Andy Ruiz Jr. downsizes
As you see heavyweight hopeful Andy Ruiz Jr. this weekend against Joell Godfrey at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, Calif., you’ll see a lot less of him. As he fought – and, quite frankly, labored – versus Sergey Liakhovich over 10 rounds back in December, a revelation hit the baby-faced fringe contender.
There was simply too much of him.
At nearly 270 pounds, Ruiz was too heavy and ponderous to be effective. It was a performance that alarmed the matchmakers at Top Rank Promotions, who were in attendance, his own management and, with all honesty, Ruiz himself.
He admitted, “I really looked horrible. I think I should’ve knocked out that guy but I really felt the over-weightness for that fight and I got tired. Yeah, man, that’s when I opened my eyes. I was, ‘I can’t do this. What if this was a really good fighter? He would’ve knocked my ass out for not being ready.’ So yeah, ever since Liakhovich, it opened up my eyes and I was like, ‘I gotta train hard. I gotta train like a real professional athlete.’ So I’m really doing it and people are going to see progress with me being a lot lighter from my last fight.”
Ruiz has always been someone with leftover baby fat but he was simply rotund versus Liakhovich and it had continued an alarming trend of which his weight was trending upward with each fight. Between fights, he was getting as heavy as a defensive tackle. “I was up to like 290 pounds, bro,” he admitted. But as you see him now, there is a decidedly slimmer look, “Right now I’m at 248, so I lost a pretty good amount of weight.”
Back on Nov. 24, 2013, Ruiz was part of the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios pay-per-view undercard in Macau, China, where he faced Tor Hamer while weighing just over 257 pounds. While he scored a third round stoppage of Hamer (who mysteriously quit on his stool), it was a lethargic outing. At that juncture, Top Rank decided to bench him till he got his weight down. Six months later he faced Manuel Quezada at 250 pounds but in his next two bouts, he came in at 272.75 and 267.75 pounds. At that point, he was called into the principal’s office by Bob Arum.
And according to the veteran promoter, the meeting with Ruiz went well.
“It was terrific. We had a real face-to-face,” Arum told UCNlive.com, earlier this week. “Everybody sat down, Joe Gagliardi – who’s been my longtime friend – he’s the manager and we agreed that if the kid didn’t shape up and get in shape we were just wasting our time. Even though he was winning, nobody would credit him as being legitimate because he looked like a slob. And he’s gotten into terrific shape. He looks like a fighter now and everybody is very pleased and I’m even going up to Fresno on Friday for Saturday’s fight.”
Ruiz, who now has a record of 24-0 (17), is at that stage in which Arum wants to start pitching him to the likes of HBO but in that shape (which was round), “You couldn’t sell him, couldn’t sell him with a straight face,” said Arum, who can pitch melting ice to Eskimos and not giggle. “It was always, ‘Yeah, he’s a fat slob but his hands are so fast…’ but he wasn’t pleasing when he fought. All that giggly shit that you saw and, also, we realized that as good as he was, he would be much better if he had a normal frame.”
Despite his shape, this wasn’t the brown Butterbean they had here. Ruiz was good enough as an amateur to fight in the 2007 and 2008 Mexican National Championships in his weight class and rival trainers respected his natural skill set. But with a less-than-Spartan work ethic, he was destined to be Chris Arreola 2.0. “Andy Ruiz is so much better. His skills are so much better than Arreola that it’s not even funny,” said Arum, who’s not exactly the most impartial observer. But most pundits would agree that Ruiz is more naturally gifted. “Arreola, he’s a brave heavyweight. He comes in here to fight but he doesn’t have much skills. He’s not much of a puncher or anything but this kid, Ruiz, has tremendous skills but he was defeating himself, telegenically, by the way he looked and, also, he wasn’t as good as he could’ve been if he wasn’t fighting with that extra weight.”
For Ruiz, transforming his body wasn’t just about changing habits but a whole lifestyle.
“It really has because I was always eating bad. I feel a lot healthier. I want to live long and by doing all this bad stuff, it’s not going to help me in the end,” said Ruiz. So just exactly what was cut out of his diet? “A lot of stuff, all the fast food, the cheap food, the dollar menu – I had to cut all that off. I’ve just been eating a lot of protein, a lot of fish, chicken, vegetables. I’ve just been training hard. I learned the hard way. You can train so hard and eat bad stuff and you’re training for no reason and, by eating the right stuff, I just feel so much better.”
There’s an old adage, you can’t out-work your diet. During this stretch, unlike many other fighters, Ruiz did not employ a dietitian or strength-and-conditioning coach.
He says, “I already knew what I had to do. I was just not doing it but, now that I opened my eyes, I know what I need to do. So I’m just doing everything I need to do. I’m training hard. The main thing is just eating good and maintaining that weight.”
An important stretch for Ruiz this past summer was up in Big Bear where he trained at Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym, where he shed much of his weight. “It was a good experience, a lot of hard work, dedication,” he recalled. “I was eating really good when I was up there too. Yeah, it helped me a lot, the high altitude, a lot of hard training but ever since I left Big Bear, I had to continue to keep doing the same thing, same routine, eating the right things, so I’m really happy. I’m really happy God changed my head and I had to change the way I was thinking and I’m sure good stuff is coming ahead for me.”
At age 26, time was on his side but he has a real fighting chance in this business. His trainer, “Big” Jeff Grmoja explains, “It’s like the Kentucky Derby. You can have Gary Stevens as your jockey but if the horse doesn’t want to run – it doesn’t run. So we are able to do what we’re doing because now the boxer is focused and realizes the cruel part of the business. He went through a lot; he’s made a lot of sacrifices but I expect him to weigh 247 for his return, which is about the lightest he’s been since he fought Matt Greer [in March of 2013].” Since then, Grmoja said their training camps were more focused on “losing weight and it eventually caught up with him.”
So just what is Ruiz’s optimum weight?
“Well, there’s training fighters and training heavyweights,” opined Grmoja. “Andy can weigh anything he wants but I don’t want him to get so light that he loses his effectiveness with power. So I’m thinking, optimally, 240 to 245 but we have to maintain this weight. We can make it the week of the fight. We want him comfortable at it a week or two before the fight, when we get there. He’s much more toned now.”
There is a dearth of heavyweights currently. It’s basically Wladimir Klitschko and everyone else. When he finally walks off into the sunset, the division is wide open. And in Ruiz, not only do you have a talented heavyweight but one who is Mexican. He could be a walking ATM if he pans out. Arum says bluntly, “Let’s be honest: The heavyweight situation in the United States is dreadful. There are very, very few decent heavyweights around and Deontay Wilder, they’re going to protect him for as long as they can. But there’s a lot of good competition in Eastern Europe and that’s where we’re going to talk to [promoter Andrey] Rabinsky and so forth and match him up against some of these foreign heavyweights.”
“I think in the heavyweight division, it’s wide open,” adds Grmoja. “I don’t think there’s many out there any better. We’re willing to fight anybody but it’s like in the Army – we have to earn our stripes. He got very popular and then fell off the map the last nine months. We have to regain ourselves and get back to what the objective mission really is.”
The question now is just how long Ruiz is willing to conform to this newfound discipline (yeah, I wrote a piece or two on the rehabilitated Arreola in the past, only to see him backslide into gluttony). Those who make it in this sport are built for the long haul and make the appropriate sacrifices. This remains to be seen but, for now, Ruiz is enjoying the fruits of his labor.
“I feel a lot healthier but I’m not satisfied with where I’m at right now,” he states. “I still want to keep going, get to that level where I’m ripped. I feel good; I’m ready for anybody. But right now, it’s a big life change and it’s going to show. For the next fight, we’re going to show even more.”
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Ruiz weighed in at 247.6 pounds on Friday afternoon…A tendon tear in his left calf has forced heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko out of his Oct. 24 date against Tyson Fury (who should be used to such cancellations by now)…The Juan Francisco Estrada-Hernan Marquez bout will be televised on beIN Sports Espanol…Antonio Margarito has been given the medical green light from Dr. Alan Crandall, so it looks like his return to the ring is inevitable…OK, now onto the weekend, in which there will be nothing going on except a lot of viewing of college football…Great to have all the TV shows back for the fall season…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.