When Andy Ruiz Jr. stopped three-belt world champ Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1, he registered the biggest boxing upset since James “Buster” Douglass, as a 42-to-1 underdog, stopped the seemingly unstoppable Mike Tyson way back in 1990.
And now, with rematch talks in the works and the big part two about to happen later this year, online sportsbook odds have the UK’s Joshua as a -350 betting favorite despite being dropped four times en route to the seventh round TKO loss to Imperial, California’s Ruiz.
The oddsmakers are clearly basing their picks on the same criteria that applied before their first outing, when the roly-poly Mexican American challenger was considered a walk in the park for the defending IBF/WBA/WBO world champ and box office superstar.
Joshua will still be the taller man. He’ll still be the bigger man. He’ll definitely be the more athletic-looking of the two. And, of course, he’ll still be the more connected fighter, with tens of millions (or more) riding on his back as the cornerstone of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom boxing and as one of the key assets of upstart streaming service DAZN in the US.
The money, as it was in the first Ruiz-Joshua, is firmly pushing for a Joshua win.
But in boxing, more so than in any other sport, scripts can be flipped and one person—even one punch—can change the course of history. Boxing, in spite of all the politics and backstage maneuverings, is still, ultimately, a one-on-one test of will, skill, and ability.
In the particular case of Ruiz, he managed to not only overcome all the disadvantages stacked in front of him, but also a third round knockdown that would’ve convinced lesser men to pack things up and just be grateful for the big check about to come his way.
Ruiz, however, got up and immediately started flinging fists—something which, figuratively and literally, stunned the defending champ and directly led to him being dropped twice in that same round.
The rest of the way, the challenger simply proved that he was the better fighter that night. He was more composed, more determined, and showcased greater all-around skill than the heavily favored champ.
So, then, why would Joshua be favored in the rematch after being so thoroughly bested?
Because, frankly, some still think that what Ruiz did was a fluke—more about what Joshua didn’t do than what Ruiz did. Others lean towards Joshua because they trust that the business will pull back in the direction of the money and that the deck will be stacked in Joshua’s favor in order to facilitate that return to what “should” be.
Ruiz is currently fighting that possibility of a stacked deck against him by trying to keep the rematch in the US or Mexico instead of Joshua’s favored UK host.
“I want the rematch to be in Mexico or New York City again, Las Vegas or here at the Staples Center,” Ruiz told gossip site TMZ. “…I’m the champion, I call the shots. We’re the A-Side now.”
Whether Ruiz wins this power play over the venue or not, the fact is that he’ll be battling all of the issues that were stacked up against him on June 1—plus the pressure of having to prove that the first fight wasn’t a fluke.
The first-ever heavyweight champ of Mexican descent has proven that he has the ability and will power to meet any challenge in the sport, so, regardless of the odds, betting against him is a risky proposition.