The diamond-encrusted ‘AR’ around his neck might be new but history’s latest heavyweight champion of the world insists nothing has changed within the heart it hangs over since his seismic victory over Anthony Joshua.
Andy Ruiz shocked the world at Madison Square Garden on 1 June when he dropped Joshua four times before the Londoner’s heavyweight reign was officially ended after 87 seconds of round number seven.
As their initial contract permitted, Joshua has called on an immediate rematch and he will get the chance to win back the WBO, WBA and IBF titles in the not-so-familiar settings of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, three weeks before Christmas.
For Ruiz, however, all of his presents came at once in New York this summer when the childhood dream he had nurtured for longer than two decades became a reality. He has been living in a fantasy land ever since, splashing thousands on jewellery, watches and cars while his new California mansion is understood to have set him back a seven-figure sum.
Put simply, Ruiz has cracked it. But, like the great Marvin Hagler once said, it can be hard to get out of bed to go running at 5am when you’re wearing silk pyjamas. When that famous old quote was put to Ruiz in London last week, he responded with a belly laugh.
“These are all material things,” Ruiz says, gesturing to the necklace before raising his huge wrists now permanently adorned by precious metal. “Material things that I always wanted.
“But what I really want is legacy. I don’t want my 15 minutes of fame or anything like that. I need to remain humble, stay disciplined and keep training. That’s how I will continue to be a champion.
“Ever since I won the world title I’ve been getting so much love from my people, from a lot of different people. But I know the hunger remains there because I don’t want to let my people down or my kids down. This is something new but I don’t want to give it away.”
Ruiz and Joshua last week played their part in a three-continent press tour to promote the rematch which started in Diriyah, stopped off in New York and then finished in London on Friday. “It has all been a bit of a blur,” admits Ruiz.
But the 29-year-old, who has barely stopped smiling since the beginning of fightweek three months back, begins his long, punishing training camp under the watchful eye of Manny Robles this week adamant that he is still the same fighter despite the belts.
“To this day I’m still the nice guy,” he adds. “I still respect Anthony Joshua and I’m a big fan of what he did in boxing. He has been a champion since his 16th fight or something.
“But inside the ring, and I even told him this, there are no friends and no respect. There’s nothing, just me and you trying to rip each other’s face off.
“In my eyes, when we’re in the ring, I feel like he’s trying to take my kids’ Cheerios, my kids’ Fruit Loops and that’s what’s giving me extra motivation, for real, honestly.”
But while Ruiz’s passion for the sport burns more brightly than ever, there have been questions asked of Joshua’s mindset ever since he admitted during an interview with Sky Sports that he has grown disillusioned with boxing.
It has even been suggested that such feelings influenced the decision to take such a lucrative opportunity in Saudi Arabia instead of securing a home advantage for the biggest fight of his life. Ruiz does not seem to care whatsoever.
“Is he doing it for a massive payday? Maybe,” he adds. “We don’t know.
“We won’t know until December 7 but as long as we stay disciplined, we will get the same result as June 1.
“His eyes are focused but deep inside we don’t know what he’s really thinking. Does he have doubts? Of course, we all have doubts. It’s our choice to overcome them and to not overlook our opponents.
“We don’t really know what he’s thinking in his mind. I don’t know if we’re only going to Saudi Arabia because he’s getting a really good payday or what. All I know is December 7 is when we will both be prepared and it’s my job to make sure he doesn’t win.”
Joshua was also criticised for attributing Ruiz’s stunning victory to a ‘lucky punch sent from the Gods’ in reference to the left hook, landed high on the head, which began his downfall in round three. The insinuation is that the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent will not find such a shot for a second time.
Ruiz responded: “Can I do it again? Of course. I know Joshua said I hit him with a ‘shot from God’ and I agree. It was a shot of the Gods because I’ve been praying and wishing for this opportunity for a long time. I give all glory to God.
“I’ve watched the fight back a lot of times, man. A lot. I was pinching myself to see if this was real. I was watching it and watching it to see the mistakes I made and where I could improve. There were things I could have done a lot better, where I hesitated a bit.
“And when people say it was a punch from God, I say ‘do you know what, it was. But God is still with me.’”
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