Andy Ruiz Jr sat out all of 2023, failed negotiations with Deontay Wilder followed by surgery making it a year to forget for the former heavyweight champion of the world. The next twelve months, he promises, will be big.
Ruiz Jr shocked the world in New York back in 2019, dropping and stopping the previously undefeated unified champion Anthony Joshua to take three of the four major belts back to Mexico.
His reign was short-lived, losing the rematch through a combination of a composed Joshua and Ruiz himself coming in out of shape.
Following that loss he has had decision wins over Chris Arreola and Luis Ortiz, but been frustratingly inactive since – even despite being ordered by the WBC to face Wilder.
Wilder claims that Ruiz priced himself out of their bout, accusations echoed by Tyson Fury when he briefly considered giving him a world title shot.
“I think Zhang did an awesome job. Joe Joyce is like a robot. He just throws punches and doesn’t even move. I think Zhang is a really good fighter. That’s a good fight that I’ll take too.”
“I lost a decision [in the amateurs.] I think I did really well, but they gave the fight to him.”
Zhang has had perhaps the best year on the heavyweight scene, defeating Joe Joyce twice in London, the second by devastating stoppage.
He did indeed beat Ruiz in the amateurs, a points decision in 2007 in Beijing that was a quarter finals in a pre-Olympics tournament.
‘Big Bang’ turned pro seven years later and fought undefeated until a contentious loss to Filip Hrgovic in 2022. With the wins against Joyce under his belt as well as a WBO Interim world title giving him a mandatory shot in the future, he is very much at the top table now.
His manager Terry Lane recently claimed that the likes of Fury and Joshua want nothing to do with him, so a Ruiz bout could well materialise in 2024 – it certainly wouldn’t be one fans would sniff at.