Anatomy of a Letdown: How Andy Ruiz Gave Victory Away

Photo: Getty

Andy Ruiz had the world in his hands after his shocking upset of defending 3-belt world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua in Madison Square Garden last June 1st.

Along with the WBA/WBO/IBF titles won that evening in New York, Ruiz became a folk hero of sorts, not only as the first heavyweight champ of Mexican descent, but also as an icon/role model for the everyman, for “the little guys” who could never look as sculpted as Joshua, but could definitely relate to fighting hard to overcome obstacles.

With the fame and good vibes, came money and celebrity. Then, the hangers-on and distractions. Then, the over indulgence. And, finally, as this all-too-common-tale played out to completion, it led to Ruiz’s grander than grand defeat to Joshua Saturday in the Saudi Arabia-hosted rematch.

An out of shape Ruiz, after 6 months of partying, with ripples of flab rolling over the top of his trunks, was dominated by a slimmed-down, streamlined and mobile Joshua who DID actually take the six months between fights seriously. The fight ended in a one-side unanimous decision for the British star, who easily reclaimed the belts lost back in America to a leaner, hungrier Ruiz.

“For this fight, I was overweight…I should have trained harder,” a dejected Ruiz said after the embarrassing loss. “I should have listened to my coaches more. Maybe I shouldn’t have put on all this weight that I did.”

The stories of Ruiz’s post-upset excesses were not exactly secret as the rematch was rapidly put together.

The native of Imperial, California took his reported $7 million paycheck from the first Joshua fight and proceeded to whittle it down to negative balance, some say.

A $500,000 Rolls Royce was first on Ruiz’s list of indulgences. Then came the mansion (in the ridiculously overpriced California real estate market). There was another car—or cars. There were also copious amounts of new bling added to his pudgy fingers and around his thick neck. The now infamous “white party” (where everyone attending dressed in white), however, was the biggest indication that the Mexican-American heavyweight champ was not exactly in the right warrior’s frame of mind.

Held at his new mansion, Ruiz’s “white party” was a tribute to new-money excess, replete with lingerie-clad waitresses, B and C-list celebrities hobnobbing around, a private performance from rapper Scotty Music, and a naked sushi girl laid out for guests to nibble off of.

And this was back in August, with lots of time ahead for things to get crazier and even more self-indulgent.

Ruiz’s father, Andy Sr., talked after Saturday’s loss about this being the worst camp of his son’s professional life and just how hard it was to get him focused and serious about the coming task at hand. Ruiz, according to his father, refused to stay with his team during training, opting, instead, to stay with his friends and party.  

Other members of the boxing fraternity spoke up after Saturday night as well.

“…He came in like a fat tub of sh*t,” former world champ and Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi told Fight Hub TV. “A more prepared fighter may have been able to take advantage of the over-commitment to the movement that Joshua had. But Ruiz wasn’t able to, and so that’s the result he gets.”

Former world champ and ESPN analyst Andre Ward expressed a similar perspective, although in a slightly less blunt manner.

“Andy Ruiz blew a big opportunity in the Middle East,” Ward said via social media. “He said he would die in the ring to keep his belts. It didn’t take all of that, it just took the discipline and courage to push the plate back and deny himself, to put himself in the best position to win. He couldn’t do it.”

So now Ruiz moves into the next chapter of his life. He may take this tough loss and use it as a life lesson to do a bit of growing up and play the responsible adult, both in terms of boxing and his financial dealings. He could also very well implode and fall deeper into self-indulgence, humiliated by this very public humbling. Time will have to tell what comes next for the one-time king of the world.

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