American heavyweight Andy Ruiz is set to be confirmed as the opponent for Anthony Joshua’s defence of three of his world title belts in New York on June 1, having been plucked from a shortlist of three.
Joshua, 29, had been lined up to face Brooklynite Jarrell Miller at Madison Square Garden but those plans were thrown into disarray when the American failed three out of competition random drug tests undertaken by VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Miller, who tested positive for banned substances including HGH and EPO, was removed from the fight and refused an application for a licence from the NY Commission.
Ruiz, 29, has fought for the world title once before, against Joseph Parker, a former victim of Joshua. Ruiz lost on points to the New Zealander, whom Joshua outpointed 15 months later in a dull affair ruined by referee interference, in the process unifying the WBA, IBF and WBO world titles.
Promoter Eddie Hearn insists Ruiz will “do everything” to become world champion. “He will entertain you, give it his all,” Hearn said.
Others who were in the frame to fight Joshua were Michael Hunter, Luis Ortiz and Trevor Bryan. All highly ranked, but not ambitious enough, according to Hearn.
“I couldn’t afford a guy who I thought may not be good enough or game enough to entertain the fans. I had to pick a guy in my heart who I thought will do everything to become world heavyweight champion at the Garden.”
Ruiz fought just two weeks ago, when he defeated Germany-based Alexander Dimitrenko. Ruiz weighed 262lbs in that contest, 17lbs heavier than Joshua in his last win over Alexander Povetkin in September. At 6ft 2in, Ruiz is four inches shorter than Joshua, who is also returning after nine months out of the ring.
Ruiz has 32 wins from his 33 professional fights, has fast hands, and will look portly in comparison to Joshua. He is of Mexican heritage, born in Imperial Valley, California, and was previously promoted by Bob Arum.
“I doubt very much if he will trouble Joshua,” Arum said. “They’re heavyweights so they always have a chance, but he shouldn’t be good enough to beat Joshua.” Ruiz is ranked No 15 heavyweight in the world by the IBF sanctioning body.
Joshua has a media open day at his training camp at the English Institute of Sport this week, before leaving for a training camp, expected to be in Miami.