If Andy Ruiz Jr.'s boxing career wasn't already a perfect candidate for one day showing up on a Hollywood script thanks to his 2019 upset knockout of unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua as a last-minute opponent, the two years that immediately followed have only added depth to the overall story.
Ruiz, the affable Mexican-American slugger known for his robust belly and deceptively quick hands, seemed to enjoy his success a little bit too much in 2019 when he came in almost comically overweight for his rematch with Joshua seven months later. He lost by wide decision.
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Seventeen months removed from that humbling rematch in Saudi Arabia, the 31-year-old Ruiz has been through a lot during his extended layoff, including depression caused by his humiliating fall, and now enters Saturday's return with an entirely new set of expectations thanks to some key changes the Imperial, California, native has made to his body and team.
Recent photos and training videos have shown Ruiz (33-2, 22 KOs) looking to be in the best shape of his career just days out from his PBC on Fox pay-per-view headlining spot opposite former four-time title challenger Chris Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KOs) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Add in the fact that Ruiz has enlisted the help of red-hot trainer and defensive wizard Eddy Reynoso -- the architect behind pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez -- for this camp and suddenly critics are wondering whether a victory could catapult Ruiz back into legitimate title contention.
"Right now I'm motivated. I killed the old Andy and a new Andy was born," Ruiz said during Wednesday's final press conference. "I have a lot to prove. I let a lot of people down, and that's why I had to make big changes to myself. I know what I'm capable of doing and I know what I can accomplish. I have it inside of me to become the Mexican two-time heavyweight champion of the world."
The 6-foot-2 Ruiz, who weighed in just shy of 284 pounds for the rematch with Joshua, admitted he ballooned to as high as 310 pounds before the start of this training camp. But the discipline demanded by Reynoso amid their camp in San Diego turned out to play a key factor for Ruiz, as did the opportunity to train alongside Alvarez, who is currently preparing for his super middleweight title unification on May 8 against Billy Joe Saunders.
"The lack of discipline that I had before training with Eddy Reynoso has been the biggest difference heading into this fight," Ruiz said. "You can't play boxing. You have to stay ready always. That's one of the main things that I've focused on, in addition to perfecting every movement I make in the ring.
"I believe I have the fastest hands at heavyweight. I'm not where I want to be at right now, but I'm a lot better than where I was. I have so much to prove starting Saturday night."
"It's motivating to be looking at Chris right now. I haven't seen him in a long time. Now we finally have the chance to give the fans what they want to see Saturday night. It's going to be a privilege.
"Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face. We both have to do our business in there. I'm praying to be victorious and for both of us to come out healthy. The better man will win on Saturday night."
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Ruiz enters as an almost laughable betting favorite against the 40-year-old Arreola, who himself hasn't fought since 2019 and has previously been stopped in world title fights by Vitali Klitschko (2009), Bermane Stiverne (2014) and Deontay Wilder (2016).
Should Ruiz return with the sharpness and edge that his newfound frame suggests, he should have his way with Arreola, who is hanging on in name only in recent years. Yet given the styles of both, an action fight is expected just the same as Ruiz, who is aligned with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions, could see himself angling towards a showdown with Wilder in the future, especially considering current champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua appear headed towards a unification.
Ruiz actually sparred Arreola back when he was still in high school and surprised the rising heavyweight at the time with his speed and power despite his thick frame. Ruiz doesn't expect their second time touching gloves to go any differently.
"My natural speed and counter punching is going to overwhelm Arreola in the ring. I'm not the same fighter who sparred him when I was 16-years-old," Ruiz said. "Chris is a strong man. He comes forward, he takes punches and he gives punches. My speed and the combinations that I've been working on in the gym are going to throw him off a little bit.
"It's going to be an all action fight. We both came here to win. I want the heavyweight title even more now. It's because of the way I lost. I Imagine that if I had been in this shape, I would have won the rematch with Joshua. Things happen for a reason and I'm just happy that I have the mindset that I have now."
Another featured fighter on this card is Sebastian Fundora. The 6-foot-5 super welterweight is ready to make his return to the ring on Saturday night when he takes on veteran Jorge Cota in a featured bout. Fundora, most famously known for his incredible height for the weight class, has turned in a trio of great performances over the last year to make more people take notice. Fundora went 3-0 in 2020 with a pair of knockouts. Cota is no slouch, however, as the veteran has bounced back from a pair of rough losses, including a devastating knockout against Jermell Charlo, to score a pair of knockouts in consecutive fights.
Fight card, odds
- Andy Ruiz -2200 vs. Chris Arreola +1100, heavyweights
- Abel Ramos -160 vs. Omar Figueroa +135, welterweights
- Sebastian Fundora -1200 vs. Jorge Cota +750, super welterweights
- Jesus Ramos Jr. -1000 vs. Javier Molina +650, welterweights
- Date: May 1 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
- Location: Dignity Health Sports Park -- Carson, California
- TV: FOX PPV ($49.99 -- check local listings) | Stream: FOX PPV online
Arreola has always taken a good punch, but his willingness to brawl won't help him at this stage of his career against someone as accurate and quick as Ruiz.
While an all-out war is certainly the expectation, there's plenty of reason to believe it will be a one-sided affair and may not last that long given Arreola's mileage. Even though Arreola showed good resolve in pushing then-unbeaten Adam Kownacki to the limit in their 12-round slugfest last time out, Kownacki is much slower than Ruiz and went on to lose via upset knockout in his next fight.
This is Ruiz's time to shine and he is being given every opportunity by PBC to do just that with hopes of much bigger fights to come.
Pick: Ruiz via TKO5