This Saturday is a big Heavyweight fight, as Anthony Joshua (22-0; 21 KO) defends his stack of titles against Andy Ruiz (32-1; 21 KO). Joshua vs. Ruiz takes place this Saturday, June 1 live from Madison Square Garden and airs live on DAZN with a fight time of 8:30 p.m. ET for the main card, 6:30 for the prelims.
- The champ. Kind of. - Same thing we said about Deontay Wilder two weeks ago. He’s the champ. But not THE champ. Joshua holds the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles. The only two that elude him are Wilder’s WBC belt and Fury’s theoretical lineal title. Given the abundance of belts, most generally think of Joshua as the true top dog of the division, and he’s ranked #1 by Ring as evidence. But until he fights (and beats) both Fury and Wilder, there will be hesitations about calling him the true king in the sense Klitschko was.
- Welcome to the US - This is Joshua’s first fight outside of the UK, and fittingly, it’s at this country’s most fabled venue. Joshua has, until now, been packing in insane crowds in major venues like Wembley Stadium and the O2. This is going to be a great test of his international popularity.
- Recent competition - There was some criticism of Joshua’s match-making at one point which, frankly, is ridiculous. Those critics were upset that he wasn’t facing the world’s very best in 2016, three years into his career. But as of late, he’s taken out Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker, and Alexander Povetkin. Add in a 2015 win over Dillian Whyte, and you see a lot of high level wins. But...
- Wilder. Fury. - As I said above, until these two fights materialize, fans are not going to be happy. The Wilder fight in particular really feels like THE Heavyweight fight to make - the biggest possible international Heavyweight fight in a long, long time. With all three men scattered to different promoters, it seems like politics will prevent these from going down for now. And that is to no one’s benefit.
- -3500 - Those are the latest odds for Joshua, and they are totally fair. Ruiz meanwhile sits at +1200.
Andy Ruiz Jr.
- Late replacement - Ruiz of course isn’t supposed to be here at all. This was Joshua vs. Jarrell Miller, but then Big Baby popped for a lot of banned substances. Like, a lot. Miller is out, and with one month’s notice, Ruiz stepped in. So on the one hand: not as much prep time. On the other hand: nothing to lose.
- Quick turnaround - Ruiz was just in the ring on April 20, defeating Alexander Dimitrenko in the 5th. Given the late notice nature of this fight, that tight turnaround is a good thing, as it means Ruiz was already in fighting shape, and was able to quickly transition into this camp.
- 2nd title shot - This is try #2 at a world title for Ruiz - the first came in 2016 against Joseph Parker. That fight was surprisingly close, with Ruiz barely dropping a majority decision that most expected him to lose more handily. How much of that was Ruiz overperforming, and how much was Parker underperforming? This is a valid question. But that remains the lone blemish on Ruiz’s career, and it’s by no means a bad blemish to have.
- Recent opposition - Since the Parker loss, Ruiz is 3-0. He took a year off, returned in 2018, and first scored an impressive round 1 KO before beating first Kevin Johnson, then Dimitrenko. Johnson is an interesting name here as he is a common opponent for Ruiz and Joshua. Joshua took him out quickly in 2 rounds in 2015, while Ruiz took a wide 10 round decision last year. For his part, Johnson says he think Ruiz has a shot here. Take that for what it’s worth.
- Dirty it up - You have to imagine this is Ruiz’s best game here. Take the more technical Joshua and rough him up. Get inside that long reach (Joshua has a 4” height and 8” reach advantage) and wear the champ down. It’s a dangerous game, but it’s better than staying on the outside and eating jabs until the inevitable KO.
What else is on the card?
- Callum Smith (25-0; 18 KO) vs Hassan N’Dam (37-3; 21 KO) - Smith is the WBA and Ring champion at Super Middleweight (168 lbs) and defends that status here. He’s coming in off his WBSS tournament win over George Groves in September, while N’Dam last had a Majority Decision win over Martin Murray in December that ended a 14 month time off. N’Dam is the kind of veteran to make this feel like a legitimate match-up, while not actually being much of a threat.
- Katie Taylor (13-0; 6 KO) vs Delfine Persoon (43-1; 18 KO) - Ireland’s Taylor is the attraction here. Like Joshua, she’s an undefeated former Olympian. This is for total unification in the women’s Lightweight (135 lbs.) division. Persoon is a champion and a good opponent, though also a significant underdog.
Two weeks ago was a chance to see Wilder - this is your chance to see Joshua. And just like that fight, this one feels like something of a gimme. Ruiz is not terrible, but he’s just going to be at such a technical disadvantage here, and I don’t see that inside game working well for him. So enjoy this as a time to see Joshua on US soil, and to think about what might come. Some day.
Prediction: Anthony Joshua, KO round 3