DIRIYAH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 04: Eddie Hearn stands between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua … [+]
Hardly anybody would have predicted that Andy Ruiz would knock out Anthony Joshua last June and take all three of his heavyweight titles. The oddsmakers certainly didn’t think so, making Ruiz about a 10/1 underdog. But despite the fact that Ruiz mostly dominated Joshua six months ago, many observers still don’t think Ruiz can repeat his upset win.
It might be because Joshua looks like the stereotypical heavyweight champion while Ruiz and his portly figure, um, don’t. It might be because Joshua is a huge moneymaker in the sport. It might be because Ruiz, they think, landed a lucky punch that discombobulated Joshua or because Joshua overlooked him the first time.
“Joshua should win. He just should win,” trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, who’s actually leaning toward a Ruiz win, told the Showtime Boxing podcast. “There’s too much of a size and athletic advantage for him to lose to Andy. You never know about a fight. Better fighters than Joshua have lost to lesser fighters than Andy. Oliver McCalll beat Lennox Lewis. S*** can happen, man.”
The sports books still aren’t making Ruiz the betting favorite either. Instead, that honor is reserved for Joshua, who is -205 (a $205 bet yields a $100 payday) while Ruiz is +175 (a $100 wager pays out $175). But ultimately, betting lines won’t matter. Instead, let’s talk to the fighters and experts of the sport who know these boxers better than most anybody else.
Regis Prograis: Like many prognosticators, the former 140-pound titlist who’s coming off a unification loss to Josh Taylor in October isn’t exactly sure who to pick. He likes Joshua, but what Ruiz managed the first time makes him wary to pick the British fighter. “I go back and forth. I want to go with Joshua. But Ruiz is still hungry, and he might just have the style to give Anthony Joshua problems,” Prograis told me. “He might have his number. I really think he overlooked Ruiz the first time, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Ruiz can repeat that again. If I had to bet, I’d bet Ruiz.”
Keith Thurman: The former welterweight titlist who would like a rematch with his conqueror Manny Pacquiao—don’t count on that happening, by the way —leans toward Joshua. And it’s because Thurman knows Joshua can drop Ruiz too. “People forget Joshua got the first knockdown in the fight and it could have been over,” Thurman said, via Seconds Out. “It wasn’t but it could have been. Joshua didn’t look like Joshua. A lot of times when fighters are fighting a replacement [Ruiz took Jarell Miller’s place in the first fight], they sit on the couch a little longer. Joshua trained in Miami for that fight. I haven’t heard of too many great training camps that happen in Miami. Stuff goes down in Miami, but not great training camps.” Assuming Joshua had a more focused training camp, Thurman is picking Joshua.
Deontay Wilder: A few weeks ago, Wilder had a pretty good night vs. Luis Ortiz, knocking him out and holding onto his version of the heavyweight crown. It’s been well documented that he and Joshua have failed time and time again to negotiate a deal to fight each other (before the Ruiz loss, obviously). The way Wilder is picking this fight—for Ruiz—the two might never get the chance to meet in the ring. Still, he laughs at the idea proposed by Joshua after the first fight that Ruiz landed a lucky punch. “There’s no way he can be a lucky puncher,” Wilder told Business Insider. “This man landed multiple times, that’s a lot of lucky punches.”
KSI: The YouTube star who beat Logan Paul in an honest-to-goodness professional fight last month is close with Joshua, his countryman. Therefore, it’s not a huge surprise that he thinks Joshua will get his redemption on Saturday. “He’s extremely prepared compared to last time,” KSI told me. “Ruiz did well, and AJ was a bit complacent. He didn’t think Ruiz was as good as he is. He’s someone you can’t take lightly. AJ is extremely focused now.”
Kubrat Pulev: The former title challenger, who was knocked out by Klitschko in 2014, thinks Ruiz will win—if he’s trained properly. Like most everybody else, Pulev has seen the new cars bought by Ruiz and the partying he’s done, and he has wondered if Ruiz worked hard enough to beat Joshua the second time. “He’s a popular guy now, at this moment,” Pulev said, via Boxing Scene. “There’s a lot of cars, all the time, pictures everywhere. When he stays focused and serious with training about boxing, I believe he will win. This time it’s not so easy to win, but I think he can win when he’s serious … I think Joshua this time will be different. He learned from his mistakes, and now I think his team and himself are maybe different. They’ll have a different strategy and they’re more serious. This loss he had, I think it’s because he thought, ‘I’ll just win easy.’ But it’s not like that.”
Ronnie Shields: The well-regarded trainer predicts Ruiz will win again by knockout. And the reason is simple. “I think he stole Joshua’s heart when Joshua dropped him and he got back up and nothing happened,” Shields said, via Fight Saga. “I really think Joshua realizes he can’t hurt this guy. Joshua hit him with some good shots [and] dropped him but he didn’t do anything to him, and he hit Joshua and Joshua couldn’t take it.”
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