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Andy Ruiz Jr. is once again back on his feet

28
Apr

It wasn’t that long ago when Andy Ruiz Jr. set Madison Square Garden—and the world—on fire. The barrel-shaped, jovial 31-year-old Mexican did something no one thought he could do, maybe even Ruiz himself, when he floored Anthony Joshua four times to win the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles.

Who can forget the image of Ruiz with his arms triumphantly raised leaping inches off the canvas that night, June 1, 2019?

Apparently, Ruiz did.

Six months later, everything was gone.



Who did Ruiz blame—himself.

Anthony Joshua dropped Andy Ruiz Jr. down in Round 3 of their first bout, but the Californian didn’t stay down. Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

He’s been knocked down his whole life, from the constant body-shaming he endured as a youth, to questions about his discipline, to doubts about his ability, to being down in the third round of the first Joshua fight, and each time “The Destroyer” rose to his feet.

On Saturday, Ruiz (33-2, 22 knockouts) will begin rehabbing his image and his career when he takes on Chris Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KO’s) in the main event Saturday night from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

When Ruiz lost to Joshua in their rematch December 2019, he felt he lost for all of the wrong reasons.

The first Mexican heavyweight champion took the COVID-laden 2020 off, hired new trainer Eddy Reynoso and finds himself a new svelte man.

“Rock bottom came from doing everything the right way, being on the same page as my whole team, and it happened too fast and I feel regret, because I lost it all,” Ruiz said. “I knew I had a big fight against Anthony Joshua six months later, and me making my own training times and doing whatever I wanted, I have a lot of regrets over.

“Eddy has brought out the discipline, the hard work and wanting to be hungry, and being around them, you want to be better. I want to be the heavyweight Canelo Alvarez. Success completely got to my head. It’s why I say it was my lowest time. I was surrounded by the wrong people and I was depressed. I knew what I should have been doing—and I didn’t do it.

Following his decision loss to Joshua, Ruiz realized how much he’d thrown away by not remaining disciplined going into the anticipated rematch.

“That’s on me. I should have been more disciplined and closer to God. God gives and He takes away. I should have been more aware of who I am and what I’m about. I ask myself what would have happened if I won the Joshua rematch? I would have been worse. I needed to have that happen.”

Ruiz said he lost confidence in himself for the Joshua rematch. He fully admits the times he and former trainer Manny Robles would argue with each other. Robles would yell at Ruiz, inquiring where he was. Ruiz would not care.

It didn’t help that the world had its hand out. Ruiz did national talk shows. He was around a new group.

He would stay out until three or four in the morning, and not wake up until the afternoon.

“I was partying with my friends, partying at the clubs, but I’ll leave the dirty stuff alone. You can say I did turn into Buster Douglas a little bit after I won,” Ruiz said. “There is a big difference with me in the ring now. I won’t say my last team did not motivate me, but this is a different vibe that I get.

“I’m working and training with champions. I can’t change time. There are a lot of things that I could have done. I’m lifting weights, which is something I never did before. I’m squatting and my legs look like giant hams. It builds confidence, and with that confidence I feel great.”

Ruiz said he spoke to Robles, but it seemed as if Robles did not care.

“Some  of the stuff Manny said was true, and I can’t blame him for that, but some of it wasn’t and I know I have to change,” Ruiz said. “I’m fighting Chris Arreola coming up and I’m taking him seriously. Chris is a Mexican warrior like myself.”

Ruiz said he weighed as much as 300 pounds for the Joshua rematch. He’s down to 255 pounds for the Arreola fight.

“Hopefully, there won’t be a lot of flab flying on me the night I fight Arreola,” said Ruiz, laughing. “I let a lot of people down, which I won’t do again.”

Each time Ruiz has been knocked down in life, he got up. Joshua knocked him down in the third round of their first fight, and he got back up. He weighed 298 the night of the Joshua rematch—he got knocked down by the loss—and he got back up.

He keeps getting back up.

“That’s crazy I went all 12 rounds and took all of Joshua’s punches, and it was with me completely out of shape,” Ruiz said. “I fought two people that night, me and Anthony Joshua. I did get back up.”

Starting with a call to pound-for-pound champ Alvarez.

It was Canelo who invited Ruiz to his camp with Reynoso, though it came with a warning: If he didn’t work hard, he would be out.

One time in Mexico, when Ruiz was 12 attending a boxing tournament, some grown men threw something in the car in which Ruiz and his friends and family were driving because they didn’t like the music they were playing.

Both cars stopped at an intersection.

Ruiz got out, when he was jumped and blindsided from behind by one of the occupants of the other car. They wielded a crowbar at Ruiz, and struck him in the head, opening a gushing cut on his left eyebrow. He still carries the scar today.

But Ruiz got back up.

“At the time, I was mad at the world, and my dad kept taking me to the gym, even though I was depressed,” Ruiz recalled. “When my mind was right, I messaged Canelo and I told him everything. I told him how bad I felt and that I didn’t do my part. Canelo and Eddy let me in, and it’s something I’ll always appreciate.

“They told me, ‘Once you’re with us, there is no one that’s going to beat you. You’re going to become the best version of Andy Ruiz that you ever wanted to be. We’re heading there.”

For the first time in a long time, Andy Ruiz likes himself. He likes how he looks in a mirror. He’s had to get a new wardrobe and he says he feels that he’s at peace with everything around him.

“Boxing is not forever, so I know I have my family backing me up,” Ruiz said. “Everyone is going to see the best version of me Saturday night. Chris Arreola is in my way. I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been in my life.”

 

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.

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