THIRTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD Andy Ruiz labored in obscurity for most of his ring career, plagued by a poor work ethic and a prodigious appetite. Then lightning struck. On June 1, 2019, he scored a shocking knockout upset over Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden to claim the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles. But rather than build on his success, the 268-pound Ruiz ate more and trained less. Six months later in Saudia Arabia, weighing 283 pounds, he was outboxed by Joshua over 12 dreary rounds. In the ensuing weeks, he put on another 27 pounds to reach the 310 mark.

“I was depressed,” Ruiz acknowledged later. “I was mad at myself because I knew I should have trained. I knew I should have done better. I’d been waiting for this moment my whole life. And once that moment happened, I went a little off the road. I started doing things that I thought I would never be able to do. I wasn’t really focused on the [Joshua rematch]. I look back right now, and I’m like, ‘Damn, man,’ if I would’ve stayed dedicated, if I would’ve stayed disciplined and do the right things that I was supposed to do.”

Was Ruiz a one-night wonder? On May 1, in a fight that fell short of answering that question, he returned to the ring for the first time since losing to Joshua to fight 40-year-old Chris Arreola.

Arreola is one of the most likeable people in boxing. He has challenged for a version of the world heavyweight title on three occasions – against Vitali Klitschko, Bermane Stiverne, and Deontay Wilder. Each time, he was knocked out. Once upon a time, he was a very good fighter. He isn’t anymore.

Andy Ruiz vs Chris Arreola
FOX Sports/PBC

During the nine years leading up to Ruiz-Arreola, Chris had 10 fights and won four of them. Most recently, on August 3, 2019, he’d lost a unanimous decision to Adam Kownacki in a slugfest that brought his record to 38-6-1 (33). According to CompuBox, Kownacki hit Arreola in the head 291 times (out of 369 punches that Adam landed).

Unlike many fighters, Arreola means it when he says, “I bleed boxing. I put my whole self out there every time I fight.” That’s all the more reason to be concerned about his continuing to fight.

Once upon a time, Arreola was A-side in fights that Premier Boxing Champions impresario Al Haymon made for him. He was the guy that Haymon was safeguarding. No more.

Ruiz-Arreola was about Ruiz. There was a lot of talk during the pre-fight build-up about “the new Andy” and the difference that training with Eddy Reynoso would make in his ring skills and conditioning.

Ruiz-Arreola was contested at Dignity Health Sports Park in California as part of a FOX-PPV telecast and distributed in multiple markets by FITE. For all the wars that Arreola has been through over the years, he has never beaten a world-class opponent. That wasn’t going to change at age 40.

Ruiz weighed in at 256lbs, 27 1/2pounds less than for the Joshua rematch. Presumably, he didn’t just lose weight but also added muscle. “I’m not where I want to be at right now,” he said at the final pre-fight press conference. “But I’m a lot better than where I was.”

Arreola came in at a career low of 228 1/2lbs. “I’ve worked nonstop on defense with [trainer] Joe [Goossen],” he said when asked what would be different about this fight. “That’s one thing we emphasised in this camp. Counterpunch and bring those hands back.”

But a fighter doesn’t learn new defensive skills in a six-week training camp at age forty. Ruiz was a 20/1 betting favorite.

On fight night, both fighters were warmly received by the crowd. Arreola has earned fan affection over time for the body of his ring work. Ruiz earned it with his knockout victory over Joshua.

The fight itself was more competitive and entertaining than most people thought it would be. Arreola is a professional. He came to win and had a big second round, dropping Ruiz with an overhand right before shaking him with a hook up top late in the stanza. He also started round three well, trading and getting the better of it. But Ruiz was the aggressor for most of the fight, stalking and outlanding Arreola in 10 of 12 rounds.

Arreola was competitive. But Ruiz kept putting rounds in the bank. Andy came into the bout with a puncher’s mentality although he’s not a particularly big puncher. He controlled distance and range well. His hand speed gave him a big edge. And he outworked Arreola for most of the night. Both guys wanted it and tested each other. Ruiz simply had more to work with. The judges scored it 118-109, 118-109, 117-110 in his favour.

“Honestly, man,” Arreola said afterward. “Did he win? Fine. But don’t tell me you’re only gonna give me two, three rounds. F**k that! I’m gonna be like Dr Dre. All y’all can suck my mother***king d**k.”

But the judges’ scores were on the mark. Many of the rounds were close. But Ruiz won them.

Chris Arreola had close to two hundred amateur bouts. He has been hit in the head again and again over the course of 46 professional fights by men like Vitali Klitschko and Deontay Wilder. According to CompuBox, he was hit in the head 125 times by Andy Ruiz. Enough is enough. The time to retire is now.

As for Ruiz, it’s clear that Eddy Reynoso can get him into better condition than he was before. Let’s see now how Andy’s ring skills progress? Remember; he didn’t do any better against Arreola on Saturday night than Adam Kownacki did 21 months ago.