Anthony Joshua Looking to Avenge Historic Upset Against Andy Ruiz Jr.
Former heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua will face current champion Andy Ruiz Jr. in a rematch this weekend in Saudi Arabia.
Updated: Dec. 4, 2019 • 10:33 PM ET
Anthony Joshua hopes to become a world champion again.
Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will attempt to avenge one of the biggest upsets in boxing history this Saturday, as he’ll face Andy Ruiz Jr. for his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world titles in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua won his first title (IBF heavyweight) in 2016 with a second-round knockout of Charles Martin. Three fights later in 2017, Joshua secured the biggest victory of his career with a TKO of Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko, adding the WBA and vacant IBO belts to his collection. He later claimed the WBO belt after defeating Joseph Parker by unanimous decision in 2018.
Joshua defended all four belts against Alexander Povetkin in September 2018 before being upset by Ruiz in June. Ruiz wasn’t Joshua’s original opponent, as the then champion was scheduled to fight Jarrell Miller. Miller, however, was removed from the fight in April after a positive drug test.
While digital and pay-per-view numbers dropped due to Miller being pulled from the fight, Madison Square Garden was packed to see the Olympic gold medalist and Ruiz produce one of the most entertaining rounds in heavyweight history. In round three of the bout, Joshua dropped Ruiz with a beautiful combination. But seemingly un-phased by the champion’s power, Ruiz roared back with hand speed and brutal combinations of his own, dropping Joshua twice in the round and leading to the eventual seventh-round finish.
Joshua hopes to have made the proper training adjustments for his second fight with Ruiz.
“Sparring is important, because it is the closest thing you can get to the fight,” Joshua recently said via The Guardian. “We don’t always want to do it because it is a big cost, but it’s the best way to prepare. They throw everything at me.
“If I do 12 rounds, then it’s with five different people back-to-back and I am dealing with every shot coming at me. Ruiz doesn’t get enough credit for his jab. We need to be prepared for that, which is why we got so many sparring partners in.”
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Joshua believes he’s ready to prove that the second fight will be different from the first encounter.
“Until he caught me, I was beating him to the punch,” Joshua said. “They are all quick but first two or three rounds, I was beating him to the punch. He got hurt, I just have to keep down this time.”
Ruiz went into the first fight with Joshua with just one loss by majority decision to Joseph Parker for the then vacant WBO title in 2016. He was a relative unknown fighter to casual fans going into the fight with Joshua, but has never been considered a lower level fighter by those who’ve paid attention. Don’t be fooled by his physique, as Ruiz’s hand speed and combinations are among the best in the heavyweight division.
Twenty-two of Ruiz’s 33 wins have come by knockout. Like his speed, his power has been deceptive to those who have stepped in the ring with him. Ruiz feels he’ll be ready for Joshua’s game plan, no matter what changes the former champion has made.
“We had a longer preparation than we did for June 1st, so I’m pretty sure he has a really good game plan up his sleeve,” Ruiz recently said via Bad Left Hook. “But what we’ve been doing is going to be perfect for his style that he’s gonna try to do so, we’re gonna be working real hard. I don’t wanna predict a knockout or what’s gonna happen, but the main thing is I’m gonna do whatever I can do get the victory.
“I think he’s gonna be boxing around, you know. I think he’s gonna be using his distance, try to jab me around, but it’s my job for him not to do that.”
The winner of the Joshua and Ruiz rematch is expected to face the winner of a rematch between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury in 2020 to unify the heavyweight division. A unification fight is long overdue and regardless who wins on Saturday, a unified heavyweight champion would be the best thing for boxing.
The card will also feature a WBA heavyweight eliminator fight between former champion Alexander Povetkin and Michael Hunter.
Povetkin (35-2, 24 KOs) is a former WBA heavyweight champion and defended the belt four times before losing it to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013. Since losing the title, the Olympic gold medal winner is 9-1 with the only loss being a seventh-round TKO to Joshua in 2018.
Povetkin defeated prospect Hughie Fury by unanimous decision in August, but the 40-year-old hasn’t looked the same since knocking out Johann Duhaupas in the sixth round of their 2016 bout. The WBO had ranked Fury highly, but that had more to do with him being Tyson Fury’s cousin than who he had actually beaten in the ring. This weekend, Povetkin will have his hands full with the hungry, hard-hitting Hunter.
Hunter (18-1, 12 KOs) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Sergey Kuzmin in September. His only loss was to Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO cruiserweight title in 2017, and he has won six straight fights since moving up from cruiserweight. Hunter displayed his power in the fight with Usyk, forcing the champion to change his game plan to win a less than fan-pleasing decision over Hunter.
Hunter, however, has the chance to prove he’s a championship caliber fighter and believes he’ll do so in spectacular fashion this weekend.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for me, and I have got to prove myself once again,” Hunter said in a press release statement. “Whether you’re the underdog or the favorite, it’s all the same because I feel like I am the best fighter out there. I look at this fight with Povetkin as my ‘gold medal’ fight.
“I was in the Olympics and so was he. He won the gold medal and I didn’t, so this is basically my gold medal fight right here.”
Given what is at stake and that both fighters have something to prove, this fight could easily steal the night in Saudi Arabia.
• Start time/how to watch: The main card can be seen on DAZN at 11 a.m. ET this Saturday.