By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Anthony Joshua defends IBF, WBA and WBO World heavyweight titles against Andy Ruiz Jr. on Sunday morning UK time
- 29-year-old makes fourth defence of unified belts at Madison Square Garden in New York
- Andy Ruiz Jr. replaces former opponent Jarrell Miller, who failed drugs test in April
NEW YORK CITY, NY – Unified World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua makes his US bow on Sunday, defending against tricky Mexican-American orthodox Andy Ruiz Jr. at MSG
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AJ makes US bow
The eyes of the boxing world will be on New York City this weekend, as Anthony Joshua defends his unified World heavyweight crown against Andy Ruiz Jr. on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
After 21 fights and 20 knockouts, the 29-year-old Briton makes his fourth defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, but his first fight away from British shores, as Joshua makes his American debut in the most famous arena in the world at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, otherwise known as Madison Square Garden.
As potential superfights with both Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder continue to be thwarted, this weekend sees Joshua’s chance to cement his legacy by performing at the Mecca of Boxing, intent on making a statement after the ‘Bronze Bomber’s’ emphatic First Round knockout of the Briton’s former opponent Dominic Breazeale a fortnight ago, across the Big Apple at the Barclays Center.
Joshua has already made a huge impact upon a global audience and in front of the city that never sleeps, the Watford fighter will be keen on putting a show Broadway would be proud of this weekend.
Awkward Ruiz test
Joshua’s 22nd professional opponent will be Mexican-American Ruiz Jr , who stepped in after initial challenger and New Yorker Jarrell Miller tested positive for a banned substance in April.
Ruiz Jr. nicknamed ‘The Destroyer’, weighed in at 19st 2oz – almost two stone heavier than the British champion – but the Californian’s size and frame could make for an awkward night on Joshua’s big night to crack the US. Though not of the calibre or threat of his previous opponent Alexander Povetkin – who Joshua stopped last September – his latest foe is not to be taken lightly.
In his second world title fight also for his 34 career fight, Ruiz Jr. will not be overawed having lost a narrow majority decision against New Zealander Joseph Parker for Fury’s vacant WBO title in December 2016, after the Manchester man was stripped after a period of inactivity and also testing positive for cocaine.
Thought losing out to Parker, Ruiz Jr. was the mandatory contender as the second-ranked fighter in the division and losing out 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113, could in some eyes have edged the contest.
Despite a rich Mexican pedigree of world champions the like of Julio Caeser Chavez, Salvador Sanchez, Marco Antonio Barrera and a future Hall of Famer in Canelo Alvarez, the Latin American nation have never had a world heavyweight champion. On Saturday, Ruiz Jr. is looking to not only buck that trend but shock the sporting world.
Contenders wait in wings
Should Joshua negotiate this weekend’s contest, attentions will again shift to next step in Briton’s boxing journey. As documented, Wilder laid down his own explosive marker, whilst Fury will become the third heavyweight contender to fight in the space of month against unbeaten German Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a fortnight’s time.
Many felt this weekend would finally see the long-awaited announcement of Wilder-Joshua, but after the Alabaman opted to a second fight with Cuban Luis Ortiz later this year, with the two fighters on opposing promotions, the prospect of the fight between the American and Briton looks like it will not occur any time this year.
With victory this weekend, Joshua will be targeting a fight before the year’s end almost certainly back on home soil around November time, but his next opponent looks unclear.
Two possible fights could see Joshua fight Manuel Charr, with the German holding a 35-fight undefeated record, or Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev – who was denied a fight with the Brit due to injury two years ago. More likely however, Dylian Whyte remains the number two ranked WBO challenger and after being snubbed by Wilder, could be set to recommence his rivalry against his old foe. Whatever the case, it must be boxing business as usual for AJ this weekend.
Anthony Joshua defends his IBF, WBO and WBA world heavyweight titles against Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square on Sunday morning UK time, with ring walks at approximately 4am.
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