For as long as he's boxed, Andy Ruiz Jr. always had quick hands and smooth feet. In boxing, those are two traits that will carry one a long way.
Along the way to the top of his sport, though, Ruiz was frequently overlooked because of his fleshy midsection.
No one would say it to his face, but Ruiz was mocked throughout boxing for being fat. And so many people, those who worked with him and those who considered it, would always say of him:
If only he would get into shape.
If only he would commit to a diet.
If only he could lose the beer gut.
Ruiz heard those taunts for most of his life, and took it through gritted teeth. And then, on a magical night in New York on June 1, 2019, the fat kid got the last laugh.
Ruiz pulled himself off the canvas to stop Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in the seventh round, winning the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight championships in the process.
His belly jiggled as he leaped into the air to celebrate what was one of the most shocking upsets in boxing history.
On Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Fox Sports PBC PPV), there won’t be any jiggling when Ruiz makes the long walk to the ring at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, to fight Chris Arreola.
Ruiz, who literally ate, drank and partied his way out of the championship, is a fat man no more.
Ruiz will still be a big man, because that’s the body that God gave him. But his new trainer, Eddy Reynoso, isn’t one to say, “If only.” He got Ruiz into shape and the difference in his body between now and his last fight is jaw-dropping.
Ruiz was a whopping 283 pounds on Dec. 7, 2019, when he made his only title defense in a rematch with Joshua. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously referred to Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.” Dec. 7, 2019, is a date that will live in infamy for Ruiz, at least.
He enjoyed the fruits of his victory over Joshua far too much and forgot what made him great. Joshua was there for the taking in the rematch, but Ruiz simply wasn’t anywhere near the condition he needed to be in to take advantage.
Joshua won 10 of the 12 rounds on the scorecards of two of the judges and 11 of the 12 on the scorecard of the third, regaining the belts.
That could have been the end of the story, but Ruiz finally saw the light and is now under 255 pounds heading into the Arreola fight. His physical skills have long been first rate, and he finally made the commitment to get himself into the best shape possible. Looking like a bodybuilding contestant is not, and never has been, a prerequisite for success in boxing, but Ruiz made Fat Albert look like the Incredible Hulk with the way he came into the ring for the second fight against Joshua.
No more, or at least, not this time.
“I chose Eddy because this is where the champions train,” Ruiz said. “Everyone here is dedicated and disciplined. I felt like I needed to make this change and it’s really something that I should have done a long time ago.
“The main thing I’ve learned here is discipline. That’s something you can’t buy. You have to do it on your own. You have to want it.”
Reynoso is best known for his work with Canelo Alvarez, but he’s turning into a modern day Emanuel Steward. He’s taking fighters who have talent but also had issues and getting them turned around.
Steward famously did it with Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, and Reynoso has done it with Ryan Garcia and is attempting to do it with Ruiz.
And Reynoso made clear to Ruiz early that they wouldn’t stick together long if Ruiz wasn’t fully committed. So far, so good.
“The most important thing for Andy is the discipline and his mentality,” Reynoso said. “Those are the main aspects we’ve been working on. From there, we have the building blocks to get better each and every day with everything we want to do. The talent and intelligence has always been there with Andy. It’s a a pleasure to work with him. He’s done everything I’ve asked of him so far.”
He will be in the mix for a title fight soon with a win, and he’ll be better equipped next time to keep the belt with the kind of discipline and effort he’s shown in camp.
There have famously been many athletes who succeeded despite bodies best suited for a hotdog eating competition. Babe Ruth is probably the most famous.
Ruiz’ genetics are such that he’s never going to have the kind of build Joshua has, but he now recognizes that getting into condition will allow him to take advantage of the skills he does have. He can hit hard, he has quick hands and is surprisingly agile for a big guy.
“I’ve learned so much here,” Ruiz said. “We try to perfect every punch and every movement. I’m not just a fighter who comes forward. I have more abilities. Losing weight is going to let me show more of what I can do.”
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