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Joshua vs Ruiz 2 Referee Luis Pabon: Will it resemble WWE?

Joseph Herron Updated
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The highly anticipated rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. is just days away, and both fighters seem to be mentally and physically prepared for their imminent showdown in Saudi Arabia.

Most interested fight fans have already chosen their favorite to eventually win the heavyweight match-up and are seemingly split for various reasons.

For example, those who are relying heavily on the confidence and speed variables are ostensibly favoring the reigning title-holder on Saturday night, while those who are favoring the power, height, reach and experience variables are expecting Joshua to regain his championship form.

Although you can make a case for both fighters as to who will inevitably have their arm raised in victory, most ringside observers are forgetting about one seemingly minor detail that could prove to be critical during the scheduled twelve round affair.

The referee.

When Luis Pabon of Puerto Rico was chosen to be the third man in the ring for this Saturday night's main event, no one really had a strong opinion of the selection.  When officials and ringside scorers were assigned to work the big fight card in Saudi Arabi, most were fixated on the three judges for the main event, for the obvious reasons. Despite being a heavyweight contest, which many are expecting to end in a decisive knock-out, the three kings of the ring apron are the ultimate judge and jury of the scheduled twelve round scrap, should both fighters go the distance.  

Joshua vs Ruiz 2

WBA/IBF/WBO Heavyweight titles
December 07, 2019
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Broadcast: DAZN, Sky Box Office HD

As the age-old adage accurately implies, styles indeed make fights.  In this specific style match-up, the referee, Luis Pabon, could be the determining factor in who wins and loses this pivotal contest.

The 53-year-old boxing official was more than likely chosen for his apparent tendency to allow both men to fight without being overly officious in the ring.  Referee Pabon most recently showed exemplary work in Kovalev vs. Yarde, in which it was a very physical and dramatic scrap, and the third man in the ring kept his interference to a minimum.  The San Juan native didn't break up the action unless it was absolutely necessary and didn't disrupt the natural ebb and flow of the combat.

But will this propensity to "let the fighters fight" be a negative for the incumbent champion in this Saturday night's fight?

His "hands-off" approach was an apparent issue on October 5th, 2013.  On the aforementioned date, Wladimir Klitschko successfully defended his title against number two contender Alexander Povetkin in Moscow, Russia, in what most criticized to be "an ugly, unwatchable fight".

Povetkin's strategy for winning the fight was to work his way into short-range and damage the much bigger and stronger reigning champ on the inside with combinations to the body and head.  Due to the fact that "Sasha" Povetkin was at a clear disadvantage from mid to long range because of the obvious height disparity,  a short-range and quick-firing attack was his best and seemingly only chance for victory.

wlad793Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko defends his titles in a messy war with Alexander Povetkin in 2013.

But whenever the hard-charging challenger attempted to close the distance, Klitschko was allowed by Luis Pabon to wrap him up and lean on him, forcing the referee in charge to break up the action and create the much needed space for Wladimir to fight at a comfortable distance.  In a fight that featured more takedowns than a WWE match-up between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant,  the 6'6" champion was able to physically dominate the contest without any warning or penalty from the third man in the ring for excessive holding and flagrant roughhouse tactics.

The end result was a dreadfully one-sided affair in favor of the considerably taller and stronger Wladimir Klitschko.

Although Anthony Joshua has never shown a proclivity to tie his opponents up on the inside, most ringside experts agree that the quasi-illegal tactic would definitely benefit him against the much smaller but quicker Andy Ruiz Jr.  

Rather than fairly matching speed and power with the 6'2" reigning title champion on Saturday, will AJ resort to the methodical "Lennox Lewis/Wlad Klitschko" method of wearing down the smaller fighter by wrapping him up and leaning on him inside?

Hopefully, the fans will be treated to a true match of skills instead of a lethargic, one-sided hug-fest in favor of a specific fighter.

May the best man win at the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia...and not by breaking any rules.  The die-hard fans of boxing deserve to see a clean, fair fight without controversy.

Please share your thoughts on the Joshua vs Ruiz 2 referee selection.


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