NEW YORK, May 31 — Anthony Joshua insists he is not underestimating Mexican opponent Andy Ruiz as he prepares to defend his unified world heavyweight crown on US soil for the first time at Madison Square Garden tomorrow.
British star Joshua is an overwhelming favorite to extend his unbeaten record against Ruiz, a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, who withdrew from the bout after failing three drug tests in April.
Bookmakers are offering odds of 1/20 for Joshua to make Ruiz the 23rd victim of a professional career which has seen him accumulate the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts since his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
But Joshua insists he is paying no attention to the bookmakers as he prepares for a fight that he describes as an upset waiting to happen.
“This is a banana skin fight for me in every aspect,” Joshua said yesterday. “I’ve got to take Andy deadly seriously, I don’t overlook him at all.
“I’ve got to respect him and his whole team. And I really respect the fact that he put his name on the dotted line to take this challenge.
“No matter what the odds or the bookmakers are saying, Andy’s going to come in here and give me a real good fight and cause problems. It’s down to me to outsmart and outmuscle him.”
Joshua, who has delivered 21 knockouts in his 22 victories, will, however, be determined to deliver an explosive performance as he aims to build a broader following in the United States on his American debut.
The Londoner hopes tomorrow’s bout in New York will edge him closer to an eventual superfight against either WBC champion Deontay Wilder or fellow Briton Tyson Fury.
Fight fans have been left frustrated by the failure of any of the world’s three top heavyweights — Joshua, Wilder and Fury — to make a bout in the wake of Wilder and Fury’s spectacular draw in Los Angeles last December which reignited interest in boxing’s prestige division.
The prospect of a swift unification bout between Joshua and Wilder receded further on Wednesday, when WBC champion Wilder said he had agreed a rematch with Cuba’s Luis Ortiz later this year.
That deal makes it unlikely that Joshua will face Wilder in a ring any time before 2020, although the Briton yesterday said he had not given up hope that the fight could still happen this year.
‘Don’t rob the fans’
“I don’t need to be negative towards Deontay Wilder. Good luck to him, it’s his career, he knows what he’s doing,” Joshua said.
“But I’m a fan of the sport. Let’s not rob the fans of a good fight. I’m a fan and I feel like I’m robbing my fans of a good fight.
“If he wants to come and see us, he’s more than welcome. Hopefully he’ll come to his senses before a date and a venue is announced for Ortiz.
“But if it’s not Wilder, I’ll have to go somewhere else. What can I do?”
Ruiz, whose lone loss in his 33 fights came in a majority decision loss against New Zealand’s Joseph Parker in 2016, is adamant that he has the guile to pull off an ambush tomorrow.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity all my life,” Ruiz said. “I’ve been training so hard. I think it came at the perfect time. I’m ready to be the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.
“I don’t have nothing bad to say about Anthony Joshua, he’s a champion, I respect him. But inside the ring there’s going to be no respect. No fans, no friends. It’s going to be a helluva fight.” — AFP