So the time is almost upon us for the rematch of Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz but, after one of the biggest upsets in recent times, what can we expect to see when the pair go back at it on Saturday night. To try and get a better understanding of what we are likely to see, we once again caught up with Boxing Monthly’s Tom Craze. If you like what you read and want to know a bit more, be sure to catch Tom’s podcast.
We’ll start simple again, did you watch the first fight? What did you think?
I think it was probably the most shocking result I’ve ever seen play out live. Those who’d watched him previously knew that Ruiz Jr was always a far cry from the no-hoper some would have had you believe, but putting it all together to beat a fighter as formidable as Joshua was something very few would have confidently predicted.
Do you think there is any truth in the rumours about what happened in sparring or what happened before the ring walk?
Potentially, but I think to put much stock in those is to unfairly discredit Ruiz’s performance on the night. Most fighters have issues to deal with during camp. Joshua did look nervous and possibly distracted, but I don’t believe he wouldn’t have made the ring walk if there were serious concerns.
Do you think the performance of Andy Ruiz Jr has been dismissed as a fluke?
From some quarters, yes. The “lucky punch from the gods” soundbite has been recycled more than enough times, and it’s not an accurate reflection of the fight. This wasn’t a one-punch knockout like, say, Rahman’s versus Lewis — Ruiz capitalised on an error from Joshua and went on to exploit the weakness until he’d ground him down completely.
Do you think AJ and his team got the tactics wrong?
Stylistically, Ruiz is a difficult match-up for Joshua, but I’m not sure this was a case of getting tactics wrong — things were going mostly to plan up to the first knockdown. Joshua dropping his left hand lower than usual and throwing his jab from the hip was strange, but feels more like a disregard for what was likely to be coming back than anything else. I think complacency and an underestimation of the man in front of him was more to blame than the idea of any tactical error instilled by McCracken.
What changes have each fighter made ahead of the rematch?
We’ll find out on Saturday night how their game plans might differ, but the obvious change from Joshua is a physical one. I think most would agree he was carrying unnecessary mass for at least the Ruiz fight, if not longer. For Ruiz, he may feel very few changes are required: he knows he can get up from Joshua’s best shot, and he knows he can hurt Joshua – and exactly how he can do it.
How much impact did the change of opponent make to the outcome of the fight?
I think it was a huge factor. I don’t believe Joshua would have had the same problems with Miller. The question is whether Ruiz’s fast hands and inside-fighting capabilities are truly Joshua’s kryptonite and whether a full camp was all that was required to negate the threat.
What impact will the fight being in Saudi Arabia make to the outcome of the rematch?
Very little. I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s Joshua who has more to lose, but unlike last time and the added pressures that the much-hyped US debut brought with it, location shouldn’t be a factor for either man.
Given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, do you think there a moral obligation for boxing not to hold events there?
Right at the intersection of sport and business, boxing is – and always has been – a law unto itself. Moral obligations will never rank highly on its priority list when there’s a new highest bidder in town.
Finally, how do you see the fight playing out?
Who wins? I can’t remember the last time I was this torn on the outcome of a big fight. The most logical prediction is undoubtedly Ruiz — it’ll take an enormous turnaround from Joshua to rectify the weaknesses that were chipped away at so relentlessly last time, and he’s only had a small window to get that process right.
Any Joshua pick comes with several assumptions and a huge asterisk: that the late-notice replacement was an unsettling factor, that the hand speed of Ruiz can be somehow circumvented, that Joshua can actually deal with a shorter, faster fighter on the inside.
Joshua’s the favourite for a few reasons though, and one is that there’s a public belief – even now, after all we’ve seen – is that he’s the more talented man and has the higher ceiling. Gun to head, I’ll say Joshua fights smarter, more assertively, and fully focused on the threat of Ruiz. I don’t see Joshua trying to box his way to a decision, like he did against Parker, and I don’t see it going the distance, whoever comes out on top. I’ve changed my mind on this enough already, so let’s say Joshua somewhere between six and nine.