Unified Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua’s United States debut will go on as planned, just with a different opponent.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) will defend his WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles against former title challenger Andy Ruiz Jr (32-1, 21 KOs) on June 1st at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The original plan was for Joshua to face Jarrell Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs), but evidently, it’s hard to get licensed to fight when you fail three drug tests for three different PEDs, including HGH and EPO.
Reasonably good options weren’t exactly plentiful to face Joshua on five weeks’ notice. Luis Ortiz was among the choices — amusing in itself considering he’s failed for PEDs before — but he and his team reportedly turned down a $5 million offer, instead of shooting for $10 million.
But for someone who is taking on the tall task of trying to topple the popular Brit, Ruiz Jr is a 29-year-old Mexican-American who is ten days removed from a stoppage win over veteran Alexander Dimitrenko on the PBC on FOX: Garcia vs. Granados undercard.
His physique might not be uh… overly convincing, but he does have fast hands.
Ruiz’s one chance at a major belt came in 2016 when he lost a close decision in enemy territory vs. New Zealand’s Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title. Parker is the only man who has gone the distance with Joshua thus far.
He hasn’t had an abundance of opportunities, but Ruiz should be considered a top-15 (not top-10) heavyweight and a decent replacement for Miller.
Ruiz will still be a heavy underdog, and certainly more so than Miller, but props to him for taking this fight and we’ll see if he can pull off a surprise. I would’ve preferred Michael Hunter, who’s also with Matchroom and a former cruiserweight contender, but this isn’t anything egregiously bad.