Just over six months ago the boxing landscape was shook by a friendly 19-stone Mexican-American – and this weekend is the rematch.
In Saudi Arabia, Anthony Joshua tries to win back three heavyweight world titles from Andy Ruiz, Dillian Whyte returns against Mariusz Wach, and Michael Hunter faces Alexander Povetkin.
While over in Brooklyn, Jermall Charlo defends his middleweight belt against Dennis Hogan, and Chris Eubank Jr can put himself in the frame to face the winner of that bout by beating Matvey Korobov.
I could write a 10,000-word essay about Ruiz-Joshua II. It would cover the conspiracy theories about the first fight, all the ‘he said, she said’, and a daily timeline of both men’s weight since June – nobody would read it, but I could do it. But all you really need to know is what’s contained the following few paragraphs.
Firstly, despite every man and his dog claiming AJ is overrated and going to get sparked again, the Brit is still a big 2/5 favourite to win.
Apparently, Joshua has swapped out weights sessions for more sparring, and he’s moved coach Rob McCracken from holding the mitts to monitoring the pad work. Ruiz has introduced no such tweaks, but he claims a full camp focused on the 2012 Olympic gold medallist will make him better prepared this Saturday.
The real meat of the rematch is the weight issue though. Both fighters are expected to weigh-in lighter than last time – for Andy that should just mean slightly better conditioning, but for AJ it suggests he wants to be faster and more mobile.
Some might argue – Ruiz being one – that a slimmed-down Joshua will be even less able to absorb a “lucky punch”, and more often than not sequels in the sweet science end earlier than originals. Ruiz is a solid 11/2 to win in rounds 1-6.
What worries me about Ruiz is the constant photos with new cars, the bling and all the interviews.
Mexico’s first heavyweight champ is distracted and, dare I say it, a bit cocky, and he really didn’t want to go to Saudi until Eddie Hearn found him a few extra million. There’s been a mentality shift – AJ was the one overlooking Ruiz, but now he’s got the dead-eye stare.
Joshua’s biggest influence in boxing is former long-reigning boss Wlad Klitschko – a man who got decked three times before adopting a long and boring style. AJ has learned from that and his own experiences, and the extra sparring and the weight loss is a huge indication that the Brit will box-and-move.
Ruiz won’t be any different to last time, when he benefited from back-to-back training camps, but now he’ll face a disciplined Joshua using his massive height and reach advantages. AJ beat Joseph Parker off the back foot on points with this style, and the Kiwi beat Ruiz by decision.
#WhatOddsPaddy has all the weird and wonderful betting options, but I’m sticking to the boring old decision victory.
Bet of the bout: Joshua on points at 3/1.
Who knows what in Dillian Whyte’s system lit up the UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) drugs test, but VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) are happy for the Londoner to return to the ring after a successful campaign on MasterChef (6.15pm), and former title challenger Mariusz Wach is in the other corner.
The Pole was at his peak in 2012, but now he’s on a slide of three defeats in his last five fights. Wach still has a decent chin and I expect a slightly undercooked Whyte to go easy on his former sparring partner – take 9/4 for Whyte on points.
If you’re looking for good value heavyweights who always put on a show, look no further than Michael Hunter and Alexander Povetkin (7.15pm).
America’s Hunter is the on-form man, but the Russian has Olympic-gold-medal pedigree – back Povetkin to win by decision at 3/1.
WBC champ Jermall Charlo likes to get his work done early or go the distance, and Ireland’s Dennis Hogan isn’t the sort of fella who’ll get beaten easily (Sunday, 4am). Take the 6/4 for Charlo to win on points.
Earlier in the night, former world title challengers Chris Eubank Jr and Matvey Korobov meet in a middleweight clash of styles (Sunday, 2am). Korobov has the skills but the Brit is too strong – the best bet in this one is Eubank in rounds 7-12 at 11/4.
* All odds correct at time of posting.