by Cliff Rold
Anthony Joshua fighting in less than a stadium will mean a different atmosphere. The biggest ticket draw in boxing over the last few years, Joshua goes from stadium to Mecca.
He gets a passport stamp along the way.
Making his US debut at Madison Square Garden, Joshua brings his WBA, IBF, and WBO belts across the pond for the first time. Originally slated to face undefeated Jarrell Miller, Joshua instead ends up with Andy Ruiz after Miller tested positive for several banned substances.
Does Ruiz have a shot?
The Californian doesn’t necessarily look the part but he can fight a bit and gave Joseph Parker a good go in his previous shot at a belt. This is the chance of a lifetime.
This is a chance to turn the division on its ear.
Will it happen?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: IBF heavyweight (2016-Present, 6 Defenses); WBA heavyweight (2017-Present, 3 Defenses); IBO heavyweight (2017-Present, 3 Defenses); WBO heavyweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 247 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Record: 22-0, 21 KO?
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: 182-11-1 (.941)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Charles Martin KO2; Wladimir Klitschko TKO11; Joseph Parker UD12
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 268 lbs.
Hails from: Imperial, California
Record: 32-1, 21 KO
Press Rankings: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Last Five Opponents: 135-19-3 (.869)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Sergey Lyakhovich UD10; Joseph Parker L12
The Case for Joshua: While he isn’t the heavier man, Joshua is clearly the bigger one. He’s taller, at 82” has an eight inch-reach advantage, and has nary an ounce of fat on his frame. Joshua is also the bigger puncher, having finished all but one of his professional opponents with a higher quality of opposition than Ruiz. If Joshua uses his jab and moves his feet he can make it hard for Ruiz to get work done by controlling the space of the contest. When Ruiz gets inside, Joshua has shown he is capable; the 2012 Olympic gold medalist is perhaps the best man his size at close quarters since Riddick Bowe. Ruiz’s soft middle will be an inviting target for body shots. So far, Ruiz’s chin has been an asset but Joshua’s power is different than what he’s seen before. If Joshua can catch Ruiz coming forward, or with the uppercut inside, he has the chance to end things with an exclamation point.
The Case for Ruiz: It was a little surprising to see Ruiz, who just fought on April 20th, come in to this fight six pound heavier than his last out. He’s up approximately sixteen pounds from where he was in a July 2018 win over Kevin Johnson. His size hasn’t slowed his hands and that’s where Ruiz can make this a fight. He has a smart jab, quick fists, and puts shots together well. Alexander Povetkin had some success for six rounds against Joshua getting off quick and in multiple. Ruiz sometimes clubs rather than snaps his right hand but it’s a heavy club. Joshua has been hurt before. If Ruiz can get close and land something big Joshua doesn’t see coming, we might find ourselves in a more dramatic battle than most predict.
As much as Ruiz’s hand speed might help, he doesn’t appear to have the foot speed to stay inside Joshua’s jab consistently. Joshua has almost every physical advantage, more power, and a notable edge in quality professional experience. Ruiz might make this a good fight but it’s hard to see much path to victory here. The pick is Joshua by stoppage.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]