That’s it for the evening, I’ll sign off now. Thank you for your emails, and here’s Sean Ingle’s fight report:
Joshua is asked about arranging a fight with the other big names in the heavyweight boxing: “When Wilder and Fury and Ortiz are really, really ready they’ll make the call … If you want to create history they know where we are.” He seems more keen on a third fight with Ruiz though.
Our official report is up and running now:
Joshua says this fight was his second favourite in his career. His victory over Klitschko was his No1 due to his respect for his opponent.
Joshua makes a point of thanking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and members of the royalty after his victory, which will not go down well with those who see this fight as little more than an exercise in sportswashing.
Ruiz grabs the mic and says: “Who wants to see a third fight?” Joshua replies: “If you’ve heard, you’ll see a third.” I take that as a confirmation they’ll go again.
Ruiz admits he was too heavy for the fight. “I was chasing him too much, hesitating too much,” he says.
First of all, I want to thank God. I want to say, man, the first time was so nice, I had to do it twice. A man like me don’t make no excuses, I’m used to knocking out guys. I said to myself I was going to correct myself. The sweet science of this sport is hitting and not getting caught. I’m hungry and I’m humble. Thank you to Andrew Ruiz and his family.
What a disciplined performance from Joshua, who kept his opponent at distance and was barely troubled by Ruiz. He shed 11lbs for the fight, looking for agility and speed over power. And it was that lightness on his feet that won the day.
Anthony Joshua regains his heavyweight titles!
Joshua wins by unanimous decision! The judges had it 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109. The two men hug in the centre of the ring, it’s clear they have tremendous respect for each other as Joshua chats to Ruiz for 30 seconds or so.
From my viewpoint, Joshua just needs to survive this round. Ruiz gets in close and lands a few blows to Joshua’s body but Joshua counters seconds later with a big, big right. But he knows he doesn’t need the KO and the Briton dances away. Ruiz smiles to himself as he swings away in the final few seconds but they don’t threaten Joshua. He is an all probability, the champion again.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 118-110 Ruiz)
Joshua snaps another jab into Ruiz, if he regains the title that jab will be a huge part of his victory. He’s held off his dangerous, shorter opponent so well all night. Ruiz, who is behind on points, has done very little in these last few rounds to go for a finish.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 108-101 Ruiz)
There’s been plenty of talk about Ruiz’s conditioning but he looks far from punched out after 10 grueling rounds. That said, Joshua looks the more sprightly of the two. A pretty cagey round, with neither man opening themselves up – possibly saving their best for the final two.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 98-92 Ruiz)
How does Joshua react after being shaken for the first time? Will he retain his discipline? He probably has this fight if he can continue to keep his man at distance. Joshua lands two good blows and dances out again before Ruiz can counter. He’s learned lessons from the first fight.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 88-83 Ruiz)
A few more rounds of this and Ruiz will need a KO to retain his title. It’s been clever, disciplined boxing from Joshua so far. No mean feat, when you’re thirsting for revenge and there’s the nagging desire to go in and finish the fight quickly. Ruiz looks frustrated and finally does some damage, landing a blow on the top of Joshua’s head. That’s the most damage he’s done to his opponent tonight.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 9-10 Ruiz (Joshua 78-74 Ruiz)
Compubox says that 93% of the fight has been fought at distance, a clear advantage to the taller Joshua. I can barely remember a clinch so far. Joshua gets in a few hooks and for a moment breaks from the plan and darts in to do damage from close range. But he springs back before Ruiz can do damage.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 69-64 Ruiz)
Ruiz predicted that he’d let Joshua dance and jab for the first rounds before going in and causing damage, but the Briton hasn’t let him inside all fight … so far. Joshua gets in close and delivers a blow to Ruiz’s body. It does damage but Ruiz will have no problem with the challenger getting in where he can do damage to him. Ruiz looks slow, and who knows how that extra 15lbs he’s put on since June will tell as the fight wears on.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 59-55 Ruiz)
That cut has reopened above Ruiz’s left eye. Joshua still in control but he’s not going into Ruiz’s body, and is maybe a little one-dimensional. He smiles to himself as he lands a couple of hard jabs to Ruiz’s head.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 49-46 Ruiz)
Joshua is in control, but Ruiz – at 280lbs – is so dangerous if he gets a big blow in, the challenger can’t afford to let his concentration slip. Joshua has consistently attacked Ruiz at the end of these rounds, and he does so against in the fourth. But Ruiz gets a punch in in the clinch and rocks Joshua for the first time. I’m giving that round to Ruiz, just.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 9-10 Ruiz (Joshua 39-37 Ruiz)
Ruiz has said he expects Joshua to go for it in the opening rounds, so I wouldn’t take too much from the Briton edging the first two. “I think he will box around nicely for four or five rounds until I take the pressure to him, start hitting his body and mixing it up,” said Ruiz this week.
The stats say, Joshua has landed 18 punches to Ruiz’s nine. Joshua looks almost skinny and he’s able to leap back from Ruiz’s jabs. Joshua gets a hook to Ruiz’s body at the end of the round. Not as emphatic from the Briton, but he edged that round.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 30-27 Ruiz)
The vaseline goes on Ruiz’s cut. He doesn’t look too worried, but even though Joshua won that first round, the Briton was a lot more cautious than he was in the first fight when his aggression got him in trouble. Two nice jabs from Ruiz, his best shots of the fight. Joshua focusing on that area with the cut and it’s reopened early in the round. And then a right from Joshua from close range, but Joshua is bleeding now too.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 20-18 Ruiz)
Ruiz is in gold trunks and Joshua in white. The crowd has warmed up a little. As predicted Joshua is keeping his opponent at a distance, controlling the centre of the ring. Joshua gets in the first significant blow of the fight – a right to Ruiz’s temple. There’s already blood above Ruiz’s left eye.
Guardian’s unofficial score: Joshua 10-9 Ruiz (Joshua 10-9 Ruiz)
Ruiz is giving away four inches in height and eight inches in reach to Joshua (although admittedly he is around 50lbs heavier) but that doesn’t bother him. In fact, he’s been fighting taller men his entire career, and is ready to use the height difference against his opponent, getting inside Joshua and causing damage close up.
“That is exactly what we have been training on,” said Ruiz earlier this week. “Being small, being more slick, applying pressure, throwing combinations and being first to the punch. I know he is going to try to box me around, that is why he lost some weight, he will try to keep me away with the jab. But that’s what we have been practising for.”
I have to say the crowd is pretty flat – nowhere near the bear pit atmosphere you get at a usual title fight. Blame the lack of beer.
We get three anthems for the price of two! After the British and US ones, we get a special rendition of the Mexican anthem, in tribute to Ruiz’s Mexican roots.
Tale of the tape
Here’s a look at how Ruiz and Joshua match up ahead of tonight’s main event. Ruiz tipped the scales at 283lbs at the weigh-in, 15lbs more than in their first encounter in June. Only Russia’s Nikolai Valuev (who was seven feet tall) has ever weighed more for a world heavyweight title fight. Joshua came in at 237lbs, 10lbs down from six months ago and his lightest weight in more than five years.
Ruiz comes in with a golden robe with a nice fur trim. Maybe not ideal wear for the desert, but it’s been raining so maybe he knew something we didn’t.
Joshua is first out as the challenger in a white robe. No entourage for the Briton – he strolls in on his own like it’s his day off. Maybe an early sign to the audience that tonight is about the fight, and not the sideshow – a criticism levelled at him after the last fight.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the setting of tonight’s event. Tonight’s card is taking place amid mounting criticism from Amnesty International that taking around $80m from a kingdom that has an “abysmal” human rights record, including jailing and executing opponents, is morally bankrupt. (And that’s putting aside the four fighters on the card with a history of testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.)
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, made his organisation’s feelings on the fight – and its venue – clear. “The fight is pure sportswashing and that’s why it’s so important to challenge the Saudi propaganda machine and its increased use of sport to gloss over its abysmal human rights record,” he said.
Joshua, who’s absorbed a fair share of criticism for saying Saudi Arabia is “trying to do a good job politically” and that everyone in the country seems to be having a good time, has dismissed suggestions that his legacy as a role model will be tarnished for his role in the affair.
“Not necessarily,” Joshua said. “I just came here for the boxing opportunity. I look around and everyone seems pretty happy and chilled. I’ve not seen anyone in a negative light out here, everyone seems to be having a good time.”
Joshua also appeared to not know what Amnesty International was when told the human rights organisation wanted him to research and speak out about problems in the country.
“That’s interesting,” Joshua replied in an interview with the BBC. “I haven’t known much about Amnesty because I’ve spent most of my time in Finchley just training. But as an individual I try to bring positivity and light everywhere I go. I’m just seeing it from my eyes alone but for sure the country in itself is trying to do a good job politically.
“For the sporting side of things, I just feel I’ve got a fight to focus on. For the future maybe I can bear a different kind of flag but at the minute it’s just the world championship flag I’m trying to bear.”
Joshua is expected to earn upward $50m for Saturday’s rematch in Saudi Arabia, compared to around $9m for his opponent. However Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has insisted money is secondary to reclaiming his belts.
“I don’t know if he has wanted it so bad before,” Hearn said. “When he lost he wasn’t in a great place for weeks after. But he’s really got his head screwed on. It’s ‘I’ve got to win this fight’ not just ‘It’s a lot of money and I’ve got to take it’.”.
Andy Ruiz is interviewed in the dressing room. “I’m feeling good, feeling ready, we’re going to do the same thing as we did in June.
The rain has started again but Ruiz is not worried. “I’m alright as long as we stick to the gameplan, the rain the weather doesn’t really matter
He’s asked about Joshua’s tactics: “He’s going to try to box me around, if he tries to headhunt that will go in my favour.”
Our first prediction of the evening, from Kevin Kukhta. “Being ten pounds lighter than previously shows his strategy, as its likely he’s not going to stand and trade with Ruiz, instead circling and jabbing his head off with that reach until Ruiz is gassed, then going in for the kill. AJ lost because he was overconfident, but with this humility and strategy, he’ll probably win. Ruiz is still incredibly dangerous.”
Pacheco has knocked out Saidi in the first round of their fight, and the Tanzanian is still receiving medical attention but should be OK. He went down hard though.
The 18-year-old Diego Pacheco, who has won all seven of his pro fights, is the one to watch in our penultimate fight of the evening. He’s very tall for a super middleweight – 6ft 4in – and will surely move up the weight classes as he ages and bulks up. Selemani Saidi of Tanzania is his opponent.
Michael Hunter landed bigger blows – particularly in the later rounds – in this fight but Povetkin may have won more rounds. Let’s see how the judges scores it. And it’s … a split draw. Hunter landed more shots, but Povetkin edged the power punches.
So, we have one more fight on the undercard before the main events. They had initially said Ruiz and Joshua would be making their ringwalks in the next 10 minutes, but that will obviously be delayed for another 45 minutes or so.
They think that around 4,000 British fans have travelled to Saudi Arabia to support Joshua, and the DAZN commentators make a reasonable point: will the absence of alcohol in the arena make a difference to the atmosphere. There’s a decent noise at the moment as Hunter rocks Povetkin in the 11th – his best round of the fight so far.
A little update on the evening’s schedule. Diego Pacheco (USA) v Selemani Saidi (Tanzania) has been added to the card. It’s over six rounds, but means Joshua and Ruiz won’t be making their ringwalks for another 90 minutes or so.
Weather update: the rain has stopped completely now, so any fears the fight would be postponed are pretty much over. Having said that, a mysterious smoke floats across the ring – maybe some escaped dry ice? – as Hunter and Povetkin trade big blows at the end of the seventh.
Povetkin has come back into this fight and crashes Hunter into the ropes with two big lefts. We’re about to enter the sixth, and the Russian is edging it.
According to my emails so far – admittedly seven people may not be a statistically significant sample – the public think Joshua has got tonight’s fight wrapped up. DAZN gives us a shot of Andy Ruiz’s cousin’s house, where the family have gathered to watch the fight. For a little look at Ruiz’s background and rise to the heavyweight championship, feel free to read Bryan Graham’s missive from Imperial, California, his hometown.
The camera cuts to Joshua being taped up in the dressing room, looking calm and serious. We then get a shot of Ruiz, already taped up, who looks pretty relaxed, loosening up with a few swings of those huge arms.
Canelo Alvarez has arrived, and gets to enjoy a night out at the fights with the added bonus of not getting punched in the face. Meanwhile, Hunter has started off strong against Povetkin, landing a flurry of blows on his opponent, who looks shaken.
A quick betting update [LEGAL NOTE: The Guardian does not encourage gambling]. The bookies have Joshua as the favourite at 4-9, with the champion Ruiz at 2-1 and the draw at 28-1. Ruiz’s dad, Andy Sr, may like those odds – he won $50,000 betting on his son in the first fight, although the odds were a little longer for that one.
Michael Hunter enters the ring for the final undercard dressed as The Predator. His nickname isn’t even The Predator – it’s The Bounty. Although coming in as a coconut-themed chocolate bar may not be that intimidating.
Dillian Whyte’s fight against Mariusz Wach is over. The Englishman was pushed all the way by his 6ft 8in Polish opponent, who took him to 10 rounds. Whyte takes it by unanimous decision, and we have one more fight – the WBA heavyweight eliminator between Alexander Povetkin (Russia) and Michael Hunter (USA) before – before the main event. It’s been a good week for the Whyte family after Dillian’s brother, Dean, tackled a troublesome passenger on the flight over.
Ruiz or Joshua? Joshua or Ruiz? Here’s a look at how 14 fighters see tonight’s main event. Send along your predictions to our Tom Lutz, who will be taking over from here, via email or Twitter at @tom_lutz.
Deontay Wilder (WBC heavyweight champion): Ruiz
“I see Ruiz coming back in, doing the exact same thing he did the first time. In rematches, when you get two guys in there sharing each other’s energy, you sort of know what they’re going to do. Although you can go back into the gym, strategize and get new ideas, like Mike Tyson said: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit.’ And sometimes when you get hit, you go back to what you know. Ruiz still has nothing to lose. The pressure is still on Joshua to show it’s a fluke, to show it was a bad night in the office. I’m not saying Joshua can’t win. He can put it together and get the victory, but my pick is Ruiz.”
Dominic Breazeale (world heavyweight title challenger): Joshua by TKO 10
“Anthony Joshua wins. I believe that Joshua learns from his mistakes and boxes the first three rounds until he sees an opening. In the fourth round Joshua will take advantage of it. The seventh round is the most exciting round of the fight with both fighters being knocked down. In the end, however, I see Joshua coming out on top via 10th-round TKO, referee’s stoppage.”
Adam Kownacki (undefeated heavyweight contender): Ruiz by KO 9
“I think the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua fight is too close to call. Both fighters are very well prepared and it’s the heavyweight division where one punch could end everything. I feel that the winner will be who wants it more. Does Andy want to be know as a heavyweight champ and to prove that the first fight was not just won by luck? Or will Anthony do everything to get his title back? I’m not convinced Anthony wants the title back. I have Andy winning again.”
Luis Ortiz (two-time world heavyweight title challenger): Joshua on points
“In my heart, I truly want for Andy Ruiz to pull off another victory over Anthony Joshua once again. But I believe that Joshua has learned a valuable lesson from losing the first fight. So I believe that Joshua will stay at a distance and that he will outbox Ruiz on the way to winning a decision.”
Gerald Washington (world heavyweight title challenger): Ruiz
“I am in camp with Andy Ruiz, and I’m witnessing, first-hand, that everything I have heard about his fast hands and his skills is true. Anthony Joshua is a great fighter and he was a tremendous champion, but Andy beat him the first time and I believe that he has the confidence to do it again.”
Joseph Parker (former WBO heavyweight champion): Joshua
“Not too sure but if I had to pick someone I think AJ will win if he uses his reach and height and moves around. Andy is one damn tough guy though and his pressure and counterpunching is spot-on.”
Claressa Shields (undisputed middleweight champion): Joshua by late-rounds KO
“I have AJ winning the rematch. Why? Because that loss forced him to change up many things. He is slimmer now, using angles and knows what he is up against. I believe Ruiz will come with the smoke he had in the first fight but people forget that Joshua dropped Ruiz first! So I see a late KO by Anthony Joshua if he sticks a hard fast jab in Ruiz’s face and get the combinations going.”
Amanda Serrano (seven-division world champion): Ruiz by mid-to-late rounds TKO
“I think that Ruiz will win again. I think mentally he has the edge and Anthony, although a good fighters, doesn’t look real confident. I predict Ruiz stops him in the mid-to-late rounds.”
Demetrius Andrade (WBA middleweight champion): Undecided
“History shows that the person who won the first time is going to win the next time. If Ruiz gets inside and uses his faster hands then it’s probably going to go the same way. But Joshua is a great fighter and if he adjusts and uses his reach to keep Ruiz on the outside then Joshua can pull of the win and get his belts back. Either way, I expect a great fight and may the best man win.”
Jaime Munguía (WBO light middleweight champion): Ruiz
“I think that Andy Ruiz will come stronger. He has more confidence in himself. Now the pressure is on Joshua’s side. Sincerely, I feel that Andy Ruiz will walk away with his hand raised.”
Román González (four-division world champion): Ruiz by KO
“I believe that Ruiz has less pressure to win this time. Not much about his mindset has changed since winning the first fight and entering the rematch, I think that Joshua’s mindset is insecure. There are so many people trying to tell him what he should do in order to beat Ruiz.”
Tevin Farmer (IBF super featherweight champion): Joshua by KO
“I honestly think it’s a 50-50 fight but Joshua’s going to knock him out. I don’t know what round but he’s going to knock Ruiz out.”
Carl Frampton (former two-division world champion): Joshua on points
“I go with Joshua, but someone is getting knocked out. Mentally, Joshua needs to be strong to regain the titles.”
Andy Lee (former WBO middleweight champion): Undecided
“The only thing I am certain of is that I don’t know who is going to win. It’s the hardest fight I can remember in a long time. There’s ways that both men can win obviously. It’s about their mentality now. Has it damaged Joshua? Will Ruiz be as hungry now? He has the money, the fame and the belts now. I can see Joshua boxing disciplined and winning on points, or Ruiz breaking him down again. A lot might depend on the night and who can handle the occasion. But I think the first round is most important. Whoever wins the first round sets the tone.”
The big news of the last 24 hours, no pun intended, centers on Andy Ruiz’s weight. The champion tipped the scales at 283lbs at yesterday’s weigh-in, 15lbs more than June’s first installment, prompting widespread criticism. In perhaps an ominous historical parallel, that’s the same weight gain Buster Douglas made between his famous upset of Mike Tyson (231lbs) and his doomed first title defense against Evander Holyfield (246lbs).
But Ruiz insisted his true weight is far lower, telling the Athletic he would have come in closer to 270lbs if the weigh-in had been held earlier in the day.
“They made us wait until 4:30, almost 5pm here,” Ruiz said. “I already had ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, I had on a sombrero and all my clothes. A lot of people are saying that I came overweight or this and that but we had to wait so long. I probably put on 10 pounds just eating and drinking normally today. I would’ve been at like 268 without all that stuff and haven’t had eaten. If we weighed in at 11am, I definitely would have been less.”
Ruiz’s trainer, Manny Robles, chalked up the eye-popping figure to the conversion rate (?) and his fighter’s decision to take the scale fully clothes.
“He is well prepared, like always,” Robles told ESPN Deportes. “It was because of the conversion from kilos to pounds, you also have to bear in mind the increase with his clothes.”
Heavy rain comes down on undercard
The rain is coming down in sheets outside (and inside) the open-air arena built for tonight’s event. Meanwhile, Croatian prospect Filip Hrgovic has stopped Eric Molina in the third round of their scheduled 12-round scrap, spared from the deluge by the small canopy hanging over the ring.
The BBC’s Dan Roan reports that organizers have said there’s no prospect of delay or cancellation despite the watery conditions, but the problems are mounting as the card moves forward. A few of the TV broadcasters on press row have enlisted assistants to shield them from the rain by holding umbrellas over their set-ups, but the umbrellas are obstructing the sightlines of several spectators in the high-rent district, who are understandably kicking off over it.
Tonight’s running order
Here’s a look at tonight’s bout sheet. Also, a reminder that Saudi Arabia has world’s third lowest rainfall with 59mm annually, according to the Press Association’s Mark Staniforth. Ruiz and Joshua are expected to make their entrances at a quarter to midnight local time or a little over three hours from now.
First bell (3.30pm – all times GMT)
- Majid Al Naqbi (UAE) v Ilia Beruashvili (Georgia), four rounds, lightweights
World feed on air (4pm)
- Zuhayr Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia) v Omar Dusary (Kuwait), eight rounds, lightweights
Live on Sky Sports Box Office and DAZN (5pm)
- Mahammadrasul Majidov (Azerbaijan) v Tom Little (England), eight rounds, heavyweights
- Filip Hrgovic (Croatia) v Eric Molina (USA), 12 rounds, heavyweights
- Dillian Whyte (England) v Mariusz Wach (Poland), 10 rounds, heavyweights
- Alexander Povetkin (Russia) v Michael Hunter (USA), 12 rounds, WBA heavyweight eliminator
Main event (8.45pm)
- Andy Ruiz Jr (Mexico) v Anthony Joshua (England), rematch, 12 rounds, for Ruiz’s IBF/WBO/WBA heavyweight title
- Hopey Price (England) v Swedi Mohamed (Tanzania), four rounds, junior featherweights
- Diego Pacheco (USA) v Selemani Saidi (Tanzania), six rounds, super middleweights
Hello and welcome to Riyadh for tonight’s hotly anticipated rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua. We’re ringside at the purpose-built Diriyah Arena on the north-west outskirts of the Saudi capital for what’s surely the most controversial world heavyweight title fight in more than 40 years. Six months after Ruiz turned boxing’s bellwether division on its ear with a seismic upset of the then-unbeaten Joshua at Madison Square Garden, they’re running it back in the middle of the desert – where Joshua will attempt to become only fourth deposed heavyweight champion to win an immediate rematch after Floyd Patterson (against Ingemar Johansson in 1960), Muhammad Ali (against Leon Spinks in 1978) and Lennox Lewis (against Hasim Rahman in 2001).
The story of the moment is the oppressive rainfall positively lashing down on the 15,000-seat arena in the middle of the Arabian Desert because of course. Pockets of spectators wearing plastic ponchos are scattered through the mostly empty stands as with many more taking shelter in the tight concourses as England’s Tom Little is blasted out in two at the hands of Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov in the night’s first pay-per-view fight. Peak Britain, really.
We’ll be back with tonight’s schedule, and perhaps a wee look at the forecast, after seeking cover ourselves.