Earlier today, Andy Ruiz Jr was finally announced as the replacement opponent for Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Gardens on June 1st. The Californian born Mexican fighter will step up to the plate after what has been a chaotic couple of weeks since it was revealed that original opponent Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller failed one then multiple drug tests. Since that time many (including Joshua) pushed for veteran southpaw Luis Ortiz to take the fight, as he is seen by many to be at the very least, a top eight heavyweight worldwide. However, in quite extraordinary events, Ortiz’s team who were apparently offered seven million dollars to take the fight, turned down the opportunity claiming they were ‘lowballed’ by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn. Which led some to claim that Ortiz, who has had his issues with drug use in the sport before, perhaps didn’t want to undergo the strict VADA drug testing that Jarrell Miller endured.
Whether this is true or not of course will never be aired in public, but the fact that Ortiz fought for around one million dollars versus Deontay Wilder less than a year ago and sniffed at seven times that amount of money to fight on the sport’s biggest stage does seem let’s say a little odd. In any case, 29 year old Ruiz Jr, perhaps to the annoyance to some of sport’s more casual fans, has been given the opportunity of a lifetime on the first day of June. Critics of the new opponent for Joshua will point to Ruiz’s not particularity easy on the eye body shape and fact that he is basically completely unheard of on British shores. However in truth, after Ortiz snubbed the fight, Ruiz Jr was perhaps the best of a bad bunch of potential replacements for Miller. As with an American opponent heavily preferred due to the fact that this is Joshua’s first fight on US streaming platform DAZN, Ruiz (who is currently ranked at number 12 on BoxRec) was chosen ahead of other US heavyweights Michael Hunter and Byrant Jennings. In reality, any available and viable heavyweight other than Ortiz was going to cause disappointment.
Despite, Ruiz’s appearance he is known as a fighter who has fast hands and comes to fight rather than survive, and indeed the American-Mexican fighter is seen by a lot of American pundits as a tougher test for Joshua than Miller was (though Miller doesn’t deserve any sort of ability comparison at this stage after his terrible antics). So Joshua/Ruiz could at least prove to be a flash bang kind of affair with Joshua naturally coming in as the overwhelming favourite to retain the trio of belts he currently possesses. And despite the disappointment of the Miller saga, it’s essential that boxers who try to gain unfair advantage are found out and disgraced. Though, the recent decision to only ban Miller for six months after failing three separate tests left many outraged and left an even more sour taste in the mouth in regard to drugs in the sport and particularly in the extremely dangerous heavyweight division.
Speaking of danger and the heavyweight division, Dillian Whyte will risk it all once again by facing Colombian Oscar Rivas on July 20th at The 02. The Brixton based fighter, who could easily take a tick over payday and wait for his shot at the heavyweight title later in the year or in early 2020, has instead taken another very tough fight instead. Claiming that enjoying his time in the sun and avoiding risk is an approach that simply isn’t in his nature, as at this point he needs real challenges if he going to prepare for fights as well as he can. So he will now face Rivas, who while being unknown to the casual or even semi-casual boxing fan, is regarded within the industry as an extremely dangerous and tricky prospect for anyone in the division. Many boxing pundits are already calling this match up as the potential heavyweight fight of the year, though some may jest that won’t be too hard to achieve if the top three in the division continue their game of political chicken.
However, Whyte has already shown his pay-per-view worth with two historic wars versus Derek Chisora and another to boot against former world champ Joe Parker. Both the power and vulnerability of Whyte appeal to those looking to pay twenty quid to see a tear up as well as a boxing community that is warming to him with every challenge he accepts and then overcomes. As he waits for the WBC to rule on whether he will be finally and rightly be ordered to fight Deontay Wilder, Whyte has chosen to do what most in the division seem unable to do at present and take a very risky fight when they don’t actually need to. His opponent Rivas is unbeaten at heavyweight and also has a sterling amateur background and of course will come with absolutely nothing to lose. The polar opposite is true for Whyte but he doesn’t seem to care, which in the current heavyweight climate of ‘who’s ducking who?’ playground type silliness is extremely refreshing to witness.
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