Californian Andy Ruiz Jr. emerged Tuesday as the June 1 replacement opponent for England’s three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
The fight will take place at Madison Square Garden.
Ruiz (32-1, 21 knockouts) is coming off an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. Ruiz previously suffered his only loss in a December 2016 majority decision to New Zealand’s Joseph Parker.
The 29-year-old Ruiz was summoned after Joshua’s planned opponent, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, submitted three positive tests for banned performance-enhancing substances, including human growth hormone and endurance-building EPO.
Ruiz, from Imperial, was selected as Joshua’s opponent over former cruiserweight Michael Hunter, a California native whose only loss was to the division’s unified champion, Oleksandr Usyk.
In an interview Saturday night with the Los Angeles Times, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn hinted his preference for Ruiz because of his natural fighting weight as a heavyweight, although Hearn expressed some concern that the portly Ruiz may be viewed as a substantial underdog to Joshua.
“I like Andy Ruiz. He’s a character,” Hearn said. “The tough sell with Andy Ruiz is, with the casual fan, they’re going to look at him in his shorts and say, ‘What’s that all about?’
The bout, which will be streamed by DAZN, is significant for Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) because it is his U.S. debut.