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Andy Ruiz Jr rises to the top of heavyweight boxing: from chubby contender to world champion

The world was amazed as Anthony Joshua was knocked to the wall by a busty stranger named Andy Ruiz Jr as the heavyweight champion’s American debut got out of hand in New York in 22.5 minutes. Nobody expected this.

Except those who know Ruiz’s story.

The first Mexican to ever become a heavyweight champion is used to being written off. His story comes from old fashioned boxing. Sportsmail looks at the rapid rise of Andy Ruiz Jr.

Andy Ruiz shocked the world by beating Anthony Joshua, Sportsmail charts his rise to the top

Andy Ruiz shocked the world by beating Anthony Joshua, Sportsmail charts his rise to the top

Quiet start north of the border

Andres Ponce Ruiz Jr was born in Imperial Valley, California, on September 11, 1989. The town is located just 16 miles north of the Mexico-United States border. Ruiz and his three sisters traveled back and forth regularly to see family south of the border.

At the age of seven, Ruiz was taken to the gym by his father, hoping to get a handle on the youngster’s troublesome and destructive behavior (his tendency to break things is where his nickname ‘Destroyer’ comes from). As an avid baseball player, Ruiz had to give up his baseball dream to start boxing.

It was a steep learning curve for the beginner, which would be thrown into the deep because of his physique – it wouldn’t be the last time Ruiz’s weight would be used as a stick to hit him with.

He was born on September 11, 1989 and was one of four siblings, pictured with his three sisters

He was born on September 11, 1989 and was one of four siblings, pictured with his three sisters

He was born on September 11, 1989 and was one of four siblings, pictured with his three sisters

Ruiz grew up in Imperial Valley, California, just 16 miles north of the Mexico-US border.

Ruiz grew up in Imperial Valley, California, just 16 miles north of the Mexico-US border.

Ruiz grew up in Imperial Valley, California, just 16 miles north of the Mexico-US border.

The Destroyer returned to his hometown shortly after his massive victory at Madison Square Garden

The Destroyer returned to his hometown shortly after his massive victory at Madison Square Garden

The Destroyer returned to his hometown shortly after his massive victory at Madison Square Garden

Ruiz regularly saw family south of the border, a short drive from Imperial

Ruiz regularly saw family south of the border, a short drive from Imperial

Ruiz regularly saw family south of the border, a short drive from Imperial

“Since I was a chubby kid, I always had to fight with older boys. I was seven then and was fighting a 12-year-old, ”he said before the first fight. “There were no seven-year-olds who weighed as much as I did, so I always fought many older boys. But having those experiences and taking those punches helped me get here. ‘

Ruiz quickly learned the basics and quickly cut his teeth in the amateur scene. Under the tutelage of Cuban trainer Fernando Ferrer, Ruiz set a record 105-5 before setting his sights on the battle for Mexico at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, he would experience his first real moment of adversity in his young boxing career. Ruiz lost two qualifying matches, one of which was to Dillian Whyte’s former opponent Oscar Rivas, ending his dream of fighting under the Mexican flag at the Olympics.

Become professional, fight in Macau and personal tragedy

In order not to get bogged down by his disappointment with the Olympics, Ruiz turned pro at the age of 19 in March 2009, fueled by the desire not to work with his father or fall into the wrong crowd.

“Without boxing, I would probably have worked with my dad in construction or been a drug dealer because some of the people around me saved my life,” he said.

And Ruiz wasted no time in establishing himself in the professional scene. The Destroyer achieved an impressive record of early finishes, fighting in Mexico and also casinos north of the border.

After his disappointment with the Olympics, Ruiz set his sights on the world's first Mexican heavyweight champion

After his disappointment with the Olympics, Ruiz set his sights on the world's first Mexican heavyweight champion

After his disappointment with the Olympics, Ruiz set his sights on the world’s first Mexican heavyweight champion

Crossing the trend of carefully selected opponents in comfortable arenas, Joe Hanks and Tor Hamer took themselves to Macau, China, fighting and beating with ease, on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao events.

Ruiz made a name for himself in the Far East and was clear about his ambition to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion.

“I’ve been dreaming of the heavyweight title since I was born,” Ruiz told the South China Morning Post in 2013.

At age 23, Ruiz went to Macau, China, to fight on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao fighting

At age 23, Ruiz went to Macau, China, to fight on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao fighting

At age 23, Ruiz went to Macau, China, to fight on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao fighting

The Mexican expanded his unbeaten record by beating Tor Hamer (left) and Joe Hanks

The Mexican expanded his unbeaten record by beating Tor Hamer (left) and Joe Hanks

The Mexican expanded his unbeaten record by beating Tor Hamer (left) and Joe Hanks

“My goal is to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion in the world. I’m trying to achieve that. I’m going to do the hard work and show all the dedication I need. I’m pretty sure it will continue, “he said.

But Ruiz was in the middle of his own personal tragedy. In a year, the Mexican lost two of his best friends to the sport to which he owes his life.

Alejandro Martinez, with whom Ruiz grew up boxing, died in 2012 of injuries sustained in the ring against Juan Alberto Rosas. Martinez was in a coma for 37 months after the 2009 fight.

Less than 12 months later, Ruiz lost another friend to boxing. Frankie Leal died at the age of just 26 after being knocked out by Raul Hirales in 2013.

However, Ruiz had to deal with his own pain after losing two close friends to boxing. Frankie Leal (right) died in a fight in 2013, just months after Alejandro Martinez passed away

However, Ruiz had to deal with his own pain after losing two close friends to boxing. Frankie Leal (right) died in a fight in 2013, just months after Alejandro Martinez passed away

However, Ruiz had to deal with his own pain after losing two close friends to boxing. Frankie Leal (right) died in a fight in 2013, just months after Alejandro Martinez passed away

Leal and Martinez grew up with Ruiz and their death inspired him to continue fighting

Leal and Martinez grew up with Ruiz and their death inspired him to continue fighting

Leal and Martinez grew up with Ruiz and their death inspired him to continue fighting

Those experiences never led Ruiz to consider his future in sports.

“I’m mentally and physically prepared, and I’m ready to die in the ring,” he said. “This is what I’ve been waiting for, all the fighters are putting their lives on the line, I have two friends who died from this boxing game and it scares me a bit, but I feel I was made for this.

“I grew up with those two guys and I felt it could happen to me and I wasn’t sure I would go on. But I think it’s the big Mexican cajones that I have, I think I’m meant for this. ‘

In the ring, Ruiz continued to grow stronger and the imperialism-born heavyweight earned a trip to New Zealand.

The Destroyer traveled to New Zealand to fight for the WBO heavyweight title against Joseph Parker (right). He would controversially lose by majority decision

The Destroyer traveled to New Zealand to fight for the WBO heavyweight title against Joseph Parker (right). He would controversially lose by majority decision

The Destroyer traveled to New Zealand to fight for the WBO heavyweight title against Joseph Parker (right). He would controversially lose by majority decision

Severe heartache and a message out of the blue

Ruiz’s form gave him a shot at the 2016 WBO heavyweight title, which was then held by former champion Joseph Parker, in a fight every hunter’s homeland eagerly awaited – neither of whom had previously spawned a heavyweight champion.

With renounced coach Abel Sanchez in his corner, Ruiz was on the rise for most of the 12 rounds fought, as the result remained in the hands of the judges, who attributed the victory to Parker by majority decision. Aghast, Sanchez vowed that he and Ruiz would pursue a second chance. Parker chose to risk his arm in the UK.

And things had become quite quiet for Ruiz after his disappointment in New Zealand. The 30-year-old did not participate in 2017, but returned to the ring in 2018 for fairly calm fights against Devin Vargas, Kevin Johnson and Alexander Dimitrenko.

Ruiz's life had been fairly peaceful until Jarrell Miller threw him a lifeline by breaking a drug test

Ruiz's life had been fairly peaceful until Jarrell Miller threw him a lifeline by breaking a drug test

Ruiz’s life had been fairly peaceful until Jarrell Miller threw him a lifeline by breaking a drug test

Ruiz needed a stand-in fighter and contacted Eddie Hearn (left) to replace the drug addict Miller

Ruiz needed a stand-in fighter and contacted Eddie Hearn (left) to replace the drug cheat Miller

Ruiz needed a stand-in fighter and contacted Eddie Hearn (left) to replace the drug cheat Miller

That was until Jerrell Miller Ruiz threw a lifeline. Big Baby’s failed drug tests and the resulting omission of the June 1 main event in New York caused promoter Eddie Hearn to get a headache with Anthony Joshua’s US debut in jeopardy.

Michael Hunter and Dillian Whyte were the names in the frame before Ruiz threw a hailstorm of a direct message to Hearn via social media, offering himself as an opponent to the boxing superstar.

Comment sections filled with abuse that belittled Ruiz’s assets, scoffed at Joshua’s fiercest rivals, and general discontent followed quickly. The Mexican’s attitude, especially compared to Miller’s, saw him well and truly written off.

From fighting in Nevada casinos to coping with the tragic loss of two of his closest friends, Ruiz put two fingers into the world of vision and produced the performance of a lifetime at Madison Square Garden.

As was the case for most of his life, Andy Ruiz Jr let his fists do the talking.

What followed was a bombardment of hatred and ridicule, but as he has done all his life, Andy Ruiz Jr let his fists speak

What followed was a bombardment of hatred and ridicule, but as he has done all his life, Andy Ruiz Jr let his fists speak

What followed was a bombardment of hatred and ridicule, but as he has done all his life, Andy Ruiz Jr let his fists speak

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