Rematches in combat sports are always an interesting spectacle from both a sporting and a psychological standpoint.
In theory, the man or woman who won the first engagement should surely be the favorite for the second encounter – they have already proven themselves to be ‘better’, after all.
And so it’s something of a surprise to see Andy Ruiz Jr so widely discredited by the sportsbooks ahead of his rematch with the English fighter at the Diriyah Arena in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on Saturday.
It wasn’t just winning per se that should interest the wagering community. We’ve all seen ‘lucky’ wins in boxing in the past, where one fateful punch can shake the sport to its core. Think back to Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Does that mean Douglas was the better boxer?
There were echoes of that shocking night when Hasim Rahman KO’d the great Lennox Lewis too, but the outcome there was that the Brit got the jolt of perspective he needed. Within six months, Lewis had trounced Rahman in their rematch to reassert himself as the best heavyweight in the business.
But there is a different context to this second Ruiz-Joshua contest. In the first fight, Ruiz Jr put his opponent on the canvas on four separate occasions, which completely kicks to the curb any notions of a lucky punch or unsustainable level of performance.
Conspiracy theorists have emerged since, suggesting that AJ was carrying a concussion-based injury into the fight from sparring, or that he was spooked by the partisan ‘away’ crowd in Madison Square Garden.
Such notions are of no interest to smart bettors, and anyone considering a wager on the Joshua vs Ruiz odds for this rematch has one simple question to analyze: is Andy Ruiz Jr one of the best heavyweights on the planet? If he is, sportsbook odds of +200 on him repeating his boxing lesson are of exceptional value.
Or, perhaps, the Mexican-American is 2019’s answer to Rahman, and Joshua will dish out some immediate revenge while confirming his authority in boxing’s blue riband division.
Either way, it makes for a fascinating contest!
Joshua’s Prison Mentality His Own Punishment for Defeat
In the Western world, turning 30 is met with a celebration of some kind – even if, inside, we are drowning our sorrows with our youth in the rearview mirror.
But for Anthony Joshua, the milestone occasion was celebrated with a sparring session and a chat with nutritionist Mark Ellison, before an early night at his training camp in Sheffield, England.
It was testament to how seriously the former WBA and WBO champion is taking what could be billed as a make-or-break fight.
Joshua has spoken of adopting a ‘prison’ mindset in the lead-up to his date with destiny, locking himself into boxing after leaving behind a criminal past that almost saw him literally incarcerated.
And his commitment to this rematch, which has seen him completely cut salt out of his diet, both reaffirms his desire to win back the belts he lost first time around and a sense of punishment for tasting defeat when previously unbeaten.
‘Give me a second chance at life and see what I can do.’ That’s what AJ said in his prayers to God as he faced a court case earlier in his life that could have seen him go to jail. Will Ruiz Jr feel the full force of that second chance come Saturday?