Andy Ruiz Jr pulled off one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history by defeating Anthony Joshua in June. The British superstar has the chance to win back the world titles on Saturday night in their hugely anticipated rematch in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua determined to avenge shock defeat
The ‘Clash on the Dunes’ will be a groundbreaking world heavyweight showdown and all the pressure is on Anthony Joshua in a fight he simply cannot afford to lose.
AJ’s aura of invincibility was shattered by the stunning shock at Madison Square Garden and he faces a career-defining contest in the Middle East.
The Watford heavyweight has a professional record of 22 victories, 21 of which have been inside the distance, with his only defeat coming against Andy Ruiz.
Former world champion Joshua knows he has to deliver this weekend and promoter Eddie Hearn is well aware his prized global asset’s reputation will be permanently damaged if he fails to reverse the result from their first fight in the summer.
The 30-year-old boxer has enjoyed an extraordinary rise to stardom with his phenomenal power and athleticism creating an enormous fan base.
Joshua needed just 16 fights to be crowned IBF world heavyweight champion in 2016 after knocking out Charles Martin in two rounds at the O2 Arena.
It started a dominant run as world champion by Joshua with Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina both easily dealt with inside the distance.
Joshua’s classic confrontation with Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 at Wembley will go down as one of the great heavyweight fights. After being put down for the first time in his career, Joshua recovered brilliantly to stop Klitschko in the 11th round of an absolute thriller and win the WBA and IBO world titles.
A tenth-round stoppage victory against Carlos Takam in Cardiff followed before Joshua unified the titles against Joseph Parker last year.
The British boxer was taken the distance in Cardiff, for the first time in his professional career, but still claimed a unanimous points victory to add the WBO world title.
Normal service resumed at Wembley with Joshua producing an emphatic seventh-round stoppage against Alexander Povetkin.
His boxing career appeared to be moving along seamlessly before his American debut ended disastrously in New York.
After Jarrell Miller’s drugs ban resulted in a late replacement, Joshua was expected to cruise to victory against an overweight Ruiz.
The 1/25 favourite knocked down Ruiz in the third round but what followed was almost unfathomable. The Mexican-American rallied and a left hook sent Joshua tumbling. AJ never recovered and was floored another three times before the fight was waved off in the seventh round.
It was an extraordinary outcome but will history repeat itself in Saudi Arabia?
Ruiz bids to stun AJ again in Saudi Arabia
Ruiz, who comes in significantly leaner than in the first fight, stunned the world in the summer with his incredible upset and the portly heavyweight has the chance this weekend to prove to doubters his triumph was no fluke. He has a professional record of 33 wins, with 22 by KO, with only one blemish which was a contentious loss.
Ruiz was beaten harshly by Parker three years ago after a questionable points decision went against him in Auckland. Wins against Devin Vargas, Kevin Johnson and Alexander Dimitrenko followed but virtually no-one gave the late stand-in a realistic chance of becoming world champion.
‘Destroyer’ Ruiz blew the world heavyweight division apart with his brilliant win in New York and a potential unification with Deontay Wilder could follow if he manages to stun Joshua for a second time.
Joshua v Ruiz: The verdict
The dismissive odds on Ruiz are long gone but the world champion is still the outsider to leave the ring with his belts on Saturday night.
Joshua, who comes in lighter this time, is 2/5 to avenge his defeat while Ruiz is 2/1 for a repeat victory. Anyone who watched the first fight will have real difficulty in putting faith in AJ at these odds.
Ruiz’s lightning hand speed was hugely troublesome for Joshua and his defensive weaknesses could easily be exposed again.
Countering that, it would be a major surprise if Joshua has not learnt from the defeat and the unconscious complacency from the first fight will be long gone.
It is 1/4 the fight ends before the final bell and it is hard to argue with these odds. AJ is a knockout artist but also has frailties which leave him in danger of another stoppage defeat.
This should be an explosive rematch and the best bet could be to back under 7.5 rounds. Expect both boxers to look for an early finish and this is unlikely to last a long time.
Joshua has a 91.3 per cent knockout ratio and Ruiz also knows he has the speed and punch power to stop the challenger.
Something’s got to give and although 11/4 on a Ruiz stoppage is tempting, a safer bet is to go for an early finish in this duel in the desert.
Considering Joshua was knocked down four times in the first fight, Ruiz will fancy his chances of putting him on the canvas again in Saudi Arabia. Joshua to be knocked down during the opening six rounds looks a big price at 2/1 in a contest where the favourite looks anything but a banker.