Best of BM in 2019: The chubby kid from nowhere
Photo: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images
Across Christmas and the New Year, Boxing Monthly is presenting some of our most memorable features from 2019. Today we go back to April, when Shaun Brown spoke to heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr - at a time when Ruiz vs Joshua 1 and 2 were still in his future...
He describes himself as the “chubby little kid who has come from nowhere” and after joining Al Haymon’s sizeable roster of heavyweights Andy Ruiz Jr (31-1, 20 KOs) is now back on track and heading in the right direction towards another shot at the heavyweight title.
The 29-year-old Californian, of Mexican descent, has recharged the batteries thanks to taking time out from the sport in 2017. After two wins last year, and beginning this year with a new promotional deal, the former world title challenger spoke to Boxing Monthly with a focus and positivity that has perhaps been missing for a while.
In 2016 Ruiz travelled to Auckland, New Zealand, after only one month’s preparation, to contest the vacant WBO title against the Samoan warrior Joseph Parker in his adopted homeland. The closely contested bout ended in a majority decision win for the home fighter with scores of 115-113 (twice) and an even card of 114-114. Parker got the nod, and appeared deservingly so, but Ruiz, while not carrying a chip on his shoulder about the result, is keen to right a wrong with a full camp behind him.
“I would love the rematch against Parker,” Ruiz told Boxing Monthly earlier this month over the phone from Norwalk, CA, during preparations for this Saturday night’s ten-round heavyweight bout in Carson against six foot seven, 17-year veteran Alexander Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs).
“Me and him [Parker] talked on social media before about the rematch and it’s something he’s not really interested in, but I would love it. A lot of people don’t know the scene I had for that camp when I fought Joseph Parker. I only had one month to prepare for that fight because they kept switching the date.
"A lot of people don’t know that. I think if I had a whole training camp, a big camp- two, two and a half months like it was supposed to be I think that fight would have been mine. That was a fight that I did not get hurt, I did not take a beating or nothing so there was nothing to come back from that fight besides wanting to come back stronger, so I think that fight motivated me.”
Contractual issues with then promoters Top Rank led to a period of inactivity for Ruiz prompting him to take the whole of 2017 off for himself and his family. A one-round knockout of Devin Vargas and a points win against divisional Duracell bunny Kevin Johnson brought Ruiz back into the fold last year but nowhere near where he wants to be.
Ranked number 15 with the IBF and number 11 with the WBA respectively 2019 is a chance for Ruiz to climb the ladder and thanks to a dozen or so stablemates a real opportunity to stay busy.
“Now I’ve signed with Al Haymon they already have exciting fights lined up this whole year and I’m just really excited and blessed to have joined PBC [Premier Boxing Champions]."
Ruiz, who has already stated his desire for a rematch with Parker, also has his eyes on a heavyweight tussle with Polish-born, Brooklyn-based and fellow Haymon heavy, Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs).
“Well the first one that I have my eyes on is Alexander [Dimitrenko] on 20 April,” said Ruiz. “I don’t want to look past this fighter. He’s a good fighter. He’s going to be a good fight for me, but I would love to fight Kownacki. I would love to fight him. A lot of people are saying about [fighting] Chris Arreola because there’s never been two Mexican heavyweights fight here in Los Angeles or anywhere, I’d like to get that fight.
"The main thing is to just stay busy, stay focused and I really don’t care who they bring in front of me. The main thing is to win and to get back in the top ten to get another world title shot.”
Standing at six feet two, weighing around 246lbs [for the Parker fight] and 252lbs [for the Johnson fight] the appearance of Ruiz is not that of a typical heavyweight athlete in the mould of an Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder.
Tyson Fury, however, is an exception, and the inspiration that it’s not all about six packs and big biceps. Ruiz may not be blessed with the body of a front cover athlete but the hand speed he possesses for a man his size and his work-rate have given him a foundation for which his career wins have been built around.
“My dad helped me create the speed and God gave me this talent,” he recalled. “My dad got me into boxing. I was six years old when I first stepped into a boxing gym. I trained for a whole year and when I was seven years old, I had my first amateur fight in San Diego, California.
"To that day I fell in love with this sport and what do you know I’m here now, this chubby little kid who has come from nowhere. People saying, I was going to be nothing because the way I looked but the hard work, the determination, the praying to God, following my dreams … they’re coming true.
“I never thought in a million years I would be this far in my career and I thank God for this moment, and to this day, and it’s all the hard work I’ve been putting in the gym. Now that we’ve been training harder and staying more focused, I think more of my talent will show this year.”