On June 1, Andy Ruiz marched into Madison Square Garden and shocked the world with a four-knockdown, seventh round TKO of heavily-favored Anthony Joshua to capture three of the four recognized world titles. Ever since that script-flipping performance, the boxing world has conspired to return the heavyweight division back to where it was before the big upset.
Well, maybe the entire boxing world hasn’t been in on it, but certainly the organizers of the rematch—who just happen to be Anthony Joshua’s people—have been working to make sure Ruiz’s moment in the sun was a one-and-done-affair.
Guaranteed control over the whens and wheres of the return bout via ironclad rematch clause, Team Joshua was always going to have Ruiz at their mercy when it came to a rematch (if the rematch were necessary). And after Ruiz actually won, it became especially clear that the playing field would be tipped in Joshua’s favor.
There was little doubt that Team Joshua would look to stage the bout in either Joshua’s UK back yard or, if that didn’t happen, in some supposedly neutral site that would, of course, be anything but neutral. Ruiz never had a prayer of getting the return bout in New York, California, or in Mexico City, like he wanted.
Eventually, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn got a gigantic stack of cash to stage Part 2 in Saudi Arabia and, despite some early public resistance from the new champ, there was nothing he could do about it.
Make no mistake about it, though, Saudi Arabia is not neutral ground for this bout. Ruiz may as well be walking into Wembley Stadium on December 7.
There’s huge money in returning the belts to Joshua’s waist and, also, big money in keeping the Al Haymon-advised Ruiz from taking those belts back to Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) land for a unification with fellow Haymon-advised Deontay Wilder, who holds the WBC title.
In boxing, as we all know, business tends to shift the winds in favor of the “money” fighter—and the winds should be exceptionally strong when it comes to Ruiz-Joshua II. Saudi Arabia with its weak-to-non-existent commission and an eagerness to keep friendly promoters happy and bringing their business back, is the perfect home for this dynamic.
All signs point to Ruiz needing a knockout to win this fight—something which happened in the first fight, but will be tough to replicate in the rematch.
Just in terms of raw physicality, Ruiz is already up against a wall when it comes to meeting the bigger, stronger Joshua. Physical disadvantages, as we saw the first time Ruiz met Joshua, can be overcome, though, especially when the athletically superior boxer is not fighting in a way to best utilize his advantages. Expect Joshua to be making a concerted effort to maintain constant use of his height and reach advantages this time out.
A smarter, better-prepared, more careful Joshua combined with a promotion absolutely favoring the re-coronation of Joshua and a virtually lawless Saudi host will create a very tough wall for Ruiz to scale. As a matter of fact, it could be said that Ruiz will likely have a harder time winning the rematch than he did the initial bout.
We’ll see soon enough whether the new champ has enough in him to scale that higher wall this time around.
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