Andy Ruiz Jr feels the need for speed against Anthony Joshua
Both Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jnr have been battling the bulk ahead of their rematch in Saudi Arabia… but the size of heavyweights has changed drastically over the years
- Andy Ruiz Jr produced one of the greatest upsets in boxing history this summer
- The Mexican was a last-minute replacement when he floored Anthony Joshua
- Many commentators made light of his physique but that stopped after victory
- Now, ahead of the rematch, Ruiz has trimmed down in bid to retain his titles
There was a time when Andy Ruiz Jr was considered more of a punchline than puncher.
He was the short, fat, Snickers-devouring Mexican found on the undercard of serious fighters.
But that was before he made all his detractors eat their words by becoming his nation’s first world heavyweight champion.
Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua are set to go head-to-head once more in Saudi Arabia
A distinction he has no intention of surrendering in the sands of Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
Anthony Joshua was derided as a muscle-bound robot after he crashed to the canvas four times on his way to the wrong end of one of the most sensational upsets in modern boxing.
A seismic shock he is bell-bent on avenging — along with regaining his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts — in this immediate rematch in the ancient and historic quarter of Diriyah.
While body-shaming should no more have a place in the prize-ring than the fashion magazines, both these fighting men have chiselled their condition during their six-month pilgrimage from Madison Square Garden to the Arabian desert. Joshua, determined not to be caught standing again by the portly but startlingly fleet Ruiz, has concentrated less on power and more on the intensified sparring which has streamlined his frame.
Joshua was looking a lot leaner when he entered the ring for his public workout on Wednesday
It is clear, too that the Mexican has also been working hard to trim some of his excess weight
Both looked trimmer as they went through the promotional fight week ritual of a gentle public workout here on Wednesday.
Joshua startlingly so. Perhaps a little alarmingly. Ruiz less so. Maybe deceptively. Joshua’s Adonis appearance of a body-builder to which we have become accustomed has been replaced by a leaner — hopefully meaner — outline.
His promoter Eddie Hearn says he expects the public to be ‘a bit shocked’ by AJ’s appearance in the ring and that his marquee heavyweight ‘will definitely be lighter this time’.
Glimpses of Joshua’s rippling muscles morphed into more sinewy arms and a skinnier waist seem to support that contention.
Ruiz, although four inches shorter at 6ft 2in, weighed some two stones heavier in New York than the 17st 9lb Joshua.
Ruiz sent shockwaves around the boxing world when he beat world champion Joshua in June
In photographs published since that earth-shattering night Ruiz looked to have been on a drastic weight-loss programme. Now it seems that he used a first extra month of training to shed some of the flab, followed by a rebuilding of that stubby physique so as to increase rather than lessen his strength. Ruiz confirms as much when he says: ‘I will go to the ring the same weight as the first fight, on the button.’
Although both deny these measures have been extreme, each admits he has trained for more of the speed which is now the vital element of champion fighters.
The perceived evolution of the heavyweight division has been through growing height. Rising from Tommy Burns, the sole Canadian-born world champion at only 5ft 7in back in the early 1900s, to Nikolai Valuev standing 7ft tall when he won the title in 2008.
That yardstick has been recalibrated to some extent through increased poundage but now Joshua and Ruiz are putting a cap on that expansion.
Nikolai Valuev is still the tallest man to ever fight in the heavyweight division, standing at 7ft
Joshua says: ‘While I’m not targeting a specific lower weight, the scales are showing that a big increase in the number of rounds I am sparring against more partners is having an effect. This is letting me identify the weight at which I’m most comfortable as the one at which I will go to the ring here. Ruiz is fast — aren’t they all these days — but I was beating him to the punch in New York before I got caught and that’s what I want to do for as long as it takes on Saturday night.’
Ruiz, who scaled a whopping 19st 12lb on June 1, says: ‘Reports that I’m losing tonnes of weight are exaggerated. But my speed was important in the first fight and given more weeks to get ready this time is helping me be even quicker.’
Doubts have been expressed about both men dieting down. American master-trainer Freddie Roach, although still predicting a repeat win for Ruiz, says: ‘It’s not a good idea to lose bulk for the sake of appearances. He didn’t look like an athlete first time out but his weight not only put power in his punching but helped him absorb Joshua’s big shots. To my mind he’s OK the way he was.’
Ruiz says of Joshua: ‘He’s making a big mistake if he’s a lot lighter. It won’t change much how he moves but if he’s not as big it will be easier for me to knock him out again.’
Ruiz has warned Joshua that he is ‘making a mistake’ by slimming down ahead of their bout
Much of the nagging criticism about Joshua being a body-builder, and thereby carrying muscle which hampers his movement and flexibility, is rooted in comparisons with the legendary figures of the past.
Muhammad Ali, although 6ft 3in, looked lithe rather than six-packed at no more than 15st 7lb in his prime. His 5ft 11in arch-rival Joe Frazier weighed just 14st 9lb when he claimed his first heavyweight title.
Lennox Lewis, 17st 8lb in his prime, and Big George Foreman at 18st 5lb in his last fight paved the way to boxing’s land of the giants, in which Valuev still stands tallest three inches above Tyson Fury. The Russian monster, who was brought down a peg or two by David Haye, is also the heaviest world champion at 23st 2lb.
WEIGHT OF THE WORLD! HOW BOXING’S MOST ICONIC DIVISION BECAME THE LAND OF THE GIANTS
Intriguingly the two leading contenders for biggest puncher of all time — Mike Tyson and current WBC champion Deontay Wilder —have both fought at the same 15st 7lb prime fighting weight as Ali.
Yet the Bronze Bomber who faces Fury next in a February rematch of their epic draw is a lean, mean 6ft 7in against Tyson’s 6ft 10 ½ in. Even the spindly Wilder does not understand his own freakish hitting power. He says: ‘When I look down and see these big men lying flat out on the floor I don’t know how I put them there.’
Deontay Wilder – one of the biggest punchers of all time – does not understand his own power
The boxing community are divided as to who will be biting the desert dust Saturday night. Fury, for example, expects Ruiz to repeat his knock-out. Foreman is taking Joshua to win big.
What all the cognoscenti agree upon is this: Speed kills.
So this is the mega-million dollar question: Who will be fastest on the draw in the shoot-out on the sand dunes?
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