IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) looked in superb shape in weighing in at a 247.8 pounds for his title defense against the less the svelte 268 pound Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs) for their important fight this Saturday night on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Their fight will be streamed on DAZN in the United States, and televised on Sky Box Office in the UK.
Joshua, 29, hinted that the fight will be over with early on Saturday, as he plans on knocking out Ruiz Jr. as quick as possible. Joshua has to do it quickly, because he’s trying to win over the American boxing fans in his first fight in the U.S. Moreover, Joshua’s nemesis, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) obliterated his last opponent Dominic Breazeale (21-2, 18 KOs) by a first round knockout a little less than two weeks ago on May 18 in Brooklyn, New York. Joshua has to try and at least equal what Wilder did if he wants to win over the American fans, and use them to create pressure on him to finally make the fight with him for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
“I won’t keep you up too long,” Joshua said to skysports.com in sending a message to his British boxing fans at home in the UK. For them, they’ll be staying up until the early morning hours on Sunday to see the Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr. fight in the UK. They’re obviously on a different time zone than the U.S fans.
“Your weight, your training camp? Put that aside. It’s all about getting in the ring and doing the job,” said Joshua.
Ruiz Jr. made decision to bulk up for the Joshua fight rather than slim down, which is what many boxing fans expected him to do. The last time that Ruiz Jr. was this heavy was in October 2014 for his 10 round fight against former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich. Ruiz Jr. struggled to beat Liakhovich. Ruiz Jr. looked lethargic in that fight.
During the face off, Joshua told Ruiz Jr., “Bring a good fight, please.”
It’s important that Joshua be involved in an exciting fight because he’s got to try and impress the entire nation in the U.S in a hurry. It normally takes years for fighters to win over the fans, and even then, it requires that they fight good opposition that are well known. Ruiz Jr. isn’t well known to the average U.S fan, and he’s not highly regarded. That’s what Joshua is up against. You can’t fault Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn for picking out Ruiz Jr. for him to fight, because he’s not familiar with the U.S market.
Hearn likely saw Ruiz Jr’s record, and that fact that he challenged for a world title in 2016, and figured that he has a huge fan base in the U.S. That’s not the case. Ruiz Jr. isn’t popular in the States. It Joshua wants to win over the American fans, it’s going to take a while for him to accomplish that, especially if he’s fighting guys like Ruiz Jr.
Callum Smith vs. Hassan N’Dam
The size difference between these two guys was disturbing. This is another Hearn special. He picked out the much smaller 35-year-old Hassan N’Dam (37-3, 21 KOs) from the 160-pound division for WBA Super World super middleweight champion Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs) to make his American debut. Smith weighed 167.6 pounds. N’Dam weighed in at 166 pounds. The two of them looked two divisions apart when they stood for the face off. By fight time on Saturday night, Smith will likely be a cruiserweight in size. N’Dam doesn’t stand a chance.
Some boxing fans don’t think it’s fair that Callum is defending his 168-pound title against a middleweight instead of a contender from the super middleweight division, but this is what Hearn wanted. It’s called a ‘showcase fight.’ That’s code for ‘mismatch’ to make a fighter look good in front of new fans that have never seen them perform before. Unfortunately, this is a practice that’s done in boxing all the time, and it works. It also ends in disappointment for the fans when they eventually see the fighter matched against someone good, and discover they’re not as talented as they thought they were.
Smith, 28, needs a good performance to stay in the hunt for a fight against WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight champion Saul Canelo Alvarez, who has talked of wanting to potentially fight him. Canelo probably isn’t too serious about fighting Smith. Hearn and Smith both want the Canelo fight to take place. A more realistic fight would be for Dmitry Bivol to drop down to super middleweight to take on Callum. Hearn and Callum don’t seem too excited about the prospects for fighting Bivol for some reason. Perhaps because Bivol wouldn’t be out-size like the 5’8″ Canelo. Callum would have his hands full against Bivol, or even some of the super middleweights like David Benavidez and Billy Joe Saunders.
Josh Kelly vs. Ray Robinson
Undefeated welterweight contender Josh Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) weighed in at 146.4 pounds, while his opponent Ray Robinson (24-3-1, 12 KOs) weighed in at 146 pounds. This fight will be competitive, but the 25-year-old Kelly will likely win handily. He’s a better fighter than the 33-year-old Robinson. It’s going to be interesting to see if Kelly’s trainer Adam Booth will get to keep his hands up a little bit more for this fight than he’s done in his first nine fights as a pro. Kelly seems to fancy himself as another Roy Jones Jr. type of fighter. Unfortunately, Kelly lacks Jones’ reflexes, hand speed and defensive ability that he possessed in his youth. Kelly was hit a lot by his last opponent Przemyslaw Runowski last April. Kelly won the fight by a 10 round unanimous decision, but he was nailed with shots that would have knocked him out if they were thrown by a bigger puncher like Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao or Terence Crawford. The Runowski fight showed how far away Kelly is from being an elite level welterweight.
Joshua Buatsi vs. Marco Antonio Periban
Light heavyweight contender Joshua Buati (10-0, 8 KOs) weighed in at 174 pounds for his fight against super middleweight Marco Antonio Periban (25-4-1, 16 KOs). The 34-year-old Periban weighed 172 pounds. Periban hasn’t fought in two years, and has been picked out by Hearn from the 168 pound division for this fight. This is another showcase fight for Hearn fighter.
Chris Algieri vs. Tommy Coyle
Former WBO 140-pound champion Chris Algieri (23-3, 8 KOs) weighed in at `139.8 pounds. Coyle (25-4, 12 KOs) weighed in at 139.6 pounds for their 12 round fight. Algieri will be defending his World Boxing Organisation International Super Lightweight title. Coyle has won his last three fights since losing a close 12 round unanimous decision to Tyrone Nurse in July 2016.
Katie Taylor vs. Delfine Persoon
Katie Taylor 134.6 pounds, Delfine Persoon 130.6 pounds