Anthony Joshua to Defend Heavyweight Titles for First Time in U.S.
British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will fight in the United States for the first time on Saturday when he defends his titles against Andy Ruiz Jr.
Updated: May 30, 2019 • 2:25 PM ET
Anthony Joshua hopes to walk out of Madison Square Garden with his titles.
The IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles will be on the line this Saturday, as champion Anthony Joshua will defend the belts against Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden. The co-main event will be for the WBA super middleweight title, as Callum Smith will defend against Hassan N’Dam.
Joshua will defend his three titles for the second time since unifying against Joseph Parker in March 2018 with a unanimous decision victory. Joshua most recently defeated Alexander Povetkin by seventh-round TKO in September, while the fight against Parker is the only time Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) has ever reached a decision.
The 29-year-old Joshua was originally scheduled to fight Jarrel Miller, which when announced became the highest-grossing pre-sale in Madison Square Garden boxing history. The two fighters complemented the sales by physically and verbally assaulting one another at the launch presser in February. However, Miller failed three separate drug tests and was pulled from the fight last month, resulting in Ruiz being chosen to step in to challenge Joshua.
Joshua wants to put on a show for the fans this weekend.
"I want a knockout, heavyweight boxing is about knockouts," Joshua recently said via The Telegraph. "I always want to do that for the fans, but the bottom line is to get a win, however it comes."
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The fight will be Joshua’s first in the United States, and he knows he has something to prove to American boxing fans.
"Yeah, I will use the energy that The Garden has,” Joshua said. “I’ve got to prove myself in America, because I don’t think they will come out and accept you easily. If you want to be respected out here, you’ve got to be the real deal.
"They’ve had the best champions flying their flag, so I’ve got to stamp my name in the American books. But I get a really good reception. They embrace the English, that’s for sure."
While boxing fans are waiting for the highly anticipated showdown between Joshua and WBC American champion Deontay Wilder, Joshua knows not to look past Ruiz.
"He has the mentality and the heart,” Joshua said. “Ruiz works hard, he’s dedicated, he’s had 30-odd fights. He’s done it time and time again and this is his chance to prove to the world he’s a force to be reckoned with."
Aside Povetkin and Parker, Joshua has key wins against Carlos Takam, Wladimir Klitschko, Eric Molina, Dominic Breazeale, Charles Martin and Dillian Whyte. With so many fighters clamoring for a chance to take on Joshua, including fellow Brits Tyson Fury and Whyte, we may have to wait for a unification fight with Wilder a bit longer.
Wilder recently inked a rematch with Luis Ortiz with a date and location still to be determined, but it’s expected to take place in the fall.
Ruiz is riding three straight victories after losing to Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title in 2016, the first loss of his pro career. He most recently defeated Alexander Dimitrenko, whose corner stopped the lopsided fight in the fifth round in April. Ruiz has nothing to lose in a short notice fight, but feels like he has something to prove.
“It just gives me more motivation, all the guys talking crap,” Ruiz said via Bad Left Hook. “I don’t know if they are mad because I have got this opportunity, but I don’t have anything bad to say about anyone, I talk in the ring with my fists. I’m so mentally strong and prepared for this fight that I don’t care what people have to say.
“A lot of people underestimate me, like I said, the way I look, my appearance, but as soon as they see me throw punches, I’m going to pull out the upset. This is what I have worked for my whole life, I’m here to take what Anthony has. I’m ready to shock the world.”
The 29-year-old Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs) believes Saturday’s fight is his chance to prove that he belongs on the list of the best heavyweights in the world.
“People will see what I can do,” the California native said. “It’s going to be an all-action fight with two big guys punching each other in the face, hard. I’m in this to win it.
“Everyone else that has fought him has lost before they get in there, I’m not thinking like that, and that’s the difference. The most important thing is to win and prove to the fans that I belong at this elite level. I’m not going to chase the KO but I know that it’s there if I execute my combinations. I’m feeling good and ready, AJ hasn’t boxed for nine months and I’m sharper than ever and very motivated.”
Joshua will without a doubt represent the biggest test of Ruiz’s career.
Saturday’s co-main event will be for the WBA super middleweight title, as undefeated champion Callum Smith will defend the belt against Hassan N'Dam.
Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) most recently defeated George Groves by seventh-round knockout in September to win the WBA title and has been linked to big bouts with fighters such as Canelo Alvarez. Yet, he respects his opponent on Saturday.
“(N’Dam’s) good,” Smith said via Eurosport Asia. “I’ve sparred him before; he’s a two-time world champion, down at middleweight, and has some good wins; Curtis Stevens, Martin Murray, which he’s coming off.
“He’s a good mover, has good feet and will try and make it as awkward and tough as possible. He’s not an ideal opponent, not fan-friendly, but if I perform as I can, I can win in a fan-friendly style.”
N’Dam (37-3, 21 KOs) is a two-time world champion, having previously held the WBO middleweight title in 2012 and the WBA middleweight title in 2017. He most recently defeated Martin Murray by majority decision in December, which was a big rebound after losing the WBA title in a rematch to Ryota Murata in October 2017.
Aside from Murray and Murata, the 35-year-old N’Dam has faced world-class competitors such as David Lemieux, Curtis Stevens and Peter Quillin.