climactic exchange for too long. Expect Ruiz to push the pace more than he did before, potentially opening himself up to the hook that caught him last time but most probably resulting in an earlier finish. Ruiz TKO-5
The outcome of this rematch seems highly dependent on the changes Joshua has been able to implement in camp. The addition of Angel Fernandez to his team will have been in an attempt to improve Joshua’s holding, inside fighting and attacks from a less rigid, upright stance. AJ’s fundamentals have been built by McCracken, but we may see a more rounded fighter this time around with his loss in muscle mass a sign of the speed and pop he is looking to utilise.
Ruiz will look to stay in the pocket for as much of the fight as possible – catching and parrying Joshua’s long jab without being forced back is crucial for the champion to be able to unleash his best work while closing the distance. Joshua’s lack of head movement will continue to inspire Ruiz in an attempt to throw clusters in the hope that one lands flush. The “Destroyer” looked quick on the pads in the open workouts, but may not necessarily have a plan B this time around. That’s fine, as long as plan A works, but with Joshua likely to bide his time in Diriyah, Ruiz may become frustrated at the midway point.
The first fight was spun on its head when Joshua was countered going for the kill – a more measured approach will be the tactic, but can it be followed? Ruiz may well be Joshua’s bogeyman, but I can see him finding an equaliser in the desert – there still might well be a couple of scares along the way. Joshua KO-9