Dubai: The intrigue is almost out-punching the hype for the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ as Anthony Joshua attempts to repair his reputation in the rematch against his usurper as heavyweight champion of the world Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The dethroned Briton was floored four times by last-minute replacement Ruiz in New York in June, with the unfancied Mexican-American nabbing the WBA, IBF and WBO belts in the process.
The duo will duel in an open-air venue in Riyadh — after a long vocal bout between the two corners over money and the venue — and the verbal jabs have continued this week after both camps arrived in Saudi Arabia, mostly concerning Joshua’s state of mind and his conviction to reclaim the titles from the unheralded Ruiz.
Ruiz has claimed he will prove his worth as a fighter by flooring Joshua once again, while his opponent has claimed he is out to right his wrongs.
Both Ruiz and Joshua worked out in the ring on Tuesday, with a trim Joshua looking back to his sharp best as he shadowboxed in front of the media.
However, the smiling Brit looked on with a face of concern as he saw his opponent’s lightning speed in the same ring after he had stepped out of the ropes following his session.
Joshua had been heavily criticised following his lacklustre defeat in New York. The fingers pointed to luxury cars and a lavish lifestyle he happily posted on social media and to his cryptic posts about his mindset before the bout. They also pointed out media and commercial commitments overtaking the life of an athlete at the top, where you have a target on your back.
Those days have gone, with Twitter and Instagram appearances at a minimum for the fighter as he has returned to the gym rather than the laptop, and a vow set the record straight. No more are the lengthy TV interviews — just the odd sound bite of a man who is looking to reclaim his crown.
Joshua has pledged to open up about what went wrong in the US after he defeats Ruiz in Riyadh.
There is just one problem. If anything Ruiz looks even faster than he did in June — his one-twos belying his bulk, something Joshua saw for himself on Tuesday night and looked visibly concerned.
“Suddenly, just like in New York, you realise how fast he is,” said the BBC’s Steve Bunce from ringside. “He throws the left hook that troubled Joshua, it’s like lightning.
“The speed, we aren’t shocked by it now. The balance, we aren’t shocked by that now. The jabs, though, they are pulverising.”
Adding to the intrigue, Joshua has also pledged a third clash between the unlikely rivals, win or lose this weekend.
“Me and Andy Ruiz, if he’s dedicated to the game, we’ll definitely see each other a third time down the line,” said Joshua following his workout.
“This ain’t gonna be the last time I see Ruiz in the ring.”
Despite witnessing Ruiz’s speed, Joshua also sounded confident of levelling the contest before the alleged decider.
“We make for good fights, I think there’s definitely gonna be a knockout,” he said.