Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KO’s) will make his second World title attempt, after he was revealed as the replacement to challenge WBA/WBO & IBF World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KO’s) on June 1st at Madison Square Garden.
Though California-based-Ruiz has been a regular fixture on the heavyweight scene, the announcement was met with surprise by some, with Ruiz holding little in the way of profile when compared to commercial juggernaut Joshua.
So, ahead of Ruiz’s opportunity of a lifetime, how much do we know about the man looking to take down ‘AJ’?
Growing up in California, Ruiz Jr. amassed an impressive amateur record training under Fernando Ferrer; picking up 105 wins against only five defeats.
A two-time Mexican national champion, many had tipped Ruiz to qualify for the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. However, the then-19-year-old would crash out in the pre-games qualifiers; with losses to Cuban Robert Alfonso and Dillian Whyte’s upcoming opponent Oscar Rivas sealing his fate and sending him into the paid ranks with his Olympic dream left unfulfilled.
Undeterred, Ruiz would make his professional debut in March 2009, scoring a routine first round knockout of Miguel Salvador Ramirez in Tijuana, Mexico.
The win would be the first of twenty-nine consecutive victories for Ruiz, with ‘The Destroyer’ steadily building his resume with wins over former WBA champion Siarhaei Liakhovich and then-undefeated Joe Hanks as he closed in on his maiden World title shot.
His opportunity would come in December of 2016 when Ruiz would travel to face Joseph Parker in his homeland of Auckland, New Zealand for the vacant WBO World heavyweight title.
In a close, and at times cagey, encounter, Ruiz would find himself on the wrong end of a tight majority decision defeat against the hometown favourite. Though he had began the contest in confident fashion, winning the early sessions by utilising his hand and foot speed, Ruiz would ultimately pay for an inactive second half of the fight; allowing Parker to simply out-hustle him en route to grabbing the decision win.
Ruiz would then sit out for the next fifteen months before making his return to the ring against Devin Vargas on the Valdez-Quigg undercard in California on March 10th 2018.
Parker, meanwhile, would surrender the WBO title he won against Ruiz in a one-sided unanimous decision loss to Anthony Joshua just three weeks later in Cardiff.
With solid-but-unspectacular wins over American veteran Kevin Johnson and last time out against Alexander Dimitrenko, Ruiz had slowly began to rebuild since his sole career loss to Joseph Parker.
However, following the recent doping storm that saw Jarrell Miller removed from his bout with Anthony Joshua after three failed drug tests, Ruiz would throw his name into the hat as a replacement for Joshua’s American debut.
After teasing the opportunity on social media – including a tweet that showed Ruiz seemingly outscoring Joshua on a punching machine – rumours of Ruiz being named as Miller’s replacement began to pick up pace.
— AndyRuizjr (@Andy_destroyer1) April 26, 2019
With promoter Eddie Hearn set on an American to share the bill at Madison Square Garden, Ruiz was confirmed as Joshua’s opponent on Tuesday morning.
Though the announcement came as a surprise to some, Ruiz has been widely accepted as a fitting replacement for Miller and many expect him to prove to be a tricky opponent for Joshua come June 1st.
Blessed with naturally fast hands and an underrated boxing brain, Ruiz will hope to capitalise on any disruptions in Joshua’s preparations. However, with the two men doing their best work at distance, Ruiz will have to figure out a way to nullify Joshua’s eight inch reach advantage.
Nevertheless, Ruiz has been handed a once in a lifetime opportunity: with ‘The Destroyer’ earning a significant career-high payday and the opportunity to capture three of the four recognised major World titles in the process.
Article by: Chandler Waller.
Follow Chandler on Twitter: @ChandlerWaller