It was supposed to be British boxing’s poster-boy against America’s cheeseburger-eating bad-boy this Saturday, but Jarrell Miller popped for not one, not two, but three different performance-enhancing drugs.
The replacement is another fast-food loving Yank, but Andy Ruiz is even more likely to be devoured by AJ.
The massive card at ‘The Garden’ includes Katie Taylor’s battle with Delfine Persoon to be undisputed champ, Callum Smith’s first title defence, a big ask for Tommy Coyle against former titleholder Chris Algieri, and Josh Kelly’s introduction to world-level boxing.
Joshua v Ruiz Jr – Bet now
A lot of people are saying that Ruiz isn’t as bad as he looks, and it’s true, but let’s be honest, he’s going to get smashed by AJ. The portly Mexican-American is giving up four inches in height and about eight in reach, and you can back him at 12/1 to win – but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Ruiz would almost certainly beat Miller – and that’s not me trying to hype up this weekend’s contest – he has quicker hands, more skill and deeper experience. But to cause an upset against AJ you need the champ to be distracted and you have to pack your gloves with TNT, and neither of those are in play on Saturday.
Since AJ’s 2017 war with Wlad Klitschko, the Watford man has taken a more pragmatic approach – stopping two opponents late on and going the distance with Joseph Parker in a unification contest.
Ruiz was unlucky to lose a mixed decision to the same Kiwi three years ago, and you can back Joshua to win on points for only the second time in his career at 9/2.
I am sure Team Joshua would happily have him work behind his jab, but the 2012 Olympic gold medallist must want to impress on his US debut – especially after Deontay Wilder switched off Dominic Breazeale in less than three minutes two weeks ago.
Ruiz likes to pressure his opponents, but he doesn’t have particularly fast feet or good head movement. I can see an early shootout, and placing a bit of money on Joshua in rounds 1-2 at 11/2 is not a bad idea either.
If AJ doesn’t get rid of the Californian early, I reckon the challenger will get broken down in the middle rounds. Round 7 is a particular favourite for Josh – he stopped Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin and Breazeale in that session – and Ruiz fits in snugly with that group.
Bet of the bout: Joshua in rounds 7-8 at 9/2.
Taylor v Persoon – Bet now
Taylor’s professional career couldn’t have been planned any better – in 13 bouts the Irishwoman has carved through the lightweight division and picked up three of the four major baubles.
This Saturday she can get the final piece of the crown by beating up Belgium’s champ Persoon.
The Flanders fighter has been the head honcho in the 135-pound division for almost six years and few have taken even one round off the big, rough right-hander. The only loss on Persoon’s record came way back in 2010 in her 10th paid contest.
Maybe the most impressive thing about Persoon has been her attitude – she has spent her career on small hall shows yet she seems happy, confident and very well prepared.
Persoon has acknowledged that no female lightweight beats Taylor for speed and skill, but she is planning to make it a long, hard night.
Taylor is an Olympic champ and unbeaten as a pro, but this is the toughest fight of her career. Paddy is right to make the Bray boxer favourite, however, she doesn’t have the power to shut down Persoon.
The Belgian will throw everything at Taylor and I like the draw at 25/1, but I am going to pile in on the astronomical odds for Persoon to win by stoppage.
Bet of the bout: Persoon by KO at 40/1.
Smith v N’Dam – Bet now
Smith has spent eight months looking high and low for a decent super middleweight challenger but, in the end, all he could find for the first defence of his title and his US debut is a middleweight gatekeeper.
Hassan N’Dam has challenged unsuccessfully for the title twice, but he’s fresh from a victory over Britain’s Martin Murray.
Winning the World Boxing Super Series last year has put Smith at the top of the 168-pound rankings and the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin are possible opponents for the Scouser if he can win this weekend.
N’Dam is a slickster, but he’s been decked more times than an antique boat.
Smith is a great finisher and he has a habit of sinking less capable opponents in round 1 – which is worth a dabble at 12/1. But the bulk of my money is behind Smith to take out a determined N’Dam in the middle sessions.
Bet of the bout: Smith in rounds 5-8 at 2/1.
Algieri v Coyle – Bet now
“There’s levels to this game” – it might not be original but it definitely applies to Algieri-Coyle. Coyle is a Matchroom Promotions favourite because of his fan-friendly style, but the Humberside brawler is going to get his head boxed off by New York’s Algieri.
On the face of it, Algieri, aged 35 and with no KO wins since 2013, might seem washed up. However, the world-class pugilist lives the life of a monk.
It’s Coyle who’s on the decline after taking too many hits to the head and he’s moving up in weight to face a bigger man. Algieri on points is the way to go here.
Kelly v Robinson – Bet now
Kelly has run rings around his nine professional opponents to date, but America’s Ray Robinson (not ‘Sugar Ray’) is a proper test.
The 33-year-old southpaw has only been defeated once in the last nine years and in March he drew with Egidijus Kavaliauskas – a man many believed would be a world champion sooner rather than later.
Kelly’s attacking skill level has looked phenomenal in his short career, but he’s been taken the distance a few times and he’s shown some slight defensive deficiencies.
I am half-tempted by a 25/1 punt on the draw, but I am going to back Kelly to notch up win number 10 on the judges cards.
* All odds correct at time of posting.