Andy Ruiz Jr. is living his father's dream, and plans to reign as champ for years to come

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Mexican-American heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz Jr. throws a punch into the air at a press conference in Diriya, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 4, 2019. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)
Mexican-American heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz Jr. throws a punch into the air at a press conference in Diriya, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 4, 2019. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

Fathers are often the first to introduce their sons to sports, and those fathers frequently have outsized hopes and dreams for their children. They dream that their son will become the next Mike Trout, Tom Brady or LeBron James.

The odds against that ever happening are staggering.

Andy Ruiz Sr. knew that when began to teach his son, Andy Ruiz Jr., how to box when Junior was just 6 years old, but it didn’t stop him from dreaming big. Ruiz Sr. of course would dream of his son winning the heavyweight title and having the belts draped over his shoulder.

“It was a dream that I was going to have my Mexican Rocky and then it came true,” the father of the IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion said in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday at a news conference to officially kick off the promotion for Andy Jr.’s Dec. 7 rematch with former champion Anthony Joshua.

Much has changed in Ruiz Jr.’s life since he stopped Joshua in the seventh round on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York in perhaps the most stunning heavyweight upset since Buster Douglas stopped Mike Tyson in 1990.

He bought a large home with a swimming pool and a tennis court and, as he says, his own private driveway. When he showed the home off on social media, he was riding in a Rolls Royce that he’d purchased after beating Joshua.

It has been a dream for Ruiz Jr., but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. On April 20 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, Ruiz knocked out Alexander Dimitrenko in five rounds. After the bout, he spoke to the media about fighting one of the three at that time who laid claim to the heavyweight title: Joshua, WBC champion Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury.

“I’d take A.J.,” he said on April 20, as promoter Eddie Hearn searched for a new opponent for Joshua after Jarrell Miller fell out because of anti-doping violations. “ … In my eyes, I think A.J. would be an easier opponent, how his style is and how him and [Joseph] Parker went the distance as well. Either one of those I’d love to fight.”

Why Joshua first among them, he was asked.

“You know, the style, the money,” Ruiz said. “Styles make fights and I think with his style, I think it would be a better style for me.”

Recent boxing history would suggest he’s got a tough road ahead of him. Since 1990, Ruiz’s is one of six significant upsets in heavyweight title fights since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in the 10th round of their Feb. 11, 1990, bout in Toyko.

The others were Oliver McCall over Lennox Lewis on Sept. 24, 1994; Hasim Rahman over Lewis on April 22, 2001; Corrie Sanders over Wladimir Klitschko on March 8, 2003; and Lamon Brewster over Klitschko on April 10, 2004.

The records of Douglas, McCall, Rahman, Lewis and Brewster in title fights and elimination fights after winning the belt is not good.

Douglas was knocked out by Evander Holyfield in his first defense and never fought for a title again. McCall defeated then-45-year-old Larry Holmes in his first title defense, but lost his next two title fights and never got another one.

Sanders was knocked out in his first title defense by Klitschko’s older brother, Vitali, and faded into oblivion not long afterward.

Rahman had the most opportunities. After knocking out Lewis in South Africa in a monumental upset, he had seven more title shots and three eliminator bouts. He lost to Lewis in an immediate rematch and was 1-5-1 in his seven title bouts after his KO of Lewis in their first one. He was 1-1-1 in three title eliminators.

Brewster was the most effective of the group. After knocking out Wladimir Klitschko, he won his next three title defenses before finally losing.

Add it all up and the cumulative record of those five in title bouts after they first won the belt is a mediocre 5-10-1.

That’s what facing Ruiz, who insists he hasn’t become complacent in the aftermath of his surprising win.

“The hunger still remains,” Ruiz said. “I don’t want to be a 15 minutes of fame [guy], you know? I want it to last. I want it to be a generation. I want to be a champion for more years. … I have a good fighter right here next to me. He’s going to try to take these belts, but like I said, God’s with me and we’re really going to be training hard for Dec. 7.”

If he has one advantage, he’s still feeling the slights. He wasn’t given much of a chance before the first bout, even though he had the kind of fast hands and nimble feet despite his size that could give Joshua difficulty.

Joshua is around a 3-1 favorite to win the rematch, but Ruiz sloughed it off.

“Dec. 7, I’m going to make another history and I’m going to win here in the same fashion, the same way that I won June 1,” Ruiz said. “I’m going to prove everybody wrong.”

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