By: Sean Crose
He was, in fact, a last minute replacement. WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua was supposed to be making his American debut against colorful contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller at Madison Square Garden. Big Baby, however, made big news when he tested positive for a banned substance just before the fight. And so, with little time left before Joshua’s scheduled heavyweight title defense, promoters found themselves in need of a challenger. In stepped Andy Ruiz, a fighter with fast hands and a single, controversial, loss on his resume. Sure, some might have argued, the man wouldn’t be at his best fighting on short notice, but shots at real glory don’t come around too often. Ruiz understood that, and entered the ring that June evening ready for action. Or at least as ready for action as he could reasonably be on short notice.
And then he stunned the fight world.
After being dropped by the hard hitting Joshua in the third, the fast handed Ruiz got up and dropped Joshua in kind. Twice. By the time the bell sounded to end the round, each man had been rocked. It was Joshua, however, who had taken the serious damage. For the remainder of the seven round bout, the towering heavyweight was simply outfought by Ruiz. After being dropped two more times in the seventh, Joshua was saved by the referee, who wisely stopped the fight.
It was a glorious moment for Ruiz – but it didn’t last long. Six months later, an overweight, undertrained Ruiz showed up to rematch Joshua in Saudi Arabia looking far from stellar. Suffice to say, Joshua, who had clearly put in the work beforehand, outboxed his one-time conqueror and returned home to London with the WBA, IBF and WBO belts safely back in his possession. As for Ruiz – he not only lost the fight and his titles, his reputation took a terrible hit, as well. Comparisons to James “Buster” Douglas ran rampant. That was back in late 2019. Since that time, Ruiz has fought only once, and that was in May of last year.
Now, however, the 32 year old fighter with a 34-2 record is returning. Headlining a Sunday night pay per view event via Fox and PBC, Ruiz will face longtime contender Luis Ortiz in a scheduled 12 rounder at LA’s Cryptocom Arena. It’s an interesting, if not exactly pay per view worthy, main event, one that has a lot on the line for each fighter. Ortiz, who has lost in his two attempts to win a world title against Deontay Wilder, is now well into his 40s and can’t afford to have another major loss on is resume. Ruiz, on the other hand, will largely be considered finished as a major player in the heavyweight division should he not leave the ring victorious.
To be sure, Ruiz has looked very sharp in training, his punches fast, his demeanor determined. There’s no telling whether or not he’s going to emerge victorious Sunday, but the man at least looks like he’s taking the fight seriously. Fans and analysts would argue that’s a good sign, since Ruiz’ discipline has long been in question. He’s a good fighter, Ruiz. It will be interesting to see how he looks against Ortiz this Sunday evening. At his best Ruiz is a tough night’s work for anyone.
At his best.