Andy Ruiz: ‘My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys’

Andy Ruiz Jr during the work out. (Reuters)
Updated 06 December 2019

Andy Ruiz: ‘My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys’

  • The heavyweight champion opens up about a life as boxing’s misfit ahead of his rematch against Anthony Joshua

RIYADH: Andy Ruiz has spent his entire life in boxing as an outsider. “Six years old,” the Mexican-American fighter replied when asked about his first time stepping into the ring.

“My first amateur fight I was 7 years old. That was in San Diego, California. And I lost, too. I was 7 years old weighing more than all the other 7-year-olds, so my dad had brought this other guy who was 12 years old because he was bigger. It was a hell of a fight, and I actually still have that videotape,” said Ruiz, now 30.

“My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys. I feel that’s where I got the experience, and I just thank my dad for always pushing me,” he said.

“Even when I didn’t want to box anymore, he’d drag me out of my room to train, saying, ‘you’re going to do something.’ That’s exactly what has happened,” he said.

“My dad had confidence in me since I was a little kid. He’d always tell me, ‘You know what? You’re going to beat him’,” Ruiz added.

“The main thing he’d tell me was not to be scared … because we’re all the same, all flesh and blood. Just go in there fearless, do what I do best, and let my hands go.”

To say Ruiz was considered the underdog going into June’s heavyweight world title fight against the poster-boy of modern boxing, Anthony Joshua, would be a fair assessment.

Ruiz had had a month’s notice, had fought less than a month and a half earlier, and was viewed by many as unfit and out of shape.

As the world would later find out, such narrow-eyed judgment of his shape and build was flawed.

While the great and good of the boxing world questioned what errors had led to the ripped, 1.98-meter-tall Joshua being beaten in the seventh round by a “tubby” fighter almost 20 cm shorter, Ruiz was celebrating a job incredibly well done.

“I think those were the doubters wondering, ‘what has happened to Anthony Joshua? There’s something wrong with him’,” said Ruiz.

“But truly I think it was my style, the way I handled him, and that I took his punches. He gave me the hardest punches he has and I ate them,” he added.

“We watched it a lot (since) to correct the mistakes I did and see the things I needed to do more,” Ruiz said.

“I think I lacked the pressure. The fight could’ve been over sooner, but I think I let it slide a little bit,” he added.

“They (people) look at me now and are like, ‘man, if Andy Ruiz did it, I could do it.’ I’ve got to motivate people and let them know that everything is possible, but you’ve got to train hard, you’ve got to work hard.”

This weekend, the two men go toe-to-toe again in the eagerly awaited “Clash On The Dunes,” presented by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and taking place in Diriyah near Riyadh.

Fan demand is huge, forcing fight organizers to release this week another phase of tickets, starting at SR999 ($266).

Fight week usually pops and crackles with insults traded and rising tensions between the fighters.

But the buildup to the jewel in the crown of the first-ever Diriyah Season festival has again proven how this boxing maverick moves differently than many of the biggest names in the sport, past and present.

“I don’t think there’s a reason to be trash-talking each other. I know that’s what the fans and everybody else want to see, but that’s not how my mum raised me,” said Ruiz.

“I think I’m a different fighter from everybody else. I have respect for all the fighters. If I saw AJ (Joshua) right now I’d shake his hand and tell him, ‘How you doing? Good luck for Dec. 7 — best man wins’.”

Many hearing Ruiz say that might wonder how a boxer preparing to, in his own words, “go to war” with his opponent in only a few days’ time can be so jovial and warm toward his rival ahead of the biggest fight of his career. It is certainly a unique stance, but so is Ruiz.

June’s fight earned him a rumored $7 million. For Saturday’s rematch he will earn a lot more. Do the niceties toward Joshua derive from the fact that the big-reaching Brit changed Ruiz’s life, making him an overnight multimillionaire when they first met?

“Exactly,” was Ruiz’s quick response. “I respect the guy. I respect any fighter who jumps in the ring because we all risk our lives to feed our families. This is our job. Of course I respect the man.”

Since that night in New York’s Madison Square Garden, everything has changed for Ruiz. He has vast wealth, and is having to adapt to his newfound global celebrity.

Asked how life has been treating him since then, he said: “Really well, a bit overwhelming at times but this is what I dreamed for, this is what I’ve been working hard for, this is what I’ve been training for since I was 6 years old.”

He added: “It’s not just great for me but it’s great for my family, my kids. Our whole lives have changed after June 1.”

His craziest big-money buys since then? “Probably all the cars I’ve bought. Four cars already. Two different (Mercedes) G-Wagons, the brand-new Rolls Royce, the Lamborghini truck. I bought my mum and dad a truck. Just having fun.”

Fun is fun, and even so close to such an epic boxing occasion, Ruiz manages to laugh and share a joke with those around him.

He and Joshua both arrived in Saudi Arabia last week, with the American’s 8,000-mile trip definitely the more arduous of the two.

Asked how he plans to beat Joshua for the second time in seven months, Ruiz said: “I know he’s going to try and be boxing me around. I think that’s why he lost some weight, trying to keep me out with the jab, and that’s exactly what we’ve been practicing.”

He added: “That’s how we’re planning and exactly how we’ve been training: Being small, being more slick, owning the pressure, throwing the combinations, me being first.”

Ruiz said: “I think he’s still going to be boxing around four or five rounds until I bring the pressure and start working the body.”

Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

Updated 12 August 2020

Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

  • A victory against Leipzig will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since 2017

LISBON: So far so good for Atletico Madrid in the quest for their first Champions League title.

Diego Simeone’s team have caught all the breaks going into the decisive final-eight tournament in Lisbon.

Old foes Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are gone. They drew Leipzig instead of a more traditional powerhouse for the quarterfinals. And their rival lost its top player after Timo Werner left for Chelsea. Even when things went wrong and the squad was hit by COVID-19, Atletico avoided the worst as only two players were infected and they could still make the trip to Portugal.

Things have been looking good for Simeone and his players.

A victory against Leipzig on Thursday will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since it was eliminated by Ronaldo’s Madrid in the last four in 2017. Ronaldo and Madrid had defeated Atletico in the final in 2014 and 2016, and also ended the rival’s run in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Ronaldo again was Atletico’s nemesis last season after joining Juventus. Atletico lost to the Italian team in the round of 16 after Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the decisive second leg in Turin.

But this time Ronaldo and Juventus were eliminated by Lyon in the last 16, the same stage in which Madrid were knocked out of the tournament by Manchester City. Only two past champions are still left in the competition — Barcelona and Bayern Munich — and they play against each other in the opposite side of the draw, meaning Atletico could only meet one of them in the final.

Leipzig are a relative newcomer to the Champions League, having reached the group stage only twice. This is the first time they made it to the knockout round. They eliminated Tottenham in the round of 16, but now they won't count on top scorer Werner, who did not extend his contract by a few weeks to finish the season with the German club before moving to Chelsea.

Atletico stunned defending European champion Liverpool in the last 16, advancing after a 3-2 win in England.

“The game against Liverpool will go down in history and was one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” Atletico striker Diego Costa said. “It gave fans high expectations and we will give our best to try to meet those expectations. Hopefully we will play well and luck will stay on our side.”

Costa said Atletico will not take Leipzig lightly despite  the rival’s lack of experience in international competitions.

“They are very strong on the ball and know what they are about,” he said. “They have made it to the quarterfinals and have no pressure.”

There was a scare within Atletico this week when it announced two positive test results for COVID-19 among the group that was traveling to Lisbon. There were concerns that an outbreak within the club could have affected the team’s participation in the tournament in Portugal, but new tests showed that only Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko were infected and the squad could travel to Lisbon.

Vrsaljko was not even going to play because he is nursing an injury, while Correa isn't among Atletico’s top stars even though he led the team in assists this season.

After coming agonizingly close recently, Atletico hope the breaks will keep going their way and that they  will finally get to lift the coveted European trophy.