In just a few hours these two men will enter the ring for a rematch of EPIC proportions! Here are a few key elements to watch for which will either make or break them once the bell rings:
1. (Anthony Joshua: The Rose or the Thorn?): In the first fight we saw Joshua essentially QUIT! He spit out the mouthpiece after one knockdown, after another, he was instructed to walk to the judge, yet he remained in the corner he was in, and in another occasion he literally turned his back to the ref and refused to pay attention to him following a knockdown. All of these signs demonstrate a fighter who had ZERO will-to-win remaining, eager to find a way out (whether fans want to agree or not).
We’ve seen the warrior in him, but on high display the first time around was a guy who was simply defeated. How will that adversity be defined in the heat of the battle today? Will Joshua be the “Rose” or the “Thorn”? A rose is cosmetic, it’s cute, highly celebrated, and highly adored, yet under intense heat it melts down and dies out. In contrast, the thorn is sharp, on point, and cuts hard under all conditions. We’ve seen BOTH sides of Joshua before. When the bell rings today, which side will fans get?
2. (Andy Ruiz: Bringin’ More Thunder, or Wearing Silk Pajama’s?): The hunger for more isn’t quite the same in every athlete. In Boxing we’ve seen guys like ‘Money’ Mayweather who’s determination and dedication can allow him to be around every element of temptation yet never give in. Then we’ve seen other guys who earn a few dollars after a good win or two and lose their passion for success in the spoils of success. Ruiz went out and bought the cars, the home, the jewelry, you name it! The culmination? He tipped the scales 15lbs heavier than the last fight which CANNOT be a good thing and it should have been expected.
This is a guy who NEVER cared about his career or fitness enough to get into decent shape. Give him millions of dollars and a newfound success and that element only exacerbates itself, which we’ve now seen. Bottomeline: We KNOW Ruiz is “hungry”. But is that hungry as in “driven to higher success”? Or hungry as in “these burgers and fries are too damn good to give up for training”? His pre-ring walk ritual is to eat a Snickers before he enters the ring to fight. The Snickers motto is “Not Going Anywhere for a While”? If that’s any indication, Joshua could be in for a long night!
3. (Pound for Pound): Weight has been a critical discussion leading up to this epic rematch. In the case of Anthony Joshua, we’ve seen him drop some pounds and go back to a weight frame that most feel is more ideal for the slugger. Many have felt for quite some time that the extra bulk was unnecessary and more a detriment than a benefit. In the case of Ruiz, despite chuckles and laughs about his (lack of) physique, he went out and gained an additional 15lbs which is a bad sign. Or is it? The reality behind the weight factor is probably the polar opposite for these men than what the media and public seems to think.
While conditioning may be better for Joshua, if the heaviest, most strong/durable version of him didn’t absorb the shock of Ruiz’s punches too well, should we REALLY believe that a guy who has been hurt against every big puncher he’s ever faced will be durable enough to handle a combination puncher like Ruiz? On the flipside, Ruiz has fought his entire life as a heavyweight, hence the reason they put him in the ring with a 12 year old as a 6 year old because he was just too freakin’ big! Oddly enough, it’s rare, but Ruiz has found a way to tap into his energy reserve and remain fresh and fluid for 12 rounds with a round mound (belly). It’s very conceivable that the benefit here may be all Ruiz’s, as he will enjoy a 50lb weight advantage when the bell rings.
4. (Shook from Left Hooks?): Anthony Joshua has proven that he’s a warrior by getting off the deck against Wladimir Klitschko and earning the victory. The trouble here is that it’s not what he did in the ring, but what he said outside of it. Despite that valiant effort, in a post fight interview Joshua stated that he was bothered by the exchange and vowed to “never get in that situation again”. In the aftermath of that fight we saw him fight a more timid style in most of his fights than we were used to which allowed the opponents to appear to have more success. It comes as no surprise that Joshua took his first career loss after that fight, as he verbally stated that this type of “heavy exchange” fight isn’t one he’s comfortable in. The only other fighter we’ve heard say something along the lines of Joshua’s comments after a fight was Victor Ortiz. After his Maidana bout, many remember where he jumped up off the deck from a knockdown, only to walk away, thus ending the fight.
After that fight, Ortiz stated “I’m young, but I don’t deserve to get beat up like this, so I have some thinking to do”! Very similar in action and reaction, it only makes you wonder what that means for Joshua when the going gets hot tonight! Why is this important? Primarily because Ruiz is a right handed fighter, yet no one is talking about the fact that every time he hurt Joshua it was with his off-hand (his left). Facing a guy with the vintage “stalk-til-they-cant-walk” Mexican style, is it conceivable to think Joshua can avoid punishment in a situation that will inevitably result in a fire fight? Does he truly have a chance against a guy who’s weak hand was enough to not only knock him down 4 times, but also make him quit in the end?
PREDICTION: There’s no exact science to this and it should be duly noted that BOTH MEN have an equal 50/50 shot. Joshua has the power to end it at any moment and fans can expect him to come out with his guns blazing. Sadly, the mental trauma involved when a fighter with a slightly weaker mindset gets hit is likened to a war veteran with PTSD. It’s hard to see Joshua stand in the pocket and trade shots but to win he’ll have to, as Ruiz is a master at cutting off the ring and wearing you down. Expect Joshua to have his moments and perhaps even score another knockdown or two. But despite his size and appearance, the man with the bigger heart in the ring will be Andy Ruiz, and if the money he has earned hasn’t totally changed that hunger, a defiant Anthony Joshua probably won’t either.
ANDY RUIZ – TKO9 (Lots of body work and a high energy pace means break him down early, and knock him out late!)
(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at 954.770.9807, via email at email@example.com. He can also be seen on Facebook and Twitter (@vitostake).