Anthony Joshua is arguably the biggest star in boxing, and he’s finally making his United States debut Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion will defend his titles against 29-year-old Andy Ruiz Jr. However, Ruiz wasn’t Joshua’s original opponent. Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller was originally announced as the challenger, but multiple failed drug tests for performance-enhancing drugs led to the New York State Athletic Commission denying his request for a boxing license.
“He saved himself a beating," Joshua said Monday of his original opponent. The 29-year-old noted that he defeated Eric Molina, who subsequently failed a drug test, by TKO in December 2016.
Now, Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) has the World’s Most Famous Arena to himself, without a local product to possibly steal the spotlight. The idea of fighting at the Garden, which has hosted some of the most prominent names in the sport’s history, excites the Brit.
“It’s one of the best arenas in the world,” Joshua told amNewYork. “The history that’s been there, that’s why that venue is iconic.”
Joshua is one of three men who can claim to be the top heavyweight in the world, one of whom won in Brooklyn two weeks ago. Deontay Wilder defended his WBC crown on May 18 at Barclays Center, scoring a spectacular first-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale. Meanwhile, lineal champion Tyson Fury is coming off a draw against Wilder last December and will compete two weeks from now against unbeaten Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, fans who hoped Joshua might face Wilder with a win over Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs) will have to wait even longer. Wilder tweeted Tuesday that a deal has been signed for a rematch against Luis Ortiz later this year. While the first Wilder-Ortiz fight, held last March in Brooklyn, was compelling, the matchup continues to cloud the heavyweight championship picture.
While Joshua and Wilder won’t face off directly any time soon, the former can stake his claim as the unofficial heavyweight kind of New York. To do that, he’ll have to top Wilder’s viral victory, which was witnessed by an announced 13,181 fans at the Kings County arena. A knockout of Ruiz at the sold-out Madison Square Garden, which will be streamed on DAZN, would go a long way toward raising his profile in the city and the U.S. as a whole.