For the ‘week-in-week-out’ boxing fans around the world, Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden on June 1st feels immensely underwhelming.
Not so long ago the heavyweight division was in a state of serious decline during the Klitschko brothers occupation of the weight class. Finally, the division was to spring back to life after Tyson Fury’s shut out points victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Nearly four years later, we seem a long way from the heavyweight promised land that was apparently approaching. We have had a couple of (almost) classic encounters since Klitschko finally lost all of his belts to the Gypsy King, at home in Germany.
Anthony Joshua v the revitalised Klitschko in front of 90,000 spectators only six months later was a highly entertaining fight, but still wasn’t considered the best fighting the best, due to age and the recent form of the native Ukrainian. Klitschko was on the decline and Joshua wasn’t quite the finished article, many (including himself) still believe he isn’t. Since that mesmerising pendulum at Wembley Stadium, Anthony Joshua added the WBO title to his IBF, WBA (Super) and IBO belts, already resting in his trophy cabinet, after a points win over Joseph Parker. He would continue filling out more football stadiums either side of that victory over Parker, beating Carlos Takam and Alexander Povetkin respectively.
The only other meaningful encounter since Joshua v Klitschko in 2017 took almost two years to grace the heavyweight division, when lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury faced off against reigning WBC champion, Deontay Wilder at the end of 2018. If it wasn’t for the infamous scene with Fury impersonating The Undertaker in the twelfth round after a brutal knockdown from Wilder, it’s hard to be considered one of the famous heavyweight fights throughout boxing history, but a memorable and, at times, entertaining fight nonetheless. The two boxers were occupying slots within the division’s top three, which as fans is all we can ask, right?
We were expecting a rematch between Wilder and Fury after the controversial draw or at least a unification bout between Joshua and Wilder. We have been left with; Tyson Fury v Tom Schwarz, a little known German who is far from being considered elite, Deontay Wilder v Dominic Breazeale, whose record of victories leaves a lot to be desired, and finally Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr whose claim to fame is a close fight with former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. Obviously Jarrell Miller was the original opponent for Joshua until three failed drug tests, but again, the record of Miller does near to nothing for me, at an elite level.
To add further insult to injury, Deontay Wilder has announced a rematch with the ageing Cuban, Luis Ortiz, during the Joshua v Ruiz Jr fight week build-up. Murmurs of contracts confirming a Tyson Fury rematch are also circulating, which could diminish the possibility of Anthony Joshua fighting either man until early 2020.
The opponents mentioned are maybe not as bad as their records suggest, but the point that needs to be made is that we have three highly talented and marketable heavyweight fighters that all reserve a rightful claim to the heavyweight throne and – as yet – they are not fighting each other. In Fury and Wilder’s case, we need to see it again, without the dodgy scorecards and meaningless warm up fights. It feels almost criminal that Wilder v Fury II wasn’t made immediately after the first fight. It’s a reoccurring theme that simply continues to plague the heavyweight landscape.
Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury has the makings of being the biggest UK sporting event of all time, let alone the biggest boxing event. But again, it feels a million miles away. TV networks, promoters and managers appear to have got in the way; it’s hard to pin down who is really to blame for these fights not taking place (yet). As for this coming weekend’s Matchroom Boxing promotion starring Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr, we’re left scratching our heads when looking down the running order after being promised a “a fucking great card!” from exquisite salesman and promoter, Eddie Hearn.
As fans, we’ve seen worse for sure, but super middleweight king Callum Smith taking on a battle-hardened middleweight in Hassan N’Dam as the chief support does absolutely nothing for many boxing fans. It almost feels like a keep busy fight, for one of the countries best talents, announced at eleven days notice. Tommy Coyle v Chris Algieri could very well catch fire, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Josh Kelly v Ray Robinson isn’t a bad fight, but it’s a yardstick for Kelly, leaving us with Irish icon Katie Taylor v Delfine Persoon in a lightweight contest for all the marbles, being the most credible contest we have on the card. I’m not at all taking anything away from Taylor v Persoon, however it’s the one and only truly meaningful fight on the card, albeit perhaps a lopsided one in terms of ability.
Croydon prodigy, Joshua Buatsi takes on long inactive, Marco Antonio Periban at light heavyweight; Periban having had over two years outside the ring and making his debut at the weight at thirty-five years old. Joining the party is middleweight Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams taking on Quadeer Jenkins, that’s it! A fucking great card, I know.
Each bout alone isn’t horrendous. All the fights have a little something to catch your attention and a part of me is intrigued as to how it will all play out. As a whole package and for all the DAZN subscribers, it’s okay viewing, but you have to take the statements such as, “a massive night for British boxing” with a pinch of salt. Much like Tyson Fury’s upcoming bout with Tom Schwarz and Deontay Wilder’s previous encounter with Dominic Breazeale, Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr leaves fans and followers of the sport with a lot to be desired.
Article by: Adam Noble-Forcey
Follow Adam on Twitter at: @Adam4cSports