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Preview: Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr, plus undercard

:Headline: Preview: Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr, plus undercard:
Sports Mole previews the unified world heavyweight title bout between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
By , Senior Reporter | 1mo

Each of the three star names in the heavyweight division - Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury - will put themselves in the firing line for criticism on each occasion that they opt not to face one another. However, there is a time and a place for certain bouts, and unlike with Wilder and Fury on their next outings, Andy Ruiz Jr is the right opponent for Joshua as he makes his debut in the United States. Ruiz does not pack the same kind of power as the disgraced Jarrell Miller - who had been due to face Joshua before failing three drugs tests - but the Mexican-American has at least competed at world level, and can count himself unfortunate not to have already claimed the WBO belt against Joseph Parker in December 2016.

However, there needs to be a sense of perspective when talking up the chances of Ruiz producing a seismic shock at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. The 29-year-old has the character and the hand speed to earn Joshua's respect, but he has not shared a ring with anyone near the same size, power and pedigree of Joshua. There are going to be times when Ruiz is going to have to take risks in the hope of landing a fight-changing blow, and the reality is that a bigger shot is going to be coming from the opposite direction. Joshua showed frailties against Alexander Povetkin in his last contest, but the experience of facing a fast-punching, smaller man can only stand him in good stead ahead of headlining in New York.


This fight has the potential to be entertaining for as long as it lasts, but everything points to Joshua getting the job done by the middle rounds. However, that is how it is supposed to be. This is effectively a night to showcase the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO title holder to a wider audience, and Matchroom Sport and DAZN have got exactly what they were looking for with Ruiz being a credible opponent. Only Luis Ortiz - who will now rematch Wilder in September - would have topped Ruiz given the circumstances, and Joshua must now show that he can produce an explosive performance in new surroundings during what could be a relatively dull period at the top end of the division.

Joshua's target is to claim all four recognised world belts, but that possibility awaits lightweight Katie Taylor as she goes toe-to-toe with Delfine Persoon on the undercard. Like Joshua, Taylor is missing the WBC crown from her collection, and the Irish star will have to raise her performance to overcome the vastly-experienced Persoon. Taylor has been so impressive since turning professional that promoter Eddie Hearn has made no secret of the fact that he is constantly planning several fights in advance, but the former Olympian can ill afford to look past a fighter who is unbeaten since 2010 and has been world champion since 2014. Taylor is also back out just 11 weeks after her last defence against Rose Volante, while this weekend's undisputed clash will be her fifth bout since the end of July. The 32-year-old is justifiably the favourite ahead of the fight, but there are still questions that she must answer in order to continue her quest to be regarded as the best in the sport.


Callum Smith is finally back in the ring after claiming the WBA super-middleweight title from George Groves in September, but the Liverpudlian finds himself in a similar position to Joshua. Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam is a solid opponent for a first defence, but the veteran is making the step up from middleweight having never defeated a stellar name. The Frenchman is durable enough to take Smith some rounds - especially after the champion's time away - but it would be a surprise if N'Dam sees the final bell.

The fight of the night could come without any world titles on the line as Tommy Coyle takes on home fighter Chris Algieri. Coyle has won a Commonwealth title at lightweight, but the Hull-based fighter is now at 140lbs and in with a former world champion. Algieri has only suffered defeats to Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Errol Spence Jr in a 26-fight career, and the New York man will also have size in his favour against an opponent who loves to come forward. Neither fighter carries a huge amount of power, but Coyle's desire to go on the front foot could see this encounter fail to reach the final bell.

This card is also being used to hand American debuts to Josh Kelly and Joshua Buatsi. Welterweight Kelly has the more difficult fight on paper with Ray Robinson a technically-sound southpaw, and his style will test the mentality of the Briton who is still looking to find a balance between confidence and brashness. Kelly will want to entertain the American crowd, but Robinson can make things tricky for the Rio Olympian if he gets carried away under the bright lights at MSG.

Buatsi, on the other hand, should be able to comfortably dispatch Marco Antonio Periban. The Mexican has only been stopped once - by James DeGale at super-middleweight in 2014 - and he is making the step up to a new division after being out of the ring for over two years. Buatsi will want to be clinical due to being pencilled in to headline in Manchester in July, and the Olympic bronze medallist should make a statement in one of the night's early matches.

Sports Mole has partnered with JD Sports to offer in-depth coverage of Anthony Joshua's US debut against Andy Ruiz Jr. body check tags ::

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