What could have been an unbelievable year for the heavyweights has turned in to anything but for boxing’s marquee division, with its biggest names seemingly further away than ever from meeting each other in the ring.
Anthony Joshua’s US debut was thrown in to disarray last month when his prospective opponent, Jarrell Miller, was booted from the bout for failing not one, not two but THREE VADA tests, resulting in a who’s who of heavyweight boxers being shortlisted as a replacement for the disgraced American.
The shortlist was pretty underwhelming, with certain pockets of boxing fans on social media immediately directing their ire towards Joshua himself - as if it was the Watford man’s fault his opponent had been caught cheating.
We could spend all day arguing about who’s ducking who among the heavyweights these days but the truth of the matter is that Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury were already busy preparing for their own upcoming fights, Luis Ortiz rejected the opportunity despite a reported $5m offer and, whilst certainly appealing, a rematch with Dillian Whyte would be far more lucrative financially in the UK than at Joshua’s US welcoming party.
Step forward Andy Ruiz Jr.
The confirmation of Ruiz has been met widely with derision, with many who’d never heard of the Mexican American boxer immediately taking note of his bloated physique. Yet, in a list of potential opponents that included Manuel Charr, Michael Hunter & Adam Kownacki, he is by far the most interesting pick - even more so than original choice Miller.
‘The Destroyer’ only has one blemish on his 33 fight professional career, a 2016 loss to Joseph Parker for the WBO title made vacant by Tyson Fury.
Ruiz failed in his bid to become the first heavyweight of Mexican descent to win a world title when Parker won the bout via a thin majority decision but there was criticism over the winner, with many believing it was in fact Ruiz who should have had his arms raised on that December’s night in Auckland.
A two-time Mexican National Junior Olympic gold medal winner, a representative of the Mexican boxing team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and with an amateur record of 105-5, it’s clear the 29-year-old can box and any notion that he’s less deserving than some of the other names mooted for this fight is ludicrous.
“I’m an aggressive fighter, I throw plenty of combinations and I’m not scared of getting hit,” he told Sky Sports
“I love action fights and seeing my fight a lot of people underestimate me just because of how I look or because of my body.”
Although at 6ft 2in Ruiz will be giving away four inches in height, he’s tough, much quicker and more mobile than his appearance suggests - he might not end up taking the WBO, WBA and IBF titles back to his native California when he faces Anthony Joshua on June 1st but he deserves our respect and he certainly has the tools to give AJ a hard day at the office at least.