RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 03: Anthony Joshua looks on ahead of the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World … [+]
Anthony Joshua is again the favorite heading into his rematch with WBO, IBF, and WBA Heavyweight Champion Andy Ruiz, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the opinions of fellow fighters, boxing trainers and other members of the fight community.
DAZN shared a slew of predictions with me ahead of Saturday’s fight, and while Joshua has his supporters, many believe Ruiz will again reign supreme.
What’s even more interesting than the predictions for Ruiz to repeat his game-breaking performance from June is the number of people pointing to Joshua’s mental state as a potential stumbling block, or at least a factor in their decision.
Take a look at what some had to say about Saturday’s fight in Saudi Arabia. I’ve bolded the sections where individuals show concern for Joshua’s desire or mental stability.
Adam Kownacki, undefeated contender
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 18: Adam Kownacki talks with members of the media about his upcoming fight with … [+]
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, KO 9th Round
“I think the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua fight is close to call. Both fighters are very well prepared, and it’s the heavyweight division where one punch could end everything. I feel that the winner will be who wants it more. Does Andy want to be know as a heavyweight champ and to prove that the first fight was not just won by luck? Or will Anthony do everything to get his title back? I’m not convinced Anthony wants the title back. I have Andy winning again.”
Amanda Serrano, seven-division world champion
BROOKLYN, NY – SEPTEMBER 06: Amanda Serrano speaks to the Press during the Final Press Conference … [+]
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, Jr, Mid/Late TKO Victory
I think that Ruiz will win again. I think mentally he has the edge, and Anthony, although a good fighter, doesn’t look really confident. I predict Ruiz stops him in the mid to late rounds.
Roman Gonzalez, four-division world champion
LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 13: Roman Gonzalez “Chocolatito” speaks during the undercard press … [+]
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, KO
“I believe that Ruiz has less pressure to win this time. Not much about his mindset has changed since winning the first fight and entering the rematch, I think that Joshua’s mindset is insecure. There are so many people trying to tell him what he should do in order to beat Ruiz.”
Carl Frampton, former two-weight world champion
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: Carl Frampton, a professional boxer from Northern Ireland talks on … [+]
Getty Images for Sport Industry Group
PREDICTION: Anthony Joshua, Decision Victory
“I go with Joshua, but someone is getting knocked out. Mentally, Joshua needs to be strong to regain the titles.”
Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing Hall of Famer
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 21: Sugar Ray Leonard attends Premiere Of “One Night: Joshua … [+]
“Ruiz gets the mental edge here as he has shocked the boxing world once. Joshua must show the world that it was nothing more than a fluke. This fight, I feel, is based on who controls what happens in this second fight and forgets about the first fight the best. This second fight actually reminds me of my second fight against Roberto Duran. No Mas! It must be outstanding and even possibly, bizarre!”
Rosie Perez, television personality and actress
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 19: Actress Rosie Perez speaks onstage during the 10th Anniversary … [+]
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, Victory
“It’s going to be interesting, for sure! Joshua has revenge on his mind as well as those four knockdowns. Ruiz got a taste of being the champion and is not trying to let it go. Both have trained hard, and both men have mean ass power. It could go all 12, but I don’t know about that. It’ll come down to whose will to win is stronger. Joshua, who was supposed to be the better skilled fighter, needs to use that skill set and go in and just demolish him with a crafty early KO for the win. If he doesn’t, and that first TKO from the first fight messes with his head, Ruiz will capitalize on that, show that he has skills too, and could get another W by putting him down once again.
Sway Calloway, host of SiriusXM’s “Sway in the Morning.”
OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 18: Sway Calloway at the SiriusXM and Pandora Sway Fest 2019 on October 18, … [+]
Getty Images for SiriusXM
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, Victory
“Can’t go against the Champ! Going for Ruiz now. His experience, boxing intelligence, and the fact that they were hugging like bosom buddies after the weigh-in pushed me that way. I haven’t felt the fire from AJ yet. Para La Gente!”
Charlamagne Tha God, host of Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.”
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 30: Charlamagne Tha God attends a discussion and signing of his … [+]
Andy Ruiz, Victory
“I hate to say it, but it’s a toss-up. I’ve never been big on Anthony Joshua as a fighter, he’s a really nice guy in person, but in the ring, I’ve always said I don’t think he could beat Wilder, Fury, or Ortiz. I even predicted in the first fight Ruiz would give Joshua all he could handle. I didn’t think Ruiz would win but he did and now we are here so with that said my feeling is Ruiz is going to win the rematch. I’m not sure if AJ mentally is in the right headspace to take this rematch so soon, I feel like he needs a tune-up fight first, but I am rooting for AJ to win because him as champion makes the heavyweight division that much more interesting, but we will see.”
Bellator Commentator, Jay Glazer
INGLEWOOD, CA – JULY 15: Jay Glazer speaks onstage during the 33rd Annual Cedars-Sinai Sports … [+]
Getty Images for Sports Spectacular
PREDICTION: Anthony Joshua, KO 3rd Round
“Hmm.. this is a hard one because you never know how a guy reacts to getting knocked out for the first time. Sometimes the glass breaks for good, and sometimes they respond in even bigger fashion. With that said, I will go Joshua in the rematch, I think he’s going to learn from the loss, and he’ll know how to deal with in-ring adversity better now. I say Joshua via KO in three.”
Bellator Analyst, “Big” John McCarthy
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – AUGUST 06: Referee John McCarthy announces the judges decision for Rony Jason … [+]
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
PREDICTION: Andy Ruiz, Victory
“My prediction is for Andy Ruiz to win again in the rematch. People put way too much value into the way these two fighters look, compared to how they compete. Ruiz has the advantage of knowing he’s knocked out Joshua once, which gives him confidence and Joshua apprehension. It’s a heavyweight match-up, so all it takes is one well-placed shot, but I say Ruiz gets it done again.”
For the record, 22 of the people DAZN asked for predictions picked Joshua, which is the same amount who tabbed Ruiz. Another 7 declined to pick a side. Still, it’s fascinating the number of people who are concerned with Joshua’s headspace.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 01: Anthony Joshua has the fight stopped in the seventh round against … [+]
It’s true, being knocked out in a combat sport can change the course and identity of a fighter’s career. However, I believe this quick shift to concern for Joshua’s mental stability were born from questions about his toughness that were likely in place even before the loss to Ruiz.
Many have seen Joshua as a big, pleasant, marketable and also skilled fighter. However, many have questioned his chin and grit. On Saturday, everything Joshua has worked for from a legacy standpoint is on the line.
Will he quiet the questions about his desire and mental state, or give his doubters more dirt to bury him? We’ll find out soon.