The countdown is on to Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz 2.
There are just six weeks to go until Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua faces his demons in a rematch against Andy Ruiz to secure the partially unified heavyweight championship of the world title.
Ruiz upset the odds as a late stand in to become the first Mexican to secure the biggest prize in sport. After the initial media frenzy and conspiracy theories subsided, the boxing world came to terms with the fact that looks didn’t matter and Andy Ruiz was a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, with every upset comes opportunity and one the size of the world heavyweight title attracts eyes from every corner of the globe.
With offers from venues in the USA, UK, Europe and the UAE, British promoter Eddie Hearn finally announced that the rematch would take place on December 7th in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fairly new to the boxing scene, having hosted only a handful of professional events and nothing of this magnitude.
By agreeing to host the spectacle they had jumped into the boxing world with both feet.
Confidently, Hearn has dismissed any concerns regarding transport, visas, female fight fans and security issues. Promising that boxing fans will bear witness to a piece of history.
The big question remains, who will win?
Will Andy Ruiz put to bed any notion that his win was a fluke or will Anthony Joshua firmly reverse the mysterious events that took place in New York?
In my mind, I am leaning towards the Mexican champion.
I have watched Joshua since his gold medal win at the London Olympics in 2012 and had heard about his journey through the ranks long before that when he was touted on Steve Bunce’s radio show, ‘The Boxing Hour’, whilst I was at university.
He has always been a fantastic puncher with a solid fundamental skill set. He showed in his early professional encounter against Dillian Whyte that he could dig deep and, later against the great Wladimir Klitschko, he proved that he was not lacking in heart or desire.
However, whilst his strength is great and his power is non-negotiable, there have always been question marks around his fluidity of movement, stamina and ability to take a shot on the chin.
Although dominating and stopping the majority of his opposition, the times he has been hit cleanly we have seen AJ in dire straits. Most notable of these of course, were in the two fights above where he ultimately found a way to win.
There is an old adage with heavyweight boxing which says ‘it only takes one big shot’.
It was that big shot that Ruiz landed on June 1st which was the catalyst to end the fight.
Was it luck or judgement? And, can it be avoided on December 7th?
When we delve a little bit closer into the times Joshua has been shaken, then a pattern begins to emerge. A pattern that points more to a leaky defence than a suspect chin, I would argue.
In round 2 against Dillian Whyte, the ever-confident Anthony Joshua marched forward against his hurt adversary. As he did so, with his right hand by his waist, he was hit cleanly with a solid left hook to the temple.
Similarly against Klitschko, AJ held his arms loosely in a ‘peak a boo’ defence which the former champion was easily able to exploit with a straight right hand through the middle.
If we revisit the encounter with Ruiz it was again a left hook around a poor guard that shook AJ’s senses.
Looking forward towards the rematch, there are clearly areas ripe for exploitation if Ruiz intends to make it a double.
It will likely be a case of ‘more of the same’ for the new champion. More lateral movement, more aggression and more confidence. The conditions of the event will also lean in Ruiz’s favour.
After all, the desert heat much more resembles the Mexican climate than the rainy streets of Watford.
However, Joshua has a fantastic team around him. He has brought in world class sparring partners to replicate the relaxed, fast handed style of Ruiz and knows what he has to do to win.
Already we have seen him strip down the body builder like physique that he sported for the first fight so it is clear that he means business.
Seldom have we seen AJ take the role of the underdog so, let’s hope it brings us fireworks at least and most importantly a good contest with both boxers safe and well at the end of it.
Do you think it will be revenge for Joshua or a repeat victory for Ruiz? Let us know @WBCmeboxing.