Anthony Joshua will come into his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia this Saturday as a clear favorite to regain the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles, but nobody expects this to be an easy win for the former champion.
Ruiz won those titles from Joshua in June, when he survived an early knockout to stun Joshua and win by seventh-round TKO at Madison Square Garden.
First Fight Turned on ‘Punch From the Gods’
While Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) was a known heavyweight contender prior to the June 1 bout, he was not thought to be in the upper class of the division with Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury. Considering he took the fight on just one month’s notice after Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was suspended for failing multiple drug tests, few gave Ruiz much of a chance, and FanDuel Sportsbook made Joshua an overwhelming -4000 favorite heading into the bout.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) sent Ruiz to the canvas for the first time in his career in the third round of that fight, seemingly confirming that assessment. But Ruiz got back up and knocked down Joshua twice in the third himself, producing what was likely the best round of boxing of 2019. Ruiz took Joshua down twice more in the seventh round, and when the champion looked hesitant to respond to the referee’s commands to restart the action, the fight was called off, making Ruiz the first boxer of Mexican heritage to win a major heavyweight title.
Joshua called Ruiz’s first knockdown shot in the third round “a punch from the gods,” which drew the ire of critics who said he was diminishing Ruiz’s performance. But this week, Joshua clarified those comments.
“When I say ‘a punch from the gods,’ it’s not that it was lucky,” Joshua told Sky Sports. “It was just the perfect punch that anyone could ask for going into a world heavyweight title fight.”
If there was any sense that the first fight was a fluke, Ruiz has looked to dispel that idea. In a pre-fight news conference on Wednesday, Ruiz made it clear that he has no intention of losing his spot at the top of the heavyweight division.
“I don’t want to let these beautiful belts go away,” Ruiz said. “I’ve been doing this since I was six years old and it’s finally paying off. There’s no way I’m gonna let these belts go. I’m going to die trying, and to do anything that’s possible to get that victory.”
Ruiz Joshua Odds: Few Expect Fight to Go the Distance
Oddsmakers are giving Ruiz much more respect heading into the rematch, but he’s still seen as an underdog. FanDuel has Joshua as the -260 favorite over Ruiz (+200), a far cry from the comical odds that were offered on the first fight.
Given the level of action in the first fight, few are expecting this one to go the distance. A TKO (-175) is seen as the most likely finish, with a straight knockout (+280) close behind. A unanimous decision (+390) is seen as a potential outcome as well, though if that happens, it’s Joshua who almost certainly has the edge: FanDuel is offering +300 odds on him winning by decision, while Ruiz is a +1200 longshot to win on the judges’ cards.