Ridiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.
On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach.
“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”
Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.
A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.
“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.
“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.”
As a youth, he even got into brawls with cops and learned to take blows from fully grown adults. That’s how he got ready to fight in the ring. Ruiz was expelled from high school for — no surprise — fighting. His dad tried to redirect his son into positive influences by getting him into boxing.
Since he was so close to the border, Ruiz spent much time in Mexico, in Mexicali, and identifies strongly with his cultural heritage. His grandfather owned a boxing gym in Mexicali. One of Ruiz’s tattoos says “Hecho en Mexico” (made in Mexico).
As he advanced through the boxing circuit in Mexico, he earned the nickname “The Destroyer.”
The first time Ruiz faced Joshua for the combined WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titles, he knocked the bigger man down to earn a technical knock out in the seventh round. The man who admits to a Snicker’s bar addiction looked almost finished in the third round when he got dropped to the canvas.
“I am scared of no one except God,” he says in the UK’s Independent.
“Everything is possible. I suffered a lot as a little kid. Just believe in God and work hard,” he says on a Fight Hub TV video in Spanish.
Michael Ashcraft supports his Christian journalism selling bamboo steamers on Amazon.