Dubai: If you thought that all the pressure was on beaten champion Anthony Joshua ahead of his much-anticipated rematch against his conqueror Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, think again.
The Mexican, who stunned the boxing world when he mowed down the undefeated Briton before a shell-shocked audience at Madison Square Garden, New York, on June 1, has a different kind of pressure to deal with.
He must prove to the world that he did not fluke the win, four knockdowns notwithstanding, and that he is an indisputable champion who deserves his place at the top of a very exciting heavyweight division.
The fight is now regarded as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history and right up there with Buster Douglas’s 10th round KO of Mike Tyson in 1990 and Hashim Rahman’s equally devastating fifth round demolition of Lennox Lewis.
Douglas would lose to Evander Holyfield in his first title defence but bounced back to reel off five bruising victories.
Rahman also lost his next fight, a rematch which Lewis won via technical decision in the eighth. He would then have 15 fights against six defeats. Not a bad way to show the world that he was a legit champion.
Ruiz finds himself in a similar situation, needing to establish his credentials in an ever-critical sport that is divided by four major boxing organisations — the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.
The Mexican does not figure in any of the aforementioned organisations top 10 rankings.
Is that injustice? Then he must address the issue and beat Joshua again.
Here are five key points that will determine which fighter gets his hand raised at the end of the Clash on the Dunes in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday night.
1. Ruiz must assert himself early and display a violent intensity in the exchanges to remind Joshua of his power. In short he has to hurt him early, to put him on the back foot.
2. Joshua’s camp will make major adjustments to try to ensure that this does not happen. The fighter is more athletic since New York and will use his long jab to ward off Ruiz. But the Mexican will need to close the distance and punch from under Joshua’s hands to keep landing and worrying his opponent.
3. Joshua may believe that he given another chance, he will want to do to Ruiz what Ruiz did to him in the first fight. The suspicion here is that if he elects to take the fight to Ruiz, it will play to the Mexican’s advantage as he is an out-and-out brawler.
4. We know that Ruiz has a rock-solid chin. He was knocked down first but got up and landed an abundance of right hands on a back-peddling Joshua. Most of these stunned and hurt the Brit before he was dumped on his backside several times in the action-packed seventh round before the fight was called off. Ruiz must take inspiration from this round where the punches were perfect and a visibly disorientated Joshua had no answer.
5. The Mexican fighter’s fearsome speed has been accentuated by his new found slimmer physique, but his bulk is not totally missing. He has been working like a demon with more focus on strength and conditioning. All this make for a gifted professional athlete and he must put all the hard work that he has put in to good use right from the opening bell.