Danny Flexen looks at the Andy Ruiz vs Anthony Joshua 2 bill in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia and finds several boxers with links to AJ
For a man trying to recover from the first professional defeat of an otherwise glory-filled professional career, Anthony Joshua will looks around the purpose-built arena in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia and see ghosts at every turn. AJ rematches Andy Ruiz Jr, who wrecked his world back in June, hoping to regain the unified world titles, and will find four other heavyweights on the bill with whom he has history, most of which is positive, with some significant shadows.
The Russian veteran faces Michael Hunter in an excellent clash on the card and fell to Joshua, despite a spirited challenge, back in September last year. That the Watford man came through a few problems to ultimately triumph in that one may well inspire him to once again overcome adversity. Incidentally, Hunter stopped Ruiz Jr in the amateurs and was in line to fight Joshua at Madison Square Garden before Ruiz got the call.
Meets touted Filip Hrgovic in Saudi and the “Drummer Boy” was halted by a big Joshua right hand in 2016, the Englishman’s second defence of the IBF title ending in round three. The Texan has since lost to Dominic Breazeale, another Joshua victim, but will hope his extra pro experience bears fruit against 9-0 Hrgovic. Hmm, good luck with that.
Whyte, in his amateur debut aged 20 having been a kickboxer, defeated Joshua over three rounds, but was unable to repeat the trick as pros. In 2015, they met for Joshua’s Commonwealth and the vacant British title, in a contest which saw Anthony graduate to pay per view. Despite rocking the favourite early, Whyte was gradually ground down and was stopped in the seventh. Both have improved exponentially since and Dillian will expect to comfortably defeat Mariusz Wach in Saudi.
This Azeri will evoke fewer warm memories in Joshua, having beaten him in the final of the 2011 World Amateur Championships. Having turned pro a fortnight before his 33rd birthday, the Olympic bronze medallist and former three-time World champion meets Tom Little, a gutsy and talented but flawed Hatfield man who regularly spars Joshua and has lost to Hrgovic. Majidov only edged Joshua by a point in their 2011 final in Baku but his presence in Diriyah means the last two fighters to beat AJ are both on the show.