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Dangerous game: Joshua fights Ruiz, with others on his mind

NEW YORK (AP) — In front of Anthony Joshua for his U.S. debut will be Andy Ruiz Jr. On Joshua's mind will be more than the defense of his four heavyweight titles Saturday night. As honest as he is undefeated, Joshua says the likes of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and a few other potential opponents aren't far from his thoughts. It's a dangerous game to be playing if his total focus isn't on the upcoming opponent at Madison Square Garden, even if Ruiz is a 30-1 underdog.

"I think I can beat Ruiz," Joshua said. "If Wilder is not available, I want Fury," he said. "I said I want to meet Wilder, chat with him, and the next day he announces a fight with no date or venue attached to it. I still say there is hope, but I think the next person I want then is Fury."

Wilder, owner of the WBC crown, apparently has decided to give Luis Ortiz a rematch. Ortiz battered Wilder for parts of their fight in early 2018 before running out of gas and getting knocked out. Fury vs. Wilder in an all-British bout could bring a huge purse in the United Kingdom.

"The possibilities are still in there for the (other champions) to fight," Joshua said. Ah, but there's this little annoyance for WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO champion Joshua: Ruiz. "I am fighting good fighters," Joshua said of his 22-0 mark, 21 by knockouts. He wouldn't give Wilder that much credit.

"I'm still taking risks. I'd rather take the risk with someone who brings a massive reward. But beating Ruiz is fine." Joshua originally was scheduled to face Jarrell Miller, but the trash-talking New Yorker failed drug tests. It doesn't seem that Joshua has worked up the enmity for Ruiz that he carried for Miller — their news conference announcing the fight was a mud-slinging festival.

The champion also can't seem to keep his focus on Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs). He vows he will put on a good show for the Garden crowd and the streaming audience on DAZN. Then, he will chase bigger headlines.

"It's not about Wilder," Joshua said. "It's about what I can achieve. I'm still after a fight for the undisputed heavyweight title. We've been pointing there for years. Wilder's a good name in general. It's not about Joshua vs. Wilder. It's about the undisputed heavyweight title. That means a lot to me."

Any portion of the title would mean the world to Ruiz. He fought for the WBO version and lost to Joseph Parker on a very close decision. Wilder now owns that crown. "I am blessed," Ruiz said. "I have nothing bad to say about him. He's a good fighter. Hopefully, I can get the knockout. If not, being busy and using my hands and getting the combinations and I win by decision."

Considering only Parker has gone the distance with Joshua, and Ruiz tested Parker bigtime, maybe the American will provide a challenge.

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