An unprepared, overweight Andy Ruiz Jr. will struggle to live down his loss to Anthony Joshua

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

Andy Ruiz Jr. took the money and ran.

He took a fight that he had the capability of winning and he squandered it long before he ever made the trek to Saudi Arabia. He acted as if he’d hit the lottery on June 1 when he knocked out Anthony Joshua in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden in New York to win three of the four major heavyweight belts. On Saturday in Saudi Arabia, he paid for that dearly.

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He was drilled by a guy who looked gun shy, who had a foot in the bucket, who didn’t want to engage and get hit. Joshua deservedly won going away on Saturday in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, by using his jab and reach and keeping an out-of-shape Ruiz on the outside.

Ruiz weighed in Friday at a stunning 283 pounds after having weighed 268 in the first fight. On Saturday, after an uninspired effort when he never really put his foot on the gas in an attempt to act like his titles meant something to him, he admitted he should have trained harder.

“I didn’t prepare how I should have,” Ruiz said. “I gained too much weight, but you know what? I don’t want to give no excuses. He won. He boxed me around. You better [expletive] believe I’m going to get in the [expletive] best shape of my life [for a third fight].”

Well, it’s too late for that.

Andy Ruiz Jr. returns to his corner during his heavyweight title defense vs. Anthony Joshua. Ruiz lost via unanimous decision. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine AFP via Getty Images)
Andy Ruiz Jr. returns to his corner during his heavyweight title defense vs. Anthony Joshua. Ruiz lost via unanimous decision. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine AFP via Getty Images)

Imagine what the Saudis who put up more than $100 million to stage this event felt to see a guy in the biggest fight of his life not even act as if he’d cared. Imagine what fans who paid thousands to fly across the world, to purchase tickets, to pay for hotel rooms, feel after hearing Ruiz say that.

He looked like a jobber on the preliminary pro wrestling card who was there to get drilled by the A side and, well, that’s what happened.

Here’s the sad thing: This fight was there for Ruiz to win. With pressure, with footwork, with combinations, Ruiz had a path to victory on this night.

Joshua clearly showed the effects of having been so violently knocked out in June. He was cautious and wasn’t interested in engaging.

“That would have knocked down a horse,” Joshua said to DAZN’s Chris Mannix in the ring after the bout about the punch Ruiz dropped him with in the third round in New York. “Andy’s a strong boy. He’s a strong man, you know what I mean?”

Nearly all of the physical advantages rested with Joshua, and on top of that, he got into better shape than he was the last time while Ruiz was in far worse shape. Still, though, it was clear throughout that the two things Ruiz is good at were enough for him to win.

He’s got the power to knock out anyone, and he has a legendarily good chin. He needed to be up in Joshua’s face early and often, pressuring him and making the fight a brawl. Joshua can punch, too, and it’s always a risk, but there was little chance Ruiz could outbox him even on his best day.

So Ruiz’s strategy should have been to overwhelm Joshua, to push him back and to try to create openings for his big shots to land.

But that is the kind of style that requires you to be in magnificent condition. Ruiz’s body is never going to win a physique contest, but it didn’t need to be. He just needed to have his legs under him and the wind to push a fast pace.

Anthony Joshua lands a punch on Andy Ruiz Jr. during their heavyweight title fight at Diriyah Arena outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua lands a punch on Andy Ruiz Jr. during their heavyweight title fight at Diriyah Arena outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

Instead, Joshua danced away from him easily after a couple of less-than-impactful jabs. Ruiz wasn’t in the condition to do what he needed, which he admitted in the ring after the fight.

“You know what, it kind of affected me a lot,” Ruiz said of the extra weight he carried. “I thought I was going to feel stronger. I thought I was going to be better. But you know what? Next fight, I think I’m going to get more prepared. I’m going to work with my team a little bit more. I tried to train kind of train myself.”

This was a con job. Andy Ruiz defrauded the public by not even trying to get into shape. And then to say afterward that he’d try harder next time was one of the most galling things a fighter has ever said after a loss.

He wants a rubber match and Joshua said he’d grant it, but the WBO has ordered a mandatory within 180 days against Oleksandr Usyk. Besides, who’d want to see that given the effort Ruiz provided? Tickets won’t be cheap and who wants to gamble that he’ll be serious this time.

He was dogged by the specter of Buster Douglas throughout this promotion. The former champion who knocked out Mike Tyson then lived the high life, meekly surrendered his title the next time out to Evander Holyfield and was largely never a factor in the division again.

Ruiz insisted as he was buying mansions and cars and showing up in clubs that he was taking the rematch seriously and that anyone who was questioning his effort was a hater.

Well, those people are seriously hating now given his post-fight words.

No matter what he does the rest of his career, this is one that he’ll never live down.

He can be a factor because of his chin and his punch, and he has more skills than people give him credit for having. But he’s not good enough to win just by getting off the couch, and that’s what he tried to do.

June 1 is a distant memory now, and Ruiz has a lot to do to rehabilitate his image.

He can start by getting to the gym as soon as he gets home and begin acting as if his job matters to him.

If he doesn’t care, why should we?

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