That Anthony Joshua is the favorite going into tomorrow’s all-or-nothing Ruiz-Joshua 2, on the heels of his world-class upset back in June, is the sort of money-talking that makes it hard to remember that he, Joshua, is technically tomorrow’s challenger. Joshua stands at 5/11 to win this morning in London. This brushes the 6′ 8″ Englishman up near a 70% probability of winning the fight. Expressed in American odds, Joshua ranges from -205 to -220, or about 66-69% probability.
Ruiz stepped into the ring as the +1200 underdog in June, so that, incredibly, despite holding the four belts for the summer and fall, he’s only worked his way down to odds of +175 for the win.
It’s extraordinary that London’s gimlet-eyed bookmakers cannot embrace the reality that Joshua was thoroughly and decisively stripped of four heavyweight belts by the rotund, yet steely, Andy Ruiz in seven brutal rounds. Hard as they might seem numerical, odds are also records of belief.
So here’s what’s at work behind that belief in Joshua in London: The event was gripping, but for Joshua fans and his countrymen, hard to take in. No doubt, the current odds favoring Joshua are also a measure of the fighter’s extreme athleticism and his size. The Brits have seen him up close, in stadiums like Cardiff, whupping up on lesser challengers for years. It’s how he got all those belts that Deontay Wilder so very much covets. Ruiz was a lesser challenger in June who stepped into the fight at the last minute, and his odds in tandem with Joshua’s are telling us that he’s seen as a lesser champion now.
In the heavyweight division’s moonscape, right this minute, Joshua has no bigger fan than the cheeky Deontay Wilder, who has been more than vocal in his desire for Joshua to “get the job done” and get ready for the real deal, namely, a match with Wilder. That’s premised of course on the supposition that Joshua can man up to the work, as Wilder did in November in his own Las Vegas prequel-to-Joshua.
Joshua has eight huge inches of reach on Ruiz, not to mention four inches of height, absolutely none of which did him a lick of good last June. It was Ruiz’ patented flurries of jabs that did Joshua in, that, and the scrappy, stoic, almost otherworldly unstoppability of Ruiz, who placed a couple of hard head shots that dazed and confused the then-champion. By any measure, Joshua rode into that fight far too confidently, and the talented, comically-overweight Ruiz stunned and surprised the British champ, his mega-streaming/megalith/sponsor DAZN, his promoter Fast Eddie Hearn, Fast Eddie’s even faster boxing agent dad, and the rest of the boxing world, including rival Deontay Wilder, who has been rattling his sabers for the better part of two years to get Joshua and Hearn to give him the much-longed-for “unification” date.
But. What the British bookmakers are counting on bringing Joshua the win in Saudi Arabia are two elements of the man that his fans in England have long known and loved. First, Joshua’s not just well-spoken, he’s smart. Second, he’s also game, and very sporting in the old-English sense of the word. He put it all on the line in June, and he’s going to do it again, in a heartbeat, more or less, for the rematch.
Not least, whether we’re Ruiz fans or not, we should applaud Joshua unreservedly for putting even more at risk with the rematch than he did when his four belts were on the line in June. Because: Whether Wilder lies in the offing or no, for Joshua two consecutive losses to Ruiz means that the autumn of his career will have begun.
Ultimately, that awareness in Joshua can be the reason that the London touts seem to think that their countryman will bear down, take Ruiz the distance, and will win — precisely because the very personable Anthony Joshua has left himself with such a huge mountain to climb to get back to where he was.