ANTHONY JOSHUA went into his June 1 world title defence against 19st 6ft Andy Ruiz Jr with a loathing for fighting smaller men and a desperate lack of practice.
The 6ft 6in Brit hulk had been preparing to face 6ft 4in 22st bodybuilder Jarrell Miller, before the brawn-over-brain bruiser was busted for a string of doping offences.
AJ and trainer Rob McCracken did their best to adapt to Ruiz, who had 25 years experience of fighting taller guys, but they were stunned by the plucky underdog and left with a huge rebuilding job.
For the December 7 rerun in Saudi Arabia, most of AJ’s favourite previous sparring partners – like protege Lawrence Okolie and Scotland-based Congo slugger Martin Bakole – have not been called up.
Instead a motley crew of old friends, unknown prospects, Americans, Germans and Travellers, have been whisked up to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, to whip Joshua into shape for his bid to reclaim his belts.
Ruiz Jr is no longer a secret, the lovable Mexican does not carry his 19st in the most attractive fashion. But he has a lifetime in the sport and sensationally fast hands for a man so heavy.
After the shock loss of his three belts, David Haye used his insider knowledge to question the intensity of Joshua’s practise rounds and the real intent of the guys in the opposite corner.
And promoter Eddie Hearn has since purred about the new faces brought in to prepare his golden goose for the chubby fox that got in the coop and fancies a second bite.
Here SunSport has a look at the squad AJ assembled to ape Ruiz in training and leave him looking like King Kong by the end of their showdown.
Derek ‘War’ Chisora
Record: 32-9, 23 KOs
Height: 6ft 1.5in
Weight: 18st 8lbs
Style: As the nickname suggests, the Zimbabwe-born North Londoner is a relentless march-forward fighter. AJ and Del Boy go way back to Joshua’s days as an amateur at Finchley ABC and the pair have never come close to fighting for real, such is their friendship.
Chisora was desperate to help his one-time protege out and, although his hands and movement are not as lively as Ruiz, his no-nonsense approach would have given Joshua the hard rounds he needs.
Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti
Record: 17-1, KOs
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 14st 3lbs (cruiserweight)
Style: The Las Vegas-based Mayweather gym star is a nice height to imitate Ruiz, but fighting at 5st lighter than the Mexican, in the division below heavyweight, means the power is dramatically different.
Some very special cruiserweights, like Evander Holyfield and David Haye, have made the leap up but Tabiti does not look in that league and prefers to counter punch than setting the pace.
The 29-year-old has been showing off some sublime skipping skills so will have offered up AJ fast feet and hands in their rounds.
BEAST Out Here In 🇬🇧Looking Swole 💪🏿 With My Nigerian 🇳🇬 Brotha @anthonyjoshua
A post shared by🇺🇸🇳🇬OMOTUNDE “BEAST”TABITI🇺🇸🇳🇬 (@andrew_tabiti) on
Timothy ‘Mayhem’ Moten
Record: 5-0, 2 KOs
Height: 5ft 11in
Weight: 19st 4lbs
Style: The Louisville tank’s dimensions are almost ideal for mimicking Ruiz, who was an almost identical weight for the June upset and is only around an inch taller.
But, with Ruiz and Moten both having released recent training videos, Ruiz’s hands are far quicker and more devastating.
Moten was filmed planting his feet and thudding into pads at AJ’s Sheffield gym but footage of Ruiz from the MSG fight or any training video since has shown a man with seriously rapid hands.
THE BEAST AND MAYHEM WORKING IN THE UK ! LEARNING A LOT FORM MY BROTHA! @andrew_tabiti
A post shared byTimothy Moten (@mayhem_moten) on
Tom ‘Not So’ Little
Record: 10-7, 3 KOs
Height: 6ft 3in
Weight: 18st 6lbs
Style: The Traveller is certainly fearless, with names like Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic and David Price all with recent wins against him, but he is the first to admit he lacks natural ability and dedication. Loyalty is also a big deal to AJ and when Instagram followers begged Little for insight on their practice sessions, he declined kept to the code of honour and revealed nothing.
Big Tom Little would have given AJ plenty of durability never stopped stalking him unless seriously hurt.
Some really good rounds with @anthonyjoshuathanks @eddiehearnfor the invite I enjoyed it #learning everyday
A post shared byTom Little (@tom_little23) on
Record: 12-1, 9 KOs
Height: 6ft 3in
Weight: 16st 12lbs
Style: Whoever recommended the Hamburg 24-year-old to AJ’s camp must have seen his win over Nico Wagner in September 2018.
Pervizaj’s blur-like hands clattered into his opponent’s head and body from all angles.
Ruiz will be looking for the left hook to the head that has repeatedly been AJ’s kryptonite and Pervijaz throws a mean one in the footage available online.
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