With their shirts off, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua look like the most extreme “before” and “after” photos in the history of weight-loss program advertisements.
Ruiz is built like an undersized offensive lineman, the upper half of his just-over-six-foot frame all man-boobs and muffin top. Joshua has the physique of a tight end, 6’6” and 245 pounds of pure, chiseled muscle.
Big muscles don’t win boxing matches, though. Sure, you need to be in shape. But a good boxing trainer will always take a fighter with sound boxing technique and the calm to execute without burning energy over a guy who looks good on a fight poster but exhausts himself through tension and nervousness.
It’s not just the way they look in boxing trunks, though, that made Ruiz between a 10/1 and 20/1 underdog when he and Joshua squared off for the first time on June 1 at Madison Square Garden. Ruiz took the fight on short notice and wasn’t regarded as a huge puncher, and Joshua was undefeated with better wins over better opponents on his resume. Joshua was the overwhelming favorite for valid reasons. The physiques just seemed to offer a little extra confirmation that the challenger had no chance.
But for Saturday’s rematch in the controversial location of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the odds suggest that bettors are more interested in who looks the part than in what actually happened between the bells in June. Ruiz rose from a third-round knockdown to win a series of exchanges with his faster hands and more fluid punches, drop Joshua four times, and score a TKO win in the seventh. It was the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing since Mike Tyson found himself crawling around in Tokyo, shoving his mouthpiece in backward.
Joshua’s undefeated record was erased, his confidence was shaken, his chin was cracked. Observers wondered if he’d been “exposed,” and if it would be career suicide to take an immediate rematch. Ruiz surely would be the favorite — or at least close it — for the second go-round, right?
Ruiz price dropping
In the final week or so leading up the rematch, the odds have narrowed slightly. Enough bettors saw value in the Ruiz price to deflate it, as the odds at five New Jersey online sports betting operators reveal:
But there might still be value on the Mexican-American to repeat. Ruiz has been boxing longer and fires punches instinctively; Joshua, for all his physical gifts, can be mechanical, and you can almost see the gears grinding as he thinks about what punch to throw next.
If the odds were closer, a bet on the Brit would be perfectly sensible. It would be a bet on physicality prevailing, a bet on the taller fighter using his length effectively, and maybe a bet on the more marketable fighter — the one reportedly making $85 million for one night’s work — getting a little help if necessary from one of the most consistently poor referees in the sport, Luis Pabon.
If Joshua is mentally recovered from the first fight, he can absolutely score the win on Saturday. He might even make it look easy. The question is whether, even at an industry-best price of -212, you’re at least 68% confident he’ll get it done.
There are more ways to bet a boxing match than just picking a winner.
For example, you can predict that there won’t be a winner at all. The best odds on that are +3400 at FanDuel. But given that there were five knockdowns in seven rounds the first time and that Joshua has gone the distance exactly once in his 23-fight career, this isn’t a situation where a draw seems realistic.
If you believe Joshua will win specifically by KO, TKO, or DQ (the most likely scenario, according to the books), you can get that at -105 at FanDuel. If you believe AJ will win on points, that pays +375 at bet365. Ruiz by KO/TKO/DQ pays +333 at FOX Bet. And the big longshot is Ruiz by decision, which is all the way up at +1400 at FOX Bet.
The over/under for total rounds is 7½, with extra juice required on the over. That indicates that the public believes this fight will last at least as long as their first bout did. If you want to bet on the fight to go the full 12, bet365 has the best price at +250, or you can pay -320 at FanDuel on the fight to end before the final bell.
Down but not out
Then there are the knockdown props. FanDuel has Joshua to get knocked down at +172, which is tough to resist given that he touched the canvas four times in June. If Joshua gets knocked down and comes back to win, that pays +470. If Ruiz gets off the floor to win (as he did last time), the payout is +600. And there’s a +430 price on both fighters to touch the mat.
At bet365, the payout on Joshua getting knocked down and winning is similar, at +450. But the payout on Ruiz to go down and rally to win — as he did in the first bout — is an astronomical +1200.
For the longshot, push-and-pray types, DraftKings has a prop on the fight ending in the first minute that pays +3300. That outcome is highly unlikely, though. Joshua has five “KO 1” results on his record but none were achieved inside a minute, and though Ruiz has finished fights inside 60 seconds twice, the opponents have been novices and clubfighters.
FOX Bet, meanwhile, has an assortment of unusual props, including:
- Ruiz to have a point deducted: +650
- Joshua to have a point deducted: +900
- Both fighters down and Ruiz wins: +700
- Both fighters down and Joshua wins: +700
- Joshua down 3+ times: +800
- 5+ knockdowns in the fight: +2000
- Ruiz knocked down in Round 3, wins by TKO in Round 7: +25000
You can turn $100 into $25,000 banking on an exact repeat of what happened in June?
It looks like a ridiculous bet. But as Ruiz-Joshua I taught us, looks can be deceiving.
Photo by Huw Fairclough / Shutterstock.com
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