WHEN long-time HBO analyst Larry Merchant first set eyes on Andy Ruiz Jnr, the current WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion, it was anything but love at first sight.
They were in Macau, it was 2013, and Ruiz, six years from shocking Anthony Joshua and the world, was for now all fast hands, potential and excess skin. He was pummelling fellow Americans like Joe Hanks and Tor Hamer with ease but still seemed a long way from challenging the world’s best heavyweights.
That year Merchant, now 88, saw the round, boyish face and the big belly, then the hand speed and skills. He was shocked by his frame, but impressed by his game, and left China hoping Ruiz would one day knuckle down.