Anthony Joshua 22 (21 KOs)-0-0 defends his: WBA, IBF and WBO Heavyweight titles against replacement Andy Ruiz Jnr 32 (21 KOs)-1 (0 KOs)-0 this Saturday at Madison Square Garden, New York broadcasted on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK.
Lennox Lewis and Ricky Hatton, the two most notable names in recent times to go over as a Brit and make a splash in the States, for one it ended with a happier ending than the other. Joshua will look to replicate Lewis’s success down the line but firstly needs to get through late replacement Andy Ruiz Jnr.
To be honest, though I am not an American I would’ve thought that the original matchup of Joshua against Miller would have drawn a bigger audience in New York than Ruiz, mainly due to Miller’s trash talking and because of course he is from New York, but partly because I think that would’ve been a more interesting matchup. Not to say that Joshua is any part to blame with Miller failing that drug test, but a huge, high volume, pressure fighter is exactly the style of fighter that should give Joshua some problems. Instead we have Ruiz.
Listed at 6 foot 2 but I suspect to be shorter, I would categorise him more as a come forward counter puncher. Up to this point the only person to have bested him is Joseph Parker, and this was done by flicking out the jab, using superior reach and keeping the feet moving. Ruiz’s biggest weakness is not his height, but more to do with his lack of foot and head movement coming forward. Alexander Povetkin did have success leaping in with combinations set up by good head movement, and if Ruiz had these skills I’d be giving him much more of a chance in this fight. What Ruiz does have is very fast hands, when his feet are planted of course. He can rattle off combinations in bursts throughout the round but tends to fight normally at a low to medium work rate. When he is at his most dangerous is in that middle to short distance, and that can happen if you don’t have the stamina, power or foot speed to keep him resetting.
This is where Joshua must capitalise. The Povetkin fight showed that he can operate with a bit more fluidity than we have seen from him before, dropping his left hand low in the later portion of the fight. Fighters like Ruiz who rely on combinations and speed are most dangerous in the early rounds when the opponent hasn’t quite tuned themselves in yet to work out their timings and patterns. So, Joshua should play it nice and simple for the first two, just jabbing and moving. I’d be very surprised if Ruiz did do anything from range against Joshua, you’ll most likely see Ruiz jabbing to Joshua’s body to try and set up an overhand right or left hook, but Joshua should in control at distance. So long as he doesn’t try and mix it with Ruiz up close initially he should be in for a pretty easy night of it. To clarify, I wouldn’t say Joshua can’t mix it up close with Ruiz but like Spence against Garcia why give your opponent a chance if you don’t need to. By round five Ruiz should have tasted enough Joshua jabs to deter him, and once Ruiz is on the back- foot Joshua will be coming in for the finish.
It’s a shame that the Miller fight didn’t happen, and with Whyte turning the fight down as well, as Wilder not signing with DAZN, and Fury signing an exclusive deal with ESPN there isn’t too many opponents that Joshua could have fought that he hasn’t already faced. What he will be hoping to do is put on a show, but like when Hatton fought Collazo, Frampton faced Gonzalez and Fury against Cunningham sometimes what can seem like a routine fight can become trickier than expected on away soil.
The chief undercard will see also undefeated Brit Super- Middleweight Callum Smith 25 (18 KOs)-0-0 defend his WBA world title against veteran Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam 37 (21 KOs)-3 (1 KO)-0.
Callum Smith is fresh of his win against George Groves in the final of the WBSS so fans should be a little understanding that he is against what is a bit of a soft touch here. Not to say that N’Dam isn’t a bad fighter, but he is a Middleweight fighter not a Super-Middleweight. He’s been in with some names sure, David Lemieux, and Peter Qullin are the two that stand out, but since his only legit wins come against Martin Murray or Curtis Stevens, who are small Middleweights themselves it doesn’t exactly stand him in good stead against Smith, who is a beast at 168.
Smith fights not dissimilar to Joshua actually, solid guard, decent jab, nothing particularly exciting jumps out, but combined with great physicality, like Badou Jack, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and was enough to get Groves out of there in 7. As for N’Dam, he is tough, take a look at the David Lemieux fight for evidence of that, but a lack of speed and finesse as well as the obvious size difference will lead to N’Dam getting taken out in 9 or so, in what is likely to be a pretty dull affair. If a fighter is to get to Smith, it will likely be a fighter who is razor fast on the inside, with good counter punching ability to take advantage of a little bit of stiffness in the Smith game, and for that to happen we just have to hope that Canelo comes knocking, because I seriously doubt that N’Dam is going to pull off the upset here.