History will be made this Saturday in New Zealand when local favorite Joseph Parker (–360) takes on Mexico’s Andy Ruiz (+270) for the vacant WBO World Heavyweight title. There has never been a heavyweight champion born and raised in either country, but that will almost certainly change after this fight, which HBO will air on tape delay as part of their World Championship Boxing program (9:35 PM ET). The card at Vector Arena in Auckland gets underway live at 1:30 AM ET.
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The WBO title belt was vacated by Tyson Fury in October, after almost a year of inactivity. While Parker (21-0, 18 KOs) is the heavy favorite in this matchup, Ruiz (29-0, 19 KOs), who now calls California home, has yet to taste defeat in the squared circle. Concerns about Ruiz’ weight and his motivation have been tempered somewhat; the underdog has been training under Abel Sanchez and has dropped about 20 excess pounds in preparation for this fight.
Parker, meanwhile, is two inches taller than Ruiz at 6-foot-4 with a two-inch reach advantage, and three years younger at age 24. But he’s yet to prove himself at the higher levels of international competition.
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