Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr will contest their second meeting of 2019 in Diriyah, Saudia Arabia on December 7th. ‘The Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia is slowly establishing itself as a sporting events location. Boxing has been on the roster in the last year and British fighters have featured strongly. Callum Smith won the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final from compatriot George Groves at the King Abdullah Sports City arena in the capital Riyadh and Bolton’s Amir Khan recently fought former featherweight world champion Billy Dib there too.
After a long period of negotiations, Matchroom Boxing came to an agreement that will net champion Ruiz a hefty $9m and Joshua a staggering $30m+. Ruiz Jr made himself wealthy for life just by signing for their first fight at Madison Square Garden in June, which earned the Mexican/American $6m, so the $9m for the rematch which was written in stone in the rematch clause, means he’s net earnings for 2019 are $15m.
The rematch will be the biggest event in boxing by far for 2019. Manny Pacquiao’s brilliant and exciting win over Keith Thurman in July shed a good light on the sport only for the deaths in the ring of Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Alfredo Santillan to bring things into perspective about our sport.
So, will Joshua do what he has predicted and ‘put things right?’ Was his mind on everything other than the talented American in front of him on the night of June 1st? A second defeat to Ruiz Jr would be a monumental disaster to boxing’s highest active earner, something that will tarnish his legacy and inflict huge psychological scars.
I have followed Andy Ruiz Jr’s career for a very long time and have always regarded him as a real talent that could possibly win a world title. When he challenged Joseph Parker in New Zealand in 2016, while I made Parker favourite, I also knew that Ruiz Jr was capable of springing the upset. I did not think for one moment he would beat Joshua to become champion.
Boxing history is clear, when a boxer loses, he is unlikely to gain revenge in the rematch. That said there are a few occasions that history has been wrong. Another British heavyweight that lost his world heavyweight title (twice) by knockout to opponents he was tipped to beat, went on to stop both of his nemeses in rematches. I am of course talking about the last undisputed heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis. I think the Lewis scenario is on a parallel to Joshua’s defeat to Ruiz Jr.
Every Joshua media interview leading up to the first AJ vs Ruiz fight was about “When will you be fighting Wilder?” “Do you believe you would beat Fury?” etc. etc. Even the press overlooked the ability that the 29-year-old Ruiz Jr brought to proceedings, no-one was prepared for what the man born Andres Ponce Ruiz was about to unleash.
Joshua does know now though. He will not only work on the physical aspects that need adjustment, but more so the mental approach. Joshua now knows that he is facing the toughest opponent of his career so far, the only man to beat him as a professional. Clarity is a strength, knowing what is in front of you so you can prepare correctly, that is what I see from Lennox Lewis’s build-up to the Hasim Rahman fight in South Africa when the champion was involved in all sorts of media events surrounding President Mandela and god knows what else, he probably failed to have Rahman as his sole focus.
For Andy Ruiz Jr, life has changed 180 degrees. He became an overnight success, a multi-millionaire, owner of a new mansion, cars, jewellery, he’s set for life, but he now has to prepare for a 100% ready and motivated Anthony Joshua in a neutral venue. It all adds up to the Lewis vs McCall or Lewis vs Rahman scenario and that’s why I believe Joshua will win.
I don’t see this fight going the distance. I do believe that Ruiz Jr is capable of a second win, but he needs to land the sort of shots that he did the first time, and that’s what I don’t see happening against a fully focussed Joshua.
I’m going for Joshua to stop Ruiz Jr in 5 or 6 rounds.