Bill Tibbs writes about how new champion Andy Ruiz Jr. shook off a knockdown to shock Anthony Joshua and the boxing world
He’s heard all the fat jokes, he read the (seemingly) insurmountable odds against him and he knew he was the B-side to the United States’ coronation of champion Anthony Joshua.
He came into Gotham as a late replacement brought into play the fall guy to the champion who was simply using Andy Ruiz as a vehicle to notch an impressive win that would lead to bigger fights with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury down the road.
But, guess what? California residing, Mexican Andy Ruiz didn’t buy any of it and is the new heavyweight champion of the world.
In one of the heavyweight divisions biggest upsets, Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KO’s) stopped heavily favored WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-1, 21 KO’s) in round 7 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City handing the undefeated British star his first loss.
Ruiz, never one to challenge Evander Holyfield (or Joshua for that matter) in the physique department, entered the ring six pounds heavier than in his previous fight.
After a couple of feel-out rounds, Joshua dropped Ruiz in round 3 and at that very moment the entire fight changed.
Not because Ruiz was on the canvas for the first time in his career, but because of the way he responded to it. He responded like a fighter in the truest sense of the word.
He was supposed to get up, back into the ropes and take enough heavy shots to allow the referee to step in and stop the fight. Ruiz would go home with a nice pay check and congratulations for a gutsy effort, Joshua would look towards his next big fight, and all of the thousands of British fight fans that had come over to see their hero would head home happy.
But, Ruiz had other plans. Instead of getting rattled by the shot that dropped him, he composed himself, got back up and answered every question there ever might have been about his desire to really, truly call himself a fighter. He moved right back in on the stalking champion and went right back to war landing hard, accurate counters shots that would soon see Joshua hitting the deck not once, but twice, in the very same round.
Ruiz would return to his corner composed and confident while Joshua seemed hurt and confused as to what had just taken place. Ruiz would now get stronger as the fight progressed while Joshua never really seemed to recover, if not physically then certainly mentally.
Joshua was saved by the bell at the end of round 3 and the fight seemed to settle down again in the next few rounds before Ruiz again dropped Joshua 2 more times in round 7 before the fight was stopped; Ruiz leapt into the air as the new champion while being mobbed by his lead trainer Manny Robles and his corner.
And, I don’t care whom you were cheering for; you had to feel good for this guy! Quiet and shy out of the ring, he walked into the lion’s den, kept his composure and focus in a tough situation and handled it like the champion he now is.
The crowd was shocked, the announcers were shocked and boxing had a new champion to add some more sizzle to an already intriguing heavyweight division.
For every big fight that never fulfills its hopes and expectations you get one like this that reminds you why boxing can be so unpredictable…and great!
After the fight, Ruiz, fielding a storm of questions from the media seemed as surprised at times as everyone else with what had taken place.
“I still have to pinch myself to believe this is really happening”, he said through a big smile while seated beside trainer Manny Robles. “I wanna thank God, my family, my Dad, everyone who has been there for me every step of the way”, he continued.
“If you look at my past interviews, go back and check them out, you’ll see that I said for a long time that it was Anthony Joshua that I wanted to fight. I knew I could beat him and I am thankful that I got the chance to fight him. He is a warrior and I’m a warrior but I knew I could beat him if I was given the chance”, said Ruiz.
And, while Ruiz will be more than likely heading over to England for the rematch (which Joshua said he will pursue) later this year, for now he just wants to relax before getting back to work.
“I just want to go home and enjoy the victory as Mexico’s first heavyweight champion”, said Ruiz.
When things do get buttoned down for a return bout, Joshua might soon find things aren’t going to get any easier in the next fight as Ruiz seemed more motivated than ever.
“We feel more motivated than ever right now”, said Ruiz. “We know I can do better and we are going to work on some things and now that we have the title we are more driven than ever to keep this title. People might think that once you win the championship you have achieved your goal”, he said. “This is just the start, I am more motivated than ever”.