Good, bad, worse: Andy Ruiz Jr. gave uninspiring, but effective performance

·8 min read

A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

If Andy Ruiz Jr.’s only goal was the have his hand raised in his comeback fight against fellow heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz on Sunday in Los Angeles, then he succeeded. If he wanted to make a statement, well, he didn’t have a great night.

The former unified titleholder looked terrific for three moments, the moments when he put Ruiz down – twice in Round 2 and once in Round 7. Otherwise, Ruiz did more waiting than punching and was outworked by his 43-year-old, weak-legged opponent in a lackluster fight. According to CompuBox, Ortiz threw 428 punches, Ruiz only 287 (24 per round).

That allowed Ortiz (33-3, 28 KOs) to stay in the fight in spite of the knockdowns, winning six rounds on two cards and seven on the third.

What went wrong?

Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) would say “nothing.” The strategy devised by Ruiz and trainer Alfredo Osuna evidently was to box, wait for Ortiz to commit and then counter with quick, hard combinations. That’s essentially what Ruiz did, which resulted in the knockdowns and the unanimous decision victory.

I believe there was more to it than sticking to a game plan, though. Ruiz had never faced a left-handed opponent before Sunday, which was significant. He reportedly had problems adjusting to southpaw sparring partners early in camp. And it appeared that the issues weren’t fully resolved against Ortiz, who is a particularly clever southpaw with fight-ending power.

Thus, Ruiz has reason to be satisfied that he exited the ring with a victory, one that could lead directly to a massive fight against former champion Deontay Wilder if Wilder defeats Robert Helenius on Oct. 15 in Brooklyn.

It was a productive night for Ruiz even if it wasn’t a thrilling one.

 

BAD

Andy Ruiz Jr. (right) put Luis Ortiz down three times. Harry How / Getty Images

Ortiz performed about as well as he could against Ruiz.

The Cuban can still box, can still think, can still throw a lot of punches, can still punch. He just couldn’t overcome two things on Sunday, Ruiz’s ability to take a hard shot and his own inability to do so.

Ortiz has been down five times in his last two fights, including two knockdowns before he stopped Charles Martin in six rounds in January. He can still take a decent punch without getting hurt badly. The problem appears to be his legs, which seem to betray him when he gets caught.

That’s what happened when Martin put him down with a jab that would’ve had no effect on him five or 10 years ago.

Ortiz can still compete at a high level – as he demonstrated on Sunday night – but his weak legs are difficult to overcome. And they’re only going to get weaker as he moves into his mid-40s.

Should he retire? I wouldn’t advise him to step away based on his response when he was asked after the fight whether he might be finished.

He seemed stunned that anyone would ask him such a question after what he believed to be a strong, courageous performance even though it was a reasonable query given his age and obvious liabilities.

“Do you think I’m done?” he said. “You saw a warrior tonight. What do the people want? Do you think I’m done?”

Indeed, he performed well enough against Ruiz to get another meaningful fight, which was a victory of sorts. And he obviously wants to continue what he’s done most of his life, to make a good living for his family, to cling to his dream of winning a world title.

I believe we’ll see Ortiz fight at least once or twice more.

 

WORSE

The fate of Jose Valenzuela on the Ruiz-Ortiz card is an example of how cruel boxing can be.

The lightweight contender was unbeaten and a rising young star as a result of his ability, controlled aggression and punching power. His ceiling was high. And then he met Edwin De Los Santos, a late replacement for Jezreel Corrales.

De Los Santos not only upset Valenzuela, he overwhelmed him. The quick-handed Dominican landed almost at will from the opening bell, which resulted in two knockdowns and a stunning third-round knockout.

De Los Santos (15-1, 14 KOs) went from a relatively obscure fighter to a major player in the deep 135-pound division. Valenzuela (12-1, 8 KOs) went the opposite direction, from a budding star to a fighter who might not have elite ability after all.

Valenzuela said he was surprised by De Los Santos’ aggression. It was more than that, though. His biggest problem appears to be his inability to avoid punches, as former champion and TV analyst Shawn Porter suggested.

He must pull out all stops to hone his defensive skills if he hopes to become the fighter he was projected to be.

And, just as important, he’ll have to overcome the psychological trauma of such a devastating loss, which won’t be easy. Some fighters can bounce back from that kind of setback, many can’t.

We’re going to learn a lot about Valenzuela’s mental toughness in the coming months.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Juan Francisco Estrada (43-3, 28 KOs) received surprisingly tough resistance from relative unknown Argi Cortes (23-3-2, 10 KOs) on Saturday in Mexico in what was supposed to be a tune-up for a third fight with rival Roman Gonzalez on Dec. 3. Estrada, who hadn’t fought in almost 18 months, was able to earn a unanimous decision victory but was never able to take complete control of the fight. Maybe it was rust. Maybe he underestimated Cortes. Maybe Cortes is simply better than anyone realized. Most likely it was all three reasons. Bottom line: It was strange to see the great Mexican champion struggle to beat an upstart. The version of Estrada we saw on Saturday probably couldn’t beat “Chocolatito,” who lost a disputed decision to Estrada in March of last year. Fortunately for Estrada (43-3, 28 KOs) a better version is likely to show up for the rubber match. Estrada will have shed whatever rust he experienced and he certainly won’t underestimate Gonzalez, one of the greatest fighters of his generation. Meanwhile, Cortes (23-3-2, 10 KOs) became a player in the 115-pound division over night as a result of his performance. He can box, he’s resilient and he handled the spotlight as if he’d been there a million times. He also has a Hall of Fame trainer in his corner, Nacho Beristain. Cortes suddenly has a bright future. …

I would pick Wilder to beat Ruiz but I’d the give the latter a chance in that fight because of his chin. I’m not sure anyone could stand up to Wilder’s power for long – even Tyson Fury went down four times in three fights with him – but Ruiz has an unusual ability to absorb punishment. That, combined with his solid skill set and quick, heavy hands, make him a threat to Wilder. … Isaac Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs) turned in another impressive performance on the Ruiz-Ortiz card. The lightweight contender buried capable of Eduardo Ramirez (27-3-3, 12 KOs) in an avalanche of power punches until Ramirez went down twice and was stopped in the second round. Is there anyone more fun to watch than Cruz? The 24-year-old Mexican now has two consecutive knockouts (including one against Yuriorkis Gamboa in April) since he lost a disputed decision to Gervonta Davis last December. I don’t know how he’d fair in a rematch with Davis or against the likes of superb technicians Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko but he would make them work hard for whatever they get, as we saw in the fight with Davis. …

Abner Mares (31-3-2, 15 KOs) didn’t have his hand raised against Miguel Flores (25-4-1, 2 KOs) in his first fight in four years but he should be pleased with himself. The 36-year-old former three-division champion fought the naturally bigger, fresher Flores to a majority draw in a 10-round lightweight bout on the Ruiz-Ortiz card. Mares appeared to be on his way to a sensational victory by Round 3, during which he hurt Flores several times with overhand rights. However, he then settled into a stick-and-move mode that allowed Flores to pull even with him by the end of the fight. Mares said afterward that he had problems with timing and other issues but he gave a solid performance given the circumstances. I didn’t like his posture in the second half of the fight – maybe he was just tired – but he can still fight at a high level.

Related

Watch: Andy Ruiz Jr's first knockdown of Luis Ortiz from ringside angle

Andy Ruiz Jr. uses three knockdowns to get past crafty Luis Ortiz

Isaac Cruz brutally knocks out Eduardo Ramirez in second round

Abner Mares has to settle for draw with Miguel Flores in return from four-year hiatus

Edwin De Los Santos overwhelms, stops Jose Valenzuela in third round

Juan Francisco Estrada survives stiff challenge, can now focus on 'Chocolatito'

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie