On Saturday Dec. 7, WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz Jr. will defend his titles in an immediate rematch with former champion Anthony Joshua in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The fight, which is likely the biggest heavyweight fight of the year, will be streamed on DAZN and will be broadcast on Sky Sports Pay-Per-View.
In June, Ruiz pulled off one of the biggest boxing upsets in quite some time, coming into his first bout with Joshua as a 30-to-1 underdog. Ruiz stepped in on just weeks notice after Joshua’s original opponent for the June 1 date, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, pulled out of the fight after testing positive for multiple banned substances.
For Joshua, the first fight with Ruiz was his chance to put on an impressive showcase in his stateside debut at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City. However, after sending Ruiz to the canvas with a left hook in the third round of the fight, Ruiz got up to put Joshua down two times in the same round. Unlike Ruiz, Joshua appeared to be badly hurt when getting up from both knockdowns.
Ruiz finished Joshua off in the seventh round, knocking him down twice more before referee Michael Griffin waved the fight off. With the win over Joshua, Ruiz turned the boxing world upside down and temporarily halted a superfight between Joshua and WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
Now, Joshua (22-1, 21 KO) has a chance to regain what he once had and possibly earn a big fight with the winner of Wilder’s rematch with Tyson Fury in February of next year. A win for Ruiz (33-1, 22 KO) would put him in the same situation.
The co-main event will feature Alexander Povetkin (35-2, 24 KO), as he takes on Michael Hunter (18-1, 12 KO) in a matchup of top heavyweight contenders.
Povetkin, 40, has had an extensive career near the top of the heavyweight division. But he has never really been able to go beyond that, as he has lost the two biggest fights of his career: title shots against Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua. He also signed to fight Wilder for his WBC title in 2016, but he tested positive for a banned substance shortly before, prompting Wilder to withdraw from the bout.
In August, Povetkin outpointed Hughie Fury — cousin of former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury — at the O2 Arena in London. The win over Fury was Povetkin’s first fight back after being stopped by Joshua in September of 2018.
The only loss for Hunter was a cruiserweight title opportunity against the unbeaten Oleksandr Usyk back in 2016. Since then, Hunter — a former U.S. Olympian — has gone 6-0 at heavyweight. His most recent bout was a 12-round decision win over Sergey Kuzmin in September at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
In the bout prior to the co-main, Dillian Whyte (26-1, 18 KO) will meet Mariusz Wach (35-5, 19 KO) for the WBC interim heavyweight title. This will be Whyte’s first fight since testing positive for a banned substance in July.
After losing via 7th round TKO to Joshua in 2015, Whyte has gone unbeaten in 10 fights over the course of four years. In July, he outpointed Oscar Rivas after 12 rounds at the O2 Arena. Shortly afterwards, it was announced that he had tested positive for the banned substance methylhexaneamine in the lead-up to his fight with Rivas.
Wach’s biggest career opportunity was a heavyweight title fight with then-reigning lineal and WBA/WBO/IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2012. However, Wach lost a lopsided unanimous decision, and has not had an opportunity quite like that since then.
In the years following the loss to Klitschko, Wach has gone 8-4, also losing to Artur Szpilka and Jarrell Miller. Whyte should be a heavy favorite to win on Saturday night.