WHO is Andy Ruiz and why is he fighting Anthony Joshua? The Californian at six foot two is diminutive in the current era of vast heavyweights and when you consider his portly appearance he offers a stark contrast to the heavily muscled Joshua, the unified WBO, WBA and IBF champion.
But fortune seemingly favours the brave, or at least Andy Ruiz.
Joshua was in need of a new challenger for his June 1 fight at Madison Square Garden after his original opponent Jarrell Miller failed multiple drug tests. Talks were opened with Luis Ortiz, but the Cuban’s team didn’t pursue the offer. The fight will be screened on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK but given that fight would be still be staged in the US and broadcast in prime time on DAZN, an American opponent was sought out. While Michael Hunter was a name in the running, of those who made themselves available at comparatively short notice Ruiz has got the nod.
He has some skill and his record is not bad. In 33 fights he has lost once. That was in his first world title challenge against Joseph Parker, the New Zealander whom Joshua beat to unify world titles last year. Ruiz has chalked up three wins since losing to Parker in 2016, most recently halting Alexander Dimitrenko in five rounds. It had been scheduled for 10. Ruiz has only had 10 days since then to get out of shape and will go straight back into training camp. He ought to be fit to fight.
“Ruiz is a different kind of challenge but one I embrace,” Joshua said. “We have worked in the boxing gym week on week and whomever is put in front of me at Madison Square Garden on June 1 will be dispatched in style.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn was more forthcoming. “After a tricky week I am delighted to announce Andy Ruiz Jnr as AJ’s opponent for his US debut at MSG on June 1,” he said. “People talk about fighting AJ, some even have to fill their bodies with PEDs to try and beat him up, but very few genuine fighters step up and take the challenge.”
“When we selected the opponent, I wanted someone with fire in their heart, someone who genuinely believed that they can win and become world heavyweight champion. Andy showed that desire,” he continued. “In my opinion, this is a tougher test than Jarrell Miller. Andy punches harder and is much faster – this is going to be a war. Andy brings Mexican heart but he will meet the best heavyweight in the world on June head on at the Garden.”
This tilt at the champion still represents a remarkable turn around for Ruiz. Speaking to this reporter a year after his loss to Parker, Ruiz was as far away from a shot at the heavyweight champion as you could imagine. The American had not fought for a year, almost drifting away from the sport. He had been working in a construction company, making and selling houses. He could have remained in real estate. Instead he decided to launch a comeback and returned to boxing.
Back then he was frustrated with his performance against Parker, reflecting, “I only had a month-and-a-half to train because they kept changing the dates, if it was going to be in the United States or over there [in Auckland]. They kept changing the dates on us. But there’s nothing really much to say about that fight, apart from me coming back harder and stronger, in better shape.
“I think if the fight would have been over here [in the US], I think it would have been the other way around. You know, I learned a lot from this fight. I’m just going to come back. I got a lot of respect and a lot of fans out there, telling me that I won.”
Even then he knew Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder were the men to aim for. “They’re the ones that are making noise. The only thing I’m going to do is work hard and get back. I’m still in the top 10. I’ve got to get to these fights and find myself another world title shot. And be in better shape this time,” he said.
“An Andy Ruiz in shape, it’s going to be a lot different the rest of my career now,” he promised then. “There’s a lot of heavyweights out there right now. The heavyweights are getting more attractive now. So the best thing is to get in shape.
“It’s very exciting. I’ve got to take advantage right now.”
Back then he actually wanted to fight Jarrell Miller. Now, incredibly, he replaces Miller to get that world title shot. Whether he can take advantage of it and make a dent on Anthony Joshua however is quite another matter. Good luck has brought Ruiz to this fight. But he’ll need much more than that if he is to win it.
He is a aware of the magnitude of the task. He addressed the challenge in a statement. “There’s nervousness in me, but they’re happy nerves. This is my chance to make history, I want to be one of those greats like Chavez, Tyson, Holyfield, Lennox Lewis. I want to be in that category. Thanks to God for everything that he put in me, I just can’t wait,” Ruiz declared. “I think the fight is going toe-to-toe, two guys smashing each other’s faces. I’m going in there to throw combinations like I’ve never done before, to improve my speed. A lot of people underestimated me, and I’m used to that. My whole life people underrated me so I’m just going in there to take all. I’m not going in there scared and I’m not going in there nervous, I’m going to go in there mad and to take what’s mine.”
“I think being so tall he fights like a big robot. I think with my style, my speed, my movement, I don’t think he’s fought anybody like me. It’s going to be a whole different ball game. All the guys that he’s fought, they usually run around from him. I don’t think he’s good going back. I’m going to bring the pressure, the speed, and the combinations to him,” he added. “When I do pull out this win, everything is going to change. I’m going to bring the titles back to Mexico, it’s going to mean everything. I’m going to be able to change my whole family’s lives; my life and all my kids. It’s a win-win situation right now, but the main thing is to win the fight and make history.”