Anthony Joshua will be making his highly-anticipated overseas professional debut when he defends the unified heavyweight title against Mexican-American challenger Andy Ruiz, this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Joshua, who is rapidly becoming one of boxing’s biggest commercial attractions as well as one of the most marketable sporting personalities in the world, was originally scheduled to face Brooklyn native Jarrell Miller before the latter tested positive for three separate performance-enhancing substances.
In Ruiz, a respectable substitute opponent secured at relatively short notice, Joshua is facing someone who – at face value – possesses similar attributes to Miller in terms of pressure, strength, and an aggressive combination-punching style.
Unlike ‘Big Baby’, however, Ruiz is also renowned for a formidable hand speed that belies his robust physique. The Californian has previously challenged for a world title in December 2016, when many observers deemed him somewhat unfortunate to be narrowly outpointed by New Zealand’s Joseph Parker on away soil in Auckland.
Joshua, meanwhile, boasts an unblemished record of 22-0. Throughout the past couple of years, he has captivated audiences with dramatic see-saw slugfests against legendary former heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko in addition to domestic rival Dillian Whyte.
In April 2018, AJ eviscerated Charles Martin inside two rounds to become IBF heavyweight champion, and also added the WBO title to his collection in March 2018 with a unanimous points victory over Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium.
However, despite demonstrating his strength and punching power on multiple occasions, it can be argued that Joshua is still very much a fighter looking to cultivate an in-ring identity under the guidance of trainer Robert McCracken.
This was clearly exemplified in his last successful defence in September against Alexander Povetkin.
After a series of nervous and cagey opening rounds where the more experienced but nonetheless considerably shorter Povetkin was seemingly getting the better of the champion, Joshua put his foot on the gas in round seven to stop Povetkin in sensational fashion.
Joshua will be surely looking to deliver a clinical performance, and win in similarly emphatic style on June 1st against Ruiz. If Joshua adopts a conservative, upright approach similar to the Parker fight, Ruiz could make it into later rounds.
Ultimately, however, Ruiz lack of mobility is likely to be the decisive factor in this fight, as Joshua stops him between rounds 5-8.
On the undercard, Katie Taylor has the opportunity to add the WBC belt to her collection of lightweight championships and become the undisputed queen of the division against Belgian Delfine Persoon.
Taylor clinically dismantled Brazillian WBO champion Rose Volante in her last outing, and should she prevail, as expected, she will join female counterparts Claressa Shields (middleweight) and Cecilia Brækhus (welterweight) as boxing’s only current undisputed world champions.
Expect Taylor’s superior hand speed and quality to be evident from the outset as the Irishwoman makes a sharp start, throwing combinations with surgical accuracy, to put the Belgian immediately on the defensive.
Moreover, Callum Smith makes the maiden defence of his WBA and Ring super-middleweight championships against Cameroonian Hassan N’Dam.
N’Dam, a slippery and stubborn fighter, effectively frustrated Martin Murray over twelve rounds in December at the Manchester Arena, winning a majority decision in what constituted a minor upset.
Meanwhile, Liverpudlian ‘Mundo’, the defending champion, stopped George Groves in dominant fashion to win the super-middleweight iteration of the World Boxing Super-Series in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
In a gala September spectacle, Smith finally fulfilled his promise – vindicating the hype that surrounded his entry into the tournament – by battering Groves into submission in seven rounds.
Although N’Dam is a good fighter and an adept spoiler, Smith is a heavy favourite and should have too much for his counterpart to deal with. Expect the Scouser to extend his undefeated record to 26-0 with a systematic beatdown. Although N’Dam is notoriously difficult to hurt once he goes into his shell, Smith will grow more comfortable after a patient start, as he begins to rain down punishment on the challenger from above.
Also on the card, Tommy Coyle is up against Long Island’s former WBO light-welterweight champion Chris Algieri in what is arguably the biggest opportunity of his career.
The Hull native is a significant underdog against Algieri, a rangy and tenacious operator who has mixed it at the top level – to varying degrees of success – against fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan, Ruslan Provodnikov and Errol Spence at 140 and 147lbs.
Coyle’s rugged approach and punching power is therefore unlikely to seriously fluster Algieri; someone who has amassed a considerable amount of experience at championship level. However, the American’s inactivity of late coupled with Coyle’s recent form is something that will provide the Yorkshireman with additional confidence, as he audaciously looks to work his way into world title contention.
Undefeated light-heavyweight hopeful Joshua Buatsi also features against seasoned veteran Marco Antonio Periban off the back of a destructive display in March against Liam Conroy
The Croydon native enthralled the crowd at the O2 Arena with a scintillating performance, effortlessly dispatching of Conroy to unify the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles.
Periban, moving up in weight for this contest, is an experienced and durable campaigner who was in recent times unanimously outpointed by Avni Yildirim, and was also unexpectedly halted by James Degale in three rounds of their November 2014 fight in Liverpool.
Buatsi now has the opportunity to make a similar statement to his British counterpart, and showcase his skills to American audiences in the process, before one day potentially assuming the spotlight himself like his fellow Olympian Joshua.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________