By: Sean Crose
Twenty one people had felt that power before. None of them were able to withstand it. Anthony Joshua, the defending WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion of the world, was simply that powerful. Andy Ruiz, however, was not like those twenty other men who had fallen before the towering Englishman. Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin, Dominic Breazeale, and even Wladimir Klitschko had ultimately crumbled under the force of Joshua’s punches. Ruiz, though, was determined not to join their number after Joshua sent him to the mat with a terrific left last June at Madison Square Garden. He looked like a man who had taken a good shot, to be sure. He also looked like a man whose nerves were battling to get the better of him. Yet Ruiz got to his feet, breathed a heavy sigh, and fought through the physical and psychological trauma he had endured just seconds earlier.
The rest, as they say, is history. And now, after ultimately beating Joshua in that thrilling first fight, Ruiz is looking for history to repeat itself in the rematch, which goes down this Saturday in Saudi Arabia. It’s an interesting match, to be sure. What’s more, Ruiz is an interesting character. Mild mannered, smiling, seemingly untroubled, he appears to be the polar opposite of some of the other top fighters in his division, outspoken types like Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Yet there’s more to Ruiz than just the aw shucks persona he exudes. There’s also more to the man than the rapid fire combinations and firepower he showcases in the ring. In fact, what makes Ruiz so dangerous is the icy resolve he showed that night in New York just over six months ago. That, perhaps more than anything else, is what Anthony Joshua will have to overcome in Saudi Arabia this weekend. If, in fact, he can.
If one looks closely enough, it becomes clear that Ruiz’ chill factor, for lack of a better term, is evident throughout all aspects of his career. Here’s a man, after all, who has apparently never believed he had to join modern boxing’s body beautiful club. Call it laziness, self confidence, or just indifference, there clearly had to be a moment when it was pointed out to Ruiz that he’d be a better draw, or even a better fighter, if he’d just get himself a six pack. Yet the Mexican-American clearly never signed on to that way of thinking. Ruiz is also a man who didn’t go nuts when he lost a controversial decision to Joseph Parker back in their 2016 title fight. In fact, Ruiz arguably allowed himself to slide under the radar after that defeat. Rather than starting Twitter wars or screaming and shouting in video clips, Ruiz simply resolved himself to the fact that his chance would come again, which – of course – it did.
And now we have this most unlikely of modern champions ready to face the fiercely determined Joshua once more. He may have dropped a few pounds for this match, but don’t expect Ruiz to have dropped too many. That’s simply not the man’s style. It’s as if he’s resolved himself to succeeding with the body type he was born with or simply chooses to walk around with. Ruiz’ focus, on the other hand, will be getting to Joshua – and he’s sure to employ the same icy resolve this time in the ring as he did last June. Of course, this time Joshua will know the drill well, will have the ironic image of Ruiz’ passive face and brutally aggressive fists burned into his memory. He knows what to expect. Can Joshua do anything about it, though? That may well be the big question heading into Saturday’s match.
With that in mind, Ruiz probably shouldn’t expect to see the same Joshua in the ring that he saw last time. Joshua certainly doesn’t come across as stupid. One gets the feeling, though, that Ruiz isn’t concerned, that he’ll meet whatever strategy team Joshua brings his way this Saturday with the chill factor that’s served him so well up until this point. And if things get rough for the defending champion, if Joshua is once again able to hurt the man or start looking to be comfortably ahead on points, don’t expect Ruiz to start falling to pieces. If there’s one thing the world has learned about thirty year old, it’s that he remains gunfighter cool at all times.
“You know what?” Ruiz recently said to a Sky News reporter when asked if he felt extra pressure heading into this weekend. “In my mind, I already won, you know. I accomplished my dreams, what I wanted to do in life.” The response can be read as classic Ruiz. Yet the following statement to the same reporter, given seconds later, is indicative of this enigmatic titlist, as well. “Since I’ve been here (in Saudi Arabia) it’s already been switched on, you know. I’m ready to go, ready to rock and roll.”