By Barry Holbrook: Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs) has reportedly agreed to terms as the replacement opponent for Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller to challenge IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) on June 1 on DAZN at Madison Square Garden in New York, according to Mike Coppinger.
Matchroom Boxing USA was also considering one of their own stable fighters in 2012 U.S Olympian Mike Hunter to replace “Big Baby” Miller, who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs on three separate tests recently, but they’re going with Ruiz.
Ruiz will never be mistaken for a bodybuilder or a marble statue, but he’s got fast hands, decent power and fairly good engine. He’s not a high volume puncher like the fighter he’s replacing Jarrell Miller.
The reaction on social media to the Joshua vs. Ruiz fight is mixed. Some boxing fans love the fight while others see it as a mismatch, which obviously it is. If Joshua crushes Ruiz Jr. in two or three rounds in a non-competitive fight, it could be bad for him. The fans will wonder why he was matched against a fat guy rather than a good fighter. Matchroom Sport promoters are taking a gamble in using Ruiz Jr. as Joshua’s opponent instead of someone like Michael Hunter.
The 6’2″ Ruiz is going to be a sitting duck for the 6’6″ Joshua’s shots. If Joshua chooses to stay on the outside and jab all night long like he did against Joseph Parker, there won’t be much Ruiz can do about it. Ruiz will be giving away four inches in height and a whopping eight inches in reach to the 29-year-old Joshua. That’s significant.
Being the much shorter than your opponent is going to leave Ruiz in a situation where he’s going to need to take chances if he wants to land anything. Ruiz did well in his last fight against the tall 6’7″ Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20th, but he had the perfect opponent in match-up. Dimitrenko gave up his height easily without making Ruiz pay while working way in punching range. Joshua is a different story. He’ll be laying down a layer of withering fire as the short, rotund Ruiz comes forward.
Coppinger said this on his social media site about Ruiz getting the fight:
“BREAKING: Andy Ruiz has agreed to terms to fight heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua on June 1 in N.Y. on DAZN, according to industry sources. Michael Hunter was also under consideration as the replacement opponent after Jarrell Miller tested positive for three PEDs. Ruiz is a really solid replacement opponent. Was controversially outpointed by Joseph Parker in 2016, his lone bid for the title. Doesn’t come in great shape, but fast hands and power in both fists. Scored a fifth-round KO of Alexander earlier this month. Ruiz is a PBC fighter. Ruiz makes more sense than Hunter for several reasons. He’s Mexican, bilingual and will come forward and press the action. Hunter is a smooth boxer who could make for an ugly fight and is someone Hearn can really build. No reason to knock him off now.”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn likes Ruiz Jr. because he’s from the U.S, he has a good record, fast hands, and he could potentially bring in a lot of Mexican boxing fans to watch the fight on DAZN.
The fans wanted to see Joshua face Luis Ortiz, but AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn was unable to put that fight together unfortunately.
A lot of boxing fans are going to be turned off to the Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr. fight just based on how the Mexican American fighter looks. He’s not popular, so the casual fans won’t know who he is, and they won’t care that they’re being told that he has fast hands. The only thing they’ll be able to just Ruiz by is his appearance. Ruiz hasn’t beaten anyone outstanding during his 10-year pro career.
Ruiz’s best victories have come against these fighters:
Dimitrenko, Tor Hamer, Siarhei “White Wolf” Liakhovich, Kevin Johnson, Ray Austin, Franklin Lawrence, Devin Vargas and Josh Gormley. Those are mostly journeymen level fighters. Liakhovich (27-7, 17 KOs) is a former WBO heavyweight champion, but by the time he Ruiz Jr. fought him in 2014, he was 38-years-old and well passed his prime. Indeed, Liakhovich had lost three out of his last four fights at the time that Ruiz Jr. fought him in December 2014.
Ruiz Jr. looked really poor against Liakhovich. Ruiz was getting hit a lot in that fight, and he struggled the entire time. Liakhovich is easily the best fighter that Ruiz Jr. has fought during his career, and he looked terrible. It’s impossible to know if Ruiz Jr. has improved since then, because his opposition has been too poor to tell whether he’s gotten better or not. Since the Liakhovich fight, Ruiz has beaten Joell Godfrey, Ray Austin, Dimitrenko, Josh Gormley, Franklin Lawrence, Devin Vargas and Kevin Johnson. Ruiz Jr. came close to beating Joseph Parker in their fight for the vacant World Boxing Organization heavyweight title in December 2016, but he came up short in losing a 12 round majority decision.
Joshua’s promoter Barry Hearn has a message to boxing fans that don’t like the matches his promotional company put on: “Don’t watch.” It’s quite possible that a lot of U.S fans WON’T watch this fight. Given that Joshua vs. Ruiz Jr. is going to be shown DAZN, which is a subscription service that goes for $20 per month, some fans won’t be excited enough to want to subscribe for this match. You have to remember this is Joshua’s debut in the U.S, so there are a lot of American boxing fans don’t know him from Adam. That’s why it was important that Matchroom find a heavyweight that the casual boxing fans are familiar with for Joshua’s fight, because he’s not well known. If this fight was in the UK, it wouldn’t matter who Hearn dragged in.
The UK fans won’t mind seeing Joshua fight Ruiz. This isn’t a match-up that UK fans have been demanding though, but they’ll still watch it in high numbers. It’s a different market in the U.S. They want to see fighters that they’ve heard of before, and unfortunately Joshua and Ruiz are unknowns. Ruiz Jr. has fought on television in the U.S, but his opposition has been so woefully bad that his fights have slipped under the radar, tucked away on undercards instead of in main events. That’s what happens when your promoter matches you against journeymen and stows you away on undercards for 10 years. You don’t get noticed.
If Matchroom Boxing USA and DAZN do a good job of marketing the Joshua vs. Ruiz fight to the U.S, it might bring in a lot of subscribers. The fans might get excited about the fight if there’s a big enough promotional effort to introduce to the casual fans who Joshua and Ruiz Jr. are. This isn’t just a situation where Matchroom and DAZN needs to market one fighter that the fans have never heard of. It’s two of them, and that’s going to make their job harder.