Andy Ruiz Jr pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of heavyweight boxing when he knocked out Anthony Joshua in their bout at Madison Square Garden.
The Mexican-American became the first man in the professional ranks to defeat Joshua, sending him crashing to the canvas in the seventh round of the contest. It was a strange fight as the Brit seemed to have the edge in the early stages, but lacked the ability to close out a knockout blow.
The counterattack from Ruiz Jr caught him by surprise and once Joshua lost his composure in the ring, he was unable to regain control. Ruiz’s power overwhelmed him, especially a left hook that ultimately proved to be his downfall as the referee was forced to intervene to stop the bout.
Ruiz Jr now has the challenge of overcoming Joshua again in their rematch, with the Brit being backed as the favourite for the contest at 4/11 in the boxing betting odds to regain his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles. Both men are preparing for the showdown and we’ll now look at the ways they are adjusting for the second battle of the year.
Both Joshua and Ruiz Jr have set their stalls out during their respective training camps to lose weight for the rematch. Joshua was 247lbs for the first fight and he could drop below the 245lbs he weighed in at for his clash against Dereck Chisora in 2015. The weight loss suggests that Joshua wants to be more mobile in the bout. He was caught by the Mexican-American in close quarters too often, resulting in the weakening rapid body shots that opened up space for Ruiz Jr to land his left hook.
Keeping his opponent at a greater distance should benefit the Brit this time around. He has the height and reach advantage at 6ft 6in over Ruiz Jr’s 6ft 2in frame. Forcing him to work for his opportunities could yield a mistake from the 30-year-old that may afford Joshua the knockout chance he failed to convert in New York. However, Ruiz Jr has also slimmed down in his efforts to retain the crown, although that could take him out of his comfort zone. He needs to control the fight on his terms rather than Joshua’s.
The fight in New York was filled with sharp bursts from both fighters. The information from both camps suggest that the rematch will be a longer affair and more tactical. Joshua attempted to overwhelm Ruiz Jr in the opening three rounds last time out and was perhaps one blow away from securing the victory. However, the Mexican-American was resilient and held out the storm before producing his ferocious counterattack.
Ruiz Jr has been heavily investing in cardio workouts during his training sessions. He has to be prepared to go the distance and not to rely on his power as he did in the first bout. Ruiz Jr is heavier than Joshua and does not have the same athletic frame. He has identified a potential weakness, but whether it’s enough to maintain a high standard over 12 rounds remains to be seen. If the fight goes long it should play into the hands of Joshua and his fitness should not be in doubt.