Saturday sees Anthony Joshua attempt to reclaim the world heavyweight titles against Andy Ruiz Jr. Whilst this handicapper, like most, didn’t get the first fight right and expected Joshua to stop Ruiz Jr, there is at least some credit in the bank that here at oddschecker we appreciated the challenge that Ruiz posed. The second fight is a tough one to call and good cases can be made for both fighters. Many pundits and the books fancy Anthony Joshua to take revenge, with the big Brit currently a -200 favorite whilst the Mexican champion has shortened into +194.
It seems many observers have bought into the idea AJ either underestimated Ruiz Jr or was not himself on the night. This is unfair to the Mexican who boxed very well and exposed flaws in Joshua that have been clearly on display in previous fights. Shorter fighters throwing counter or lead left hooks have caused AJ problems throughout his pro career. Notably, both Whyte and Povetkin hurt AJ with the left hook and AJ’s always struggled with shorter fighters slipping inside his jab and throwing looping counters. The idea AJ’s defeat was anything other than a loss to the better man on the day is frankly disrespectful to Ruiz Jr. That isn’t to say AJ can’t win the rematch, but the odds still seem slightly skewed after Ruiz’s excellent performance in the first bout.
When judging the first fight as a gauge for betting on the rematch, one of the most insightful moments came in the 2nd round (the only round of the fight Joshua clearly won). Joshua lands a nice 1-2 early in the round and then with about 50 seconds left Joshua counters a Ruiz jab with a right hand and then lands a clean left hook in the follow up exchange and moves away. It’s an excellent little victory for Joshua but the real insight to glean is how well Ruiz took AJ’s shots. They’re punches that have floored most other opponents of AJ’s but they bounced off Ruiz’s chin and he barely registered them. Even when Ruiz was dropped in the 3rd round, it was more because he was caught square on, the knockdown itself had very little effect on the big Mexican. The shortest priced method of victory is Joshua by stoppage (best price +100) but the first fight alone should suggest Ruiz is going to be a tough guy to put away. Ruiz’s excellent chin and fast counters will temper AJ’s aggression early in the fight, and whilst bookies and many punters seem to be favouring a Joshua KO, it’s more likely he will box conservatively (at least to begin with) and may not seriously dent the tough Mexican.
That doesn’t mean AJ can’t win the fight, but there’s nothing in the first fight to suggest he wins in a tear up. If AJ wins, it’s by sacrificing some of his power and instead jabbing on the move, pivoting around Ruiz and not allowing the Mexican to set his feet and counter. This style is far more conducive to a decision victory or, at best a late stoppage. Joshua to win a decision is 4/1 and a stoppage in rounds 7-12 is +250. These are far better value than the Joshua outright stoppage price which will only just double your money.
The first fight provided enough evidence to suggest the second fight is unlikely to end early: Ruiz is technically very good and has a great chin; Joshua will not look to engage in a firefight, instead will be keeping it long and at distance, as his trainer, Rob McCracken was telling him in-between rounds of the first fight. The logical outcome of that is a fight that goes into the later rounds: backing the fight to go over 7.5 rounds at -118 looks a solid pick. Choosing the winner is far more difficult, but the 4/1 on Joshua to win a decision looks an undervalued market. If he can stay patient and build more slowly on any success he has, rather than looking to put Ruiz away, there’s no reason why Joshua can’t outpoint the Mexican over the course of 12.