Andy Ruiz was devastated. It was last spring, months after his lopsided decision loss to Anthony Joshua. Ruiz, who weighed 283 pounds for his rematch with Joshua, now weighed over 300. His confidence was gone. His spirit shuddered. “I felt empty inside,” says Ruiz. One night, Ruiz fell to his knees. He had already apologized to his friends and family for wasting his chance to defend the heavyweight titles he took from Joshua. Now he needed to talk to God.
“I was so depressed, so sad, and I started praying,” says Ruiz. “And I was like, ‘Man, God, I’m sorry I didn’t do the right thing. Sorry not to follow your orders. I made him a promise and told him that I was going to do the right things again. “
Last week, Ruiz, who will make his return to the ring Saturday against Officer Chris Arreola at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California (FOX PPV, 9 p.m.), sat in a straight-backed chair for a Zoom interview. It looked different. Ruiz has dropped nearly 30 pounds since that disappointing night in Saudi Arabia, when Joshua boxed in circles around him. It sounds different. There is a liveliness in Ruiz’s voice that is rarely heard in the Mexican-American wrestler.
“I feel good,” says Ruiz smiling. “Motivated”.
But it is the different one? After the loss to Joshua, Ruiz followed the typical playbook of rebuilding fighters. He fired his longtime coach, Manny Robles. Robles’ scapegoat, who led Ruiz to a surprise victory over Joshua six months earlier, drew criticism, including blaming the ice cream sandwich for filling his abs. But Ruiz, 31, says he needed a change. “My life was like a roller coaster,” he says. “I was not happy”.
He flirted with working with Teddy Atlas, who has trained heavyweights like Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer. Atlas asked Ruiz to fly to New York to meet him. Ruiz never did. He had someone else in mind. On Instagram, Ruiz sent a message to Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, the best pound-for-pound boxer in the box. The message: Hey, Canelo. Do you think you could open the doors for me? I’m tired of the way they train me. I’m tired of the way I live Álvarez, according to Ruiz, said he would speak with his coach, Eddy Reynoso.
Reynoso was reluctant at first. Possibly the best boxing coach, Reynoso has a small stable. There is Álvarez. There’s Ryan Garcia, the rising lightweight star. There’s Oscar Valdez, a 130-pound champion. There’s Frank Sanchez, a heavyweight contender. When it came time to train Ruiz – Reynoso says it was Ruiz’s father, Andy Sr., who first approached him – Reynoso needed to think about it. “I had to watch videos to see how he fit in with me,” Reynoso said in a telephone interview. “I knew he was a good guy, but I heard from the press that he was undisciplined.”
A week later, Reynoso and Ruiz met. Reynoso was direct. “He said, ‘look mijo, we know you have what it takes; We know you have many skills, but I need your dedication, ‘”Ruiz recalls. “He said, ‘I need you to be 100% and disciplined. So if you’re going to come here with us, you’re going to train hard. You’re going to do exactly what Canelo does and we’ll show you how to be disciplined. ‘ I told them I would. “
By all accounts, Ruiz has. He is committed to training. “I go to the gym every day,” says Ruiz. He changed his diet. “We made some recommendations on what to eat,” Reynoso says, “but he just needed to be disciplined.” Ruiz absorbed information from Reynoso and Álvarez, adding more head and foot movement to his game. “I’m not where I want to be,” says Ruiz, “but I’m much better than before.”
On Saturday, Ruiz will face Arreola, a former title challenger. Ruiz is a huge favorite. At 40, Arreola’s best days are behind us. He is nearly two years away from his last fight, a wide decision loss to Adam Kownacki. In 2016, Deontay Wilder knocked him out. For Ruiz, it’s an opportunity to win and look good doing it.
Then what? Ruiz is certainly young enough to return to the heavyweight title image. It has a compelling name and story. His affiliation with Premier Boxing Champions puts him in line for compelling matchups with Kownacki, Wilder, and Luis Ortiz. A Wilder fight would be particularly interesting: two former champions, one with a right hand striking, the other with speed and a granite chin.
But can Ruiz stay disciplined? Reynoso admits that Ruiz represents his biggest challenge. “The most important thing,” Reynoso says, “is that he has a winning mentality.” If Ruiz wins, Reynoso hopes to see him back at camp in a few weeks. “It’s driven by goals,” Reynoso says. “It’s been like this since he got here.”
Ruiz says his failures still haunt him. The belts he won are on display at his parents’ home. However, looking at them brings mixed emotions. “But knowing that anything is possible gives me a lot of motivation,” says Ruiz. “I lost them, but I’m sure I can get them back.”
Indeed. That journey begins Saturday against Arreola. Ruiz is not looking past Arreola. But he’s ready for what’s to come after him.
“He had the belts. I made history. I became the first Mexican heavyweight champion in the world and I lost them due to lack of discipline, due to lack of training, ”says Ruiz. “Now that I’m doing everything right, I feel amazing. I know exactly what I am capable of and what I can achieve. Imagine being really disciplined, training really hard, I could go a long way. I’m still a little kid and all fighters, we’re still learning every day in the gym. We’re still learning and of course man I’m hungry bro. I’m really hungry. I want those belts back. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.