Andy Ruiz Jr., the first Mexican-American heavyweight world titleholder, will face Anthony Joshua for the second time on Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia.
Ruiz shocked the boxing world on June 1 by filling in as a late replacement for Jarrel "Big Baby" Miller and stopping Joshua, who was heavily favored, in Round 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Ruiz sent Joshua to the canvas four times in the bout.
Joshua utilized the rematch clause in the fight contract and his promoter Matchroom Sports struck a lucrative deal to place the fight in Saudi Arabia. Ruiz, who originally had balked at the idea of the rematch being stage in the UK, wasn't thrilled with that venue either.
But with his pot sweetened, Ruiz agreed to terms on Wednesday and the "Clash on the Dunes" will take place in the Middle Eastern.
Dan Rafael and Steve Kim share their thoughts.
Will the rematch be different than the first fight?
Rafael: I think it will probably be very different. Despite much discussion about how Joshua didn't look right or wasn't at his best, blah, blah, blah, he sure looked pretty good when he dropped Ruiz flat on his back in the third round. Then he got nailed later in the round and suffered a concussion. That Joshua made it as far as he did into the seventh round and was still in the fight was impressive. He will be ready for the rematch and he knows what's at stake. Joshua also knows what Ruiz is capable of, so I expect Joshua to be in top shape physically and mentally for his most important fight. Think Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman II (Rahman uspet Lewis in a fifth round KO in their first fight in 2001, and then Lewis got his revenge seven month later with a fourth-round KO in the rematch.)
Kim: It will, the element of surprise is no longer in place. When they fought back in June, Ruiz was thought of as nothing more than a portly late replacement. But as Joshua found out, this was a book that never should have been judged by its cover. Expect to see a more disciplined and focused AJ this time around. Ruiz has been taking an extended victory lap and you just wonder -- is this Buster Douglas 2.0? (Douglas surprised Mike Tyson to become the heavyweight champion in 1990 with a 10th-round KO victory but lost a third-round KO against Evander Holyfield eight months later and never regained the belt.)
What does Joshua need to do to win?
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Rafael: He needs to do what he did for the first two-plus rounds of the June 1 fight. Use his size and his jab, and impose himself on Ruiz. But he also has to be responsible on defense and understand that Ruiz has very fast hands. He can't be afraid to tie up if needed. Joshua has the physical edges in size, power and experience against better opponents. He should also throw a few body shots at Ruiz's ample midsection to slow him down a little. It will pay dividends the later the fight goes.
Kim: It's very simple -- focus on winning one round at a time behind the long jab. It may not be a popular strategy, but from this point forward, Joshua (who has scored 21 stoppages in his 22 victories) will be more or less like Wladimir Klitschko after he suffered a few KO losses early in his career. While under the guidance of the late Emanuel Steward, Klitschko became a much more cerebral and careful boxer, and while he certainly still scored his share of knockouts, oftentimes the process was relatively dull, yet highly effective. The reality is since his memorable battle with Klitschko in 2017, Joshua had already begun to take a much more cautious approach in the ring.
Can Ruiz win with the same strategy as the first fight?
Rafael: Sometimes it's best if you don't fix what's not broken. It worked in the June fight, so why couldn't it work again? That said, Joshua may have taken him a bit lightly the first time since he was a late replacement given almost no shot to win. Remember, it was the Joshua party that night as he made his much-hyped American debut. But Ruiz weathered the third-round knockdown and landed his quick punches. Sure, he can do it again. He might want to tweak a few things, but there's no need for any major overhaul.
Kim: Well, if he can do it once, why not twice? While Joshua will need to make some adjustments (both physical and mental), Ruiz will always have the advantage in hand speed and fluidity. And when you've already beaten a guy decisively once, there's really no reason why it can't happen again. Especially given the fact that it wasn't just one punch or a single round that really led to the downfall of Joshua. If Joshua does decide to box more from the outside and utilized the perimeter of the ring, will Ruiz get himself in good enough physical condition to be able to move around the ring for 12 rounds to close the gap on him?
Does the neutral site favor Ruiz, Joshua, both or none?
Rafael: I don't think it favors either guy. The event is controlled by Joshua's team, but he and Ruiz will both be fighting in a new place that's much different than what they are used to -- outside in the desert, thousands of miles from home. But in the end, they'll be in a regulation boxing ring where it's just man against man, no matter what the venue is.
Kim: Given the fact that Matchroom Sports chose this venue (that Joshua has visited before) and the reluctance that Ruiz showed in agreeing to fight in Saudi Arabia, conventional wisdom says that it's Joshua who has the home canvas advantage here. But just remember: while Joshua may be more comfortable in this setting, once the bell rings, it's just two guys inside that ring.
Do you think this event will be remembered like the "Thrilla in Manila" or the "Rumble in the Jungle"?
Rafael: Totally depends on the fight. If it's another epic battle, then maybe it has a chance to go down in all-time boxing lore. But, and no offense to Joshua or Ruiz, they are not Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier. More likely, whatever happens, the location will just be a footnote in history like Manny Pacquiao fighting in Macau or Malaysia or Lewis-Rahman I taking place on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kim: Much will depend on the quality of the fight. Ali-Frazier III and Ali-Foreman are memorable because of the caliber of boxers and the actual fights, the locales of these promotions (that took place in Manila, Philippines, and Kinshasa, Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) are part of the lore of these events and an exotic footnote. There will be -- and already has been -- a great deal of controversy over the destination of Ruiz-Joshua II, but for it to be truly historic like those above-mentioned bouts, you're going to need a memorable clash.