The BM Matchmaker: Joshua, Ruiz Jr, Whyte & more
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
As the dust settles on each big fight weekend, The BM Matchmaker aims to discuss the best options that, in victory or defeat, each boxer has available to them, and predicts their likely next steps...Today Tom Craze looks at potential routes forward for Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz and Dillian Whyte among others...
Saturday night saw a Joshua that looked entirely rejuvenated, if not completely rebooted. It was a mature, composed performance; one that, in regaining the belts, ignites once more the possibility of heavyweight super-fights somewhere down the line.
A showdown with the eventual victor of the Wilder-Fury series may now be the biggest fight the sport can conjure, but it’s likely to remain little more than a scrawl on a wish list for at least another 18 months. For Joshua, 2020 looks set to be a year of attempted consolidation and mandatory challengers, with both Kubrat Pulev (IBF) and Oleksandr Usyk (WBO) waiting in line. Early indications are that Joshua is unwilling to vacate any of his titles, and so the next step looks to be a simple process of elimination.
With the prospect of Usyk-Chisora already being discussed for the spring, the probable opponent for a London victory-lap-of-sorts is Bulgaria’s Pulev, a fight for which Joshua would be an overwhelming favourite.
Andy Ruiz Jr
While a grossly overweight and sadly undertrained Ruiz Jr squandered his belts – and an array of future earning opportunities - without much ado, the memories of that June night in New York aren’t going anywhere quite so fast. The Californian is still a fine fighter when motivated and his name value is now such that, even in defeat, he shouldn’t have to wait long for the next phone call.
Assuming he fights on after a pair of career-best purses, Ruiz Jr is likely to be melded back into the PBC fold. Politically, that could make future match-ups with other Matchroom heavyweights more difficult – the likes of Whyte, Usyk, Hrgovic, are all interesting options – but his handlers have previously shown a willingness to let him fight outside the Fox/Showtime ecosystem if the price is right.
Ruiz’s calls for a rubber match against Joshua will almost certainly go unanswered, but should he manage to refocus, a fight with Adam Kownacki is, on paper, arguably as entertaining a heavyweight brawl as you can make on paper and, perhaps crucially, would be an all-Haymon affair.
It would be understandable if Hunter was left feeling aggrieved by the split draw foisted on him by Saturday’s judges. By boxing’s often dubious scoring standards, it wasn’t an especially controversial outcome – but, in a close bout that was one of the highlights of the Diriyah card, it seemed that most observers had the American coming out on top.
All, though, is not lost: while it’s true that the result has checked his considerable momentum, the result cements Hunter’s place in the heavyweight top 10, if were he not there already. A rematch is the logical move and should appeal to both men, potentially as the chief support to Joshua’s next outing.
Going in his fifth decade, Povetkin remains a perennial heavyweight contender. Only months removed from a comprehensive win over what appeared to be domestic level opposition in Hughie Fury, the Russian overcame several rocky patches against Hunter to – albeit somewhat contentiously - emerge with a share of the spoils
Calls for his retirement won’t go away any time soon but, should he pass on an immediate rematch and continue to fight on, the quadragenarian is a formidable test for most of those with an eye on the division’s upper echelons.
Few would be surprised if the Brixton man were to write off 2019 as his own annus horribilis, despite that creditable midsummer win over Oscar Rivas. The past weekend’s grind against Mariusz Wach was altogether less convincing, but the distraction of an ongoing UKAD saga will have no doubt played its part in what was a distinctly below-par showing.
Whyte’s mandatory status with the WBC will rightly be lobbied, but with a shot at Wilder presently looking no closer than it ever has, it would be a surprise if Whyte were to sit back and bide his time.
Now a proven pay-per-view attraction in his own right in the UK, opponents such as Filip Hrgovic and Ruiz Jr would make for big shows in the new year. Another option would be to look to build Whyte’s profile in the US, and a headline slot on a DAZN show – perhaps against a fringe name such as Sergey Kuzmin – could fit the bill.