Andy Ruiz Jr (33-1, 22 KOs) and Anthony Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) will meet again in an intriguing rematch on December 7, in Saudi Arabia, and the fight has the boxing world gripped on what the outcome will be.
Ruiz, a huge underdog in the first fight, left fight fans astounded when he stopped unbeaten unified world heavyweight champion Joshua in seven rounds at Madison Square Garden on June 1, and many experts believe the rematch will be a repeat of that outcome.
Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr first fight analysis
The first fight between the pair shows us that Ruiz Jr's superior output and precision was undoubtedly a key factor in him winning the fight. The Mexican threw double the amount of power punches than Joshua, and whilst Joshua did throw 26% more jabs than Ruiz, the Brit landed 12% less, showing just how much his accuracy was off in the first fight.
The devastating loss will make Joshua recalculate his approach in the rematch, as he was beaten by the better fighter on the night, and exposed in certain areas of his game. There now sits a big question mark over the former Olympic gold medallists punch resistance, survival skills, and the ability to be able to handle a come-forward pressure fighter, who is always looking to close the range and get in close. It seems from analysing his career so far that Joshua is a fighter who when he gets hit by a solid punch, takes a long time to recover, and fights on instinct, rather than using ring craft and experience to weather a storm.
Joshua also claimed he was beaten by a 'lucky punch sent by the gods' in the first fight, and whilst the shot certainly did change the course of the fight, it was Joshua’s poor decision making and vulnerabilities as a boxer that allowed it to take maximum effect. Ruiz was hit with a big punch prior but found a way to keep fighting and win the fight. The Mexican changed the course of the fight with the left hook and was ultimately the better fighter on the night.
The jab is key for Joshua
The jab is the key weapon for Joshua if he wants to be successful in the rematch – the Brit holds a height and reach advantage over Ruiz, so it is imperative that he uses these advantages and his jab to full effect. In the first fight, Ruiz simply walked through Joshua’s jab and the heavy betting favourite seemed all at sea trying to deal with the come forward aggressive style of the Mexican.
If Joshua used his strength, grabbed, held, and pushed down on Ruiz then it would likely have been a different outcome in the first fight – any tactic other than going toe-to-toe with Ruiz would have been more beneficial.
There's no doubt Joshua has the athleticism, and better professional pedigree to win this fight, but that's only if he uses his advantages effectively, nullifies Ruiz’s, and does not let the fight develop into a shootout, with both men trading punches again. If this does happen it will take away all of Joshua’s advantages and likely end in another devastating defeat.
How dangerous is Andy Ruiz Jr?
Despite the pre-fight consensus that Any Ruiz Jr. is all of a sudden an indestructible heavyweight who can walk through fire to beat all the elite opposition in the division, the Mexican is not that - but he was an excellent fighter long before dethroning Joshua.
His physical appearance isn’t what you would normally see of a unified heavyweight champion, especially when you look at the carved figures of other champions such as Deontay Wilder, and Wladimir Klitschko, but until you have studied him fighting in the ring, it is easy to dismiss him as a boxer who isn’t dedicated to his craft.
Ruiz accumulated an amateur record of 105-5, and in those 105 wins, it included two Mexican National Junior Olympics gold medals, and the 30 year-old also represented Mexico in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games qualification tournaments, so he has the pedigree.
In the professional ranks, Ruiz has scaled up the levels at a much slower pace than Joshua but has also slowly been fighting more credible opponents prior to getting the Joshua opportunity at late notice.
Joshua is realistically a fighter who is still learning on the job after being fast-tracked to a world title after the opportunity became available to fight Charles Martin (one of the weakest heavyweight world champions in history) in only his 16th professional fight, and this could also be an advantage to Ruiz, who started boxing over ten years prior to Joshua as an amateur, and has had more professional fights.
When a boxer has been through the formative years (the peak years that a fighter will box as an amateur) the experience can be essential once they get to championship-level. Joshua has had a whirlwind amateur and pro career and hasn’t had time to learn and grow at the necessary pace that a normal champion would – and this is certainly an advantage that Ruiz will hold over Joshua in the rematch if either fighter faces adversity, despite Joshua’s success as an amateur and pro.
Who will win the fight?
Distance is the key ingredient for Joshua if he wants to retain his belts. The Brit simply has to keep the fight at a distance he is comfortable with. Ruiz is a fighter who will consistently punch with his opponent and Joshua wasn’t at ease with this style in the first fight. Ruiz nullified Joshua’s attack, punched with him, and ultimately won the fight convincingly.
The Mexican was potentially overlooked in the first fight, but he will be taken seriously this time around. If Joshua underestimated Ruiz based on appearance before, he certainly won’t now, and this will help the former Olympic gold medallist be mentally ready for what the new champion will bring to the table.
Before the knockdown against him in the first fight, Joshua set up Ruiz and knocked him down, when he was fighting tall, and using his jab as effectively as he could. The Brit saw the red midst after the knockdown, shortened the distance, and went for the knockout which is a suicidal tactic in boxing when fighting someone with much faster hands than yourself.
Ruiz has extremely fast hands when in distance to throw them, but he also has extremely slow feet. If Joshua can use his jab, keep his distance, it won’t matter how fast Ruiz’s hands are because of his slow feet.
The Brit will need to box tall and punch down with Ruiz, keeping his distance, get behind the Jab and concentrate on winning the rounds rather than having the mindset that he has to knock Ruiz out (a tactic that enhances the chances of the fight going long).
Providing he can carry out the correct game plan and rectified his weaknesses from the first fight when fighting a pressure fighter, Joshua can certainly reclaim his belts, and the long odds of a point’s victory could be where the value is.