When Anthony Joshua met Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden on June 1st, everyone predicted it would be a non-contest. With a 100% winning record of 22-0 (21 KOs), AJ was the overwhelming favourite. They say you shouldn’t underestimate an underdog. The American won by a seventh-round technical knockout, defying the odds and causing one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
It’s official! 👊
— Boxing Exposure (@Boxing_Exposure) August 9, 2019
The two touch gloves again in what is being billed as the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ on December 7th in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Ruiz will be defending his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles. For AJ it will be a chance for redemption, to regain the belts he held before.
With the bout only weeks away, what are the main talking points in the build-up?
Will they complete the stadium?
A 15,000-seater stadium, known at the Diriyah Arena is being erected especially for the fight. Construction began a mere eight weeks before the bout is set to take place. To begin with, fight promoters Matchroom released digital renderings of how the stadium will look. With three sides for spectators, the fourth will accommodate VIP guests and TV broadcasters, as well as changing rooms.
Frank Smith, Matchroom’s CEO, took to Twitter to share the initial images, in which the foundations lay. More recently, Matchroom shared further updates.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) October 23, 2019
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Ruiz slims down
Ruiz took to Instagram to show off his svelte new figure with a series of snaps. He looks almost unrecognisable from the overweight figure, deemed a “no-hoper”, who entered the ring back in June. Known for feasting on Snickers bars during training, it appears that Ruiz has changed his diet.
“I kind of wanted to be a little heavier because Anthony Joshua’s big, I wanted to carry his weight, take the punches well but I think being 10lbs lighter, I’m going to be a better fighter,” Ruiz said. “Ten pounds isn’t going to make any difference, if anything it’s going to make me stronger, it’s going to make me faster, especially because he’s going to be running around.”
Joshua too has slimmed down for their bout, losing a lot of his muscle mass. Criticised ahead of their last fight for having the physique of a body-builder, AJ is expected to be quicker and more agile this time around.
Oleksandr Usyk to face the winner?
Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk recently made the step-up divisions to heavyweight. Winning his debut bout at this higher weight against Chazz Witherspoon, rumour has it the Ukrainian has his eyes on the division. Although his weight pre-fight against Witherspoon was 15st 15lb, some way off the weights of Joshua and Ruiz, he believes the weight gain wouldn’t be an issue and can take on the division. Usyk will be watching ringside in Diriyah, scouting out a potential future opponent, although it is also believed he fancies his chances against Deontay Wilder.
Promoter Barry Hearn confirmed his attendance in Saudi Arabia. ‘The instructions to me are: “World heavyweight championship next.”‘
‘It wouldn’t hurt to have one more (fight). But they say: “We have won every belt at cruiserweight, we have had our heavyweight warm-up, we are ready.”‘
Usyk added: ‘I am ready to fight them. If they are going to offer it to me, of course, I am going to take it.’
As things stand, the Brit is the favourite when it comes to Anthony Joshua Boxing betting odds. But after going into June’s bout as the overwhelming favourite and disappointing, the pressure is on.