A Brief History
On April 29, 2017, at the iconic Wembley Stadium in London, Anthony Joshua set a post-war crowd attendance record for boxing when becoming the unified heavyweight champion of the world. An eleventh-round stoppage of the much older Wladimir Klitschko saw British boxer Joshua unify the WBA super and IBO belts, which were both vacant, with the IBF strap. Ukrainian legend Klitschko had previously lost the first two titles to Tyson Fury.
The journey from amateur super-heavyweight to holding these and later the WBO championship saw Joshua take a well-trodden path using the Olympics as a platform to launch his subsequent pro career. A relative latecomer to this pugilistic sport, Joshua only took up boxing aged 18 in 2007. Within three years and after 18 amateur bouts, he became the ABA super heavyweight champion.
He was then a silver medalist at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku in that same class before tackling a home Olympics. Joshua was one of the stars of those home 2012 Olympic Games for British athletes joining the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Chris Hoy and Mo Farah in winning gold. Stepping into the paid ranks was the obvious progression.
Joshua announced he was turning pro in July 2013 debuting in this sphere the following October. Three first-round knockouts in his first six fights followed. It was not long before Joshua challenged for and won the vacant WBC international heavyweight title, stopping Denis Bakhtov in the second round. Two fights at the end of 2015 brought him the Commonwealth and British heavyweight belts after easily dispensing with Gary Cornish and then conquering old amateur rival Dillan Whyte inside seven rounds. A first world title followed in 2016 as Joshua took the IBF strap from Charles Martin before successful defenses against fellow American boxers Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina.
Since besting Klitschko, he has made three successful defences of the WBA super and IBO belts, but planned fights have often fallen through. Kubrat Pulev – a mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF title – picked up an injury and Carlos Takam had to step in late. New Zealand’s Maori boxer Joseph Parker is the only man to date to take Joshua the full 12 rounds and to the judges. He lost via unanimous decision, however, and the WBO strap with it. That only left the WBC belt held by Deontay Wilder to capture.
Joshua naturally sought to unify the entire heavyweight division, but talks with the American broke down and, after stopping Alexander Povetkin at Wembley, he was due to face Jarrell Miller in his debut across the Atlantic. Miller failed drugs tests, however, and now Andy Ruiz Jr has stepped in to challenge Joshua in Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2019.
The latest boxing betting on this fight has the champ 1/4 for a KO, TKO or disqualification win with bet365. Ruiz, who has won three subsequent fights after a split decision loss to Parker in December 2016, is a big 10/1 outsider to upset Joshua. It will be a huge surprise if the Mexican-American can do that. Like Joshua, Ruiz has an amateur background but a far less prodigious one. He lost in the Olympic qualifiers, but has suffered a sole defeat when challenging Parker for the WBO belt.
As replacements for Miller go, Ruiz is not the same calibre of opposition for Joshua as Wilder or Fury. His knockout ratio coming into the fight is only 64%, compared to the champion’s 95%. Joshua has already done his level best to make boxing history, but bigger challenges hopefully lie ahead for him. Ruiz is just another frustrating bump in the road while greater foes have their own agenda.
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For more information, please see…
Bozeat, Matt. Anthony Joshua: Portrait of a Boxing Hero. Carlton Publishing Group, 2018.
Dennen, John. Joshua: The Unauthorised Biography. Random House UK, 2017.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by REUTERS from thesun.co.uk of Anthony Joshua at the press conference before Joshua vs. Pulev, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.