Andy Ruiz: The Lean(er), Mean, Fighting Machine
By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
Amid a grueling regime of pain and self-punishment, one in which dietary denial and torturous physical toil have resulted in a drastic body transformation, Andy Ruiz still allows himself a cheat meal.
He used to have a cheat day or sometimes even a cheat week.
The former four-belt world heavyweight champion remembers spending hours indulging in Snickers bars and pizzas, cakes and cookies, burgers and enchiladas and, frankly, whatever else sounded good at the time.
That came in the aftermath of his stunning victory over Anthony Joshua in June 2019 that catapulted him to the top table of boxing’s heavyweight division, made him rich beyond his wildest dreams and seemed to set up a glittering future.
The problem was the revelry and indulgence stretched into the preparations for the Joshua rematch, in which a bloated Ruiz quickly got gassed and was easily picked apart by the Englishman, losing via a lopsided unanimous decision 16 months ago in Saudi Arabia.
Now, he says, he’s ready for his career to be rebirthed.
"I killed the old Andy, and a new Andy was born," Ruiz told reporters ahead of his Saturday night clash with Chris Arreola (9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports pay-per-view). "I have a lot to prove. I let a lot of people down, which is why I had to make big changes to myself."
It isn't particularly kind to talk so much about someone’s weight, but in boxing, few topics are spoken about more freely. The entire sport is built upon a category of weight classes, and the business is obsessed with it, believing – with some merit – that a boxer’s number when he steps on the scale can be an indicator of his commitment during the arduous process of readying for battle.
That’s how it was with Ruiz. It wasn’t the fact that he lost to Joshua that caused the sport to write him off. Rather, it was how out-of-shape and unconditioned he appeared to be while doing so.
He weighed in at 283 pounds that night. During Friday's official weigh-in, however, Ruiz weighed in at 256 pounds after working tirelessly with new trainer Eddy Reynoso. Heading into Saturday's clash, Ruiz is listed at -5000, per FOX Bet.
Arreola, who lost a world title bid against Vitali Klitschko in 2009, once wished for the kind of acclaim Ruiz received after beating Joshua. Now 40, he’s hoping for a major upset to give his trajectory a late-career lift.
Ruiz’s triumph over Joshua the first time they met sparked a delirious reaction south of the border and in the boxing-loving Mexican-American community. Never before had a fighter of Mexican heritage claimed a heavyweight crown. Ruiz partied hard and paraded even harder, enjoying a ceaseless round of celebrations and tributes, even meeting Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Ruiz bought a Rolls Royce and lived it up. He ate a lot. This is an admittedly terrible pun, but now he has a hunger of a different kind.
"I want the heavyweight title even more now," he said. "It is because of the way I lost. I imagine that if I’d been in this shape, I’d have won the rematch with Joshua. Things happen for a reason, and I’m just happy I have the mindset I have now."
Now the aim is to get squarely back into the mix of a heavyweight division that has more energy about it than at any time in the past decade or more.
The respective camps representing Joshua and Tyson Fury are circling each other, trying to get the best deal for their man in what would be a spectacularly awaited matchup, hopefully sooner than later. Deontay Wilder, who fought to a draw and then a defeat to Fury yet remains a fierce knockout threat, is also still part of the equation.
Ruiz, with his personality and popularity, would be a welcome addition – or readdition — to the quartet as long as he’s at his best.
"This is a huge opportunity for Andy to get back in there," former two-time welterweight world champion and FOX Sports Boxing Analyst Shawn Porter told me. "He is a popular fighter with fantastic hand speed, but he has to be fully focused on his craft.
"Now he needs to go and show everyone he is fully committed and ready to take it to the top fighters."
Things can happen quickly in the heavyweight division, with one punch or twist of fate enough to make or break a career. Ruiz’s first big chance came when Joshua’s originally scheduled opponent for the June 2019 fight, Jarrell Miller, was ruled out due to a failed drug test.
He took that chance, lost his way and now is getting another opportunity to rebuild. Ruiz admits that he will never be a skinny man or possess the bodybuilder-type physique of Fury or Wilder.
But he’s a leaner, meaner and definitely keener version of himself, and he’s once again moving on the right path.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.