STAR PREVIEW: Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua

The wait for the biggest heavyweight title fight in recent history is almost over. Newly crowned heavyweight king Andy Ruiz Jr will put his WBA, WBO & IBF heavyweight titles on the line against Anthony Joshua in a rematch that has captured the worlds imagination, to such an extent that the fight is heading to unchartered territory. Billed as ‘Clash on The Dunes’ by promoter Eddie Hearn and this will be the first heavyweight title fight to take place in Saudi Arabia and will take place in an open air, purpose-built stadium, highlighting the magnitude of the event.

It is fair to say that at the start of 2019, nobody could have predicted we would be here. Rewind back to the fateful night in June (highlights below), Anthony Joshua entered the ring unbeaten and considered the most precious commodity in the sport of boxing. The fight with Ruiz, was seen as a necessary defence, one that would whet the appetite of the American public for a huge unification bout with unbeaten WBC Champion, Deontay Wilder.

Ruiz was a convenient late replacement (signing for the fight on three weeks’ notice) and had a respectable record of (32-1 21KO). But despite this, he was mocked by fans and the media alike for his physical appearance. ‘AJ’ was a general 1/25 favourite before the fight and many ‘experts’ predicted an easy night’s work, with prices as short as 8/11 for him to knock Andy Ruiz Jr out inside six rounds.

Things were going as planned for Joshua and after knocking Ruiz down heavily early in the third round and a vicious knockout on his American debut looked likely. However, boxing very rarely follows the script and late in the third round, a perfectly timed left hook from Ruiz Jr, caught Joshua high on the temple, a punch that has since been replayed millions of times and will go down in boxing history. Although it didn’t end the fight, Joshua never recovered and stumbled around the ring on unsteady legs until he the fight was beaten out of him in round seven and the fight was stopped by referee Michael Griffin, with Joshua looking exhausted, confused and dejected in his corner. Andy Ruiz Jr had pulled off the biggest upset in boxing history.

Six months on, the tables have turned. Ruiz is revelling in his new found superstar status as the first ever Mexican Heavyweight Champion and has been displaying the spoils of war on social media, giving fans an insight to his new life of purchasing mansions and driving supercars. ‘AJ’, on the other hand, has locked himself away. Limited media appearances, speaking only with carefully selected media outlets and displaying a ragged physical appearance, Joshua looks like a man who has reverted back to the drawing board, as he looks to claim the belts that made him one of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

Surprisingly, Ruiz Jr (pictured below) enters the fight as the (2/1) underdog with Joshua the (2/5) favourite. Despite winning convincingly and knocking Joshua down three times in the process, many still believe he may have got lucky. Ruiz is (11/4) to repeat what he did six months ago and stop Anthony Joshua, which is an interesting angle to look at, due to the fact that Ruiz has had in excess of three months to prepare for this fight, rather than the three weeks’ notice he had earlier this year.

Joshua has hinted at a more professional, more cautious approach this time around. During the limited media he has done in the build-up, he has alluded to being more disciplined, having more specific sparring partners to get him familiar with Ruiz’ fighting style. A loss here for AJ would be catastrophic and would put him out of potential mega fights with Deontay Wilder & Tyson Fury in 2020. This is a must win fight and it would be no surprise to see ‘AJ’ revert back to the boxing ability that seen him win Olympic Gold and despite issues over his fitness, he has won over the twelve round distance before and a price of (15/4) for him to win on points, could be of interest.

Both men proved they could hurt he each other the first time round and for Ruiz Jr, especially, he hurt ‘AJ’ on multiple occasions and with his superior foot work and faster hand speed, it is inevitable that he will be able to land clean punches on Joshua at some point, which makes the price of (7/4) for Joshua to be knocked down, very interesting.

As for Joshua, he has stopped or dropped, all but one (Joseph Parker, who interestingly holds a win over Ruiz Jr) and despite some flaws in his game, the sheer power Joshua possesses has never been questioned and taking all the above into consideration, both fighters to be knocked down at (10/3) is also a bet you may want to keep on your side.

There is no denying the importance of this fight and the consequences for the loser. Joshua has to win to keep his career on track and for the first time in his career, he looks across the ring at a man that knows he can beat him, if he is not at his best. The psychological aspect of this fight is fascinating and while AJ is out for redemption, Andy Ruiz Jr is out to prove that he should never be under estimated again.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK JOSHUA TO WIN ON POINTS 4 pt at 15/4 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 218.18 points
(excluding Political Bets posted 8 August and 23 Nov, Premier League ante-post, Cameron Brown football bets)