Saudi showdown won’t be end of Ruiz rivalry for Joshua

Anthony Joshua is convinced his rivalry with Andy Ruiz Jr will extend beyond the Saudi dunes where he will attempt to win back his world heavyweight title belts on Saturday night.

Joshua is expected to weigh up to half a stone lighter for the rematch than he did when he had the belts wrested away from him in one of the division’s biggest upsets in June.

But after conducting a fleeting public work-out in Riyadh on Tuesday Joshua, who is being queued for a potential unification bout against either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, said he did not believe it would be the end of the matter.

Anthony Joshua takes part in a public work-out on Tuesday (Nick Potts/PA).
Anthony Joshua takes part in a public work-out on Tuesday (Nick Potts/PA).

Speaking to an enthusiastic if exclusive crowd of local fans, Joshua declared: “Me and Andy Ruiz will definitely see each other for a third time somewhere down the line.

“I think we make for good fights. I think there is going to be a knockout, because that’s what people want to see – bloodshed and knockouts. And we’ll definitely see each other for a third time.”

Joshua’s slimmer physique lent succour to the theory that he has deliberately trimmed down in order to be more agile in avoiding his opponent’s bombing hands which dumped him to the canvas four times in New York.

But his trainer Rob McCracken played down the significance of the apparent weight loss, which was hard to entirely discern given Joshua merely went through the motions for the crowd and kept his tee-shirt on throughout.

Andy Ruiz Jr donned a hat for his work-out (Nick Potts/PA).
Andy Ruiz Jr donned a hat for his work-out (Nick Potts/PA).

In contrast, Ruiz Jr, complete with a woolly hat, engaged in a full session with his gloves on as the sun quickly set in the Saudi capital and suggested their bout, set for midnight local time on Saturday, could be a distinctly chilly affair.

McCracken told the PA news agency: “The plan is to come in a little bit lighter but only naturally so, due to having done a bit more training and being in a bit better condition.

“He’s been able to do more sparring and more running this time round. It’s easy to say this because he didn’t win the first fight, but he’s definitely in better shape for this one.

“I’m much happier where he is than at this point in June. Obviously before the last fight you had the late pull-out and it wasn’t ideal. This time they’ve had plenty of notice so it is a level playing field.”

Joshua and Ruiz Jr, who are staying in separate wings of the same luxury hotel, will come face to face with each other for the first time in fight week when they appear at the fight’s final press conference in Diriyah on Wednesday.

The pair have traded plenty of respect in the build-up and that is unlikely to change any time soon, with Joshua singularly focused on erasing the pain of his shock loss on his American debut six months ago.

“I shed some skin last time and rebuilt myself,” added Joshua. “I’m not looking for anything except the win this time. It’s not about speed. The objective is just to win.”

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