Since Andy Ruiz Jr.’s massive upset knockout victory of Anthony Joshua to win three heavyweight world title belts on June 1, he has certainly been enjoying the fruits of his labor.
He has done countless interviews, was feted with a victory parade in his hometown of Imperial, California, and spent some of the millions he earned in the fight on a new home and a Rolls Royce.
But on Wednesday, Ruiz said it was time to get back to business with the rematch set for Dec. 7 (DAZN) at a soon-to-be-constructed 16,000-seat outdoor stadium in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
“June 1st, I made my dreams come true. It was a lot of sacrifice, lot of blood, sweat and tears. I just believed in myself, and I think I’m here for a purpose,” said Ruiz, who will once again be the underdog. “I want to tell everybody if they have a dream to follow through, everything is possible. But on Dec. 7, I know Anthony Joshua’s coming hard. He’s gonna come strong. I know he’s going to prepare really good. But so am I. I’m really hungry.
“A lot of people [are] saying that I’m that I’m not training, that I’m not taking it serious, but come on. I got all these belts. There’s a lot of responsibilities to this. But I’m gonna try my best and God knows I’m gonna keep these belts and have them back in Mexico. Dec. 7, I’m gonna make another history and I’m gonna win here in the same fashion, the same way that I won June 1. And I’m gonna prove everybody wrong.”
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), 29, was speaking at the kickoff news conference on Wednesday night in front of a palace outdoors in Diriyah, where he and Joshua came face-to-face for the first time since Ruiz seized the belts on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York to become the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title.
The media tour will continue Thursday in New York and Friday in London.
Ruiz, who had been knocked down in the third round, rallied to drop Joshua twice later in the third round and then scored two more knockdowns in the seventh round to score a seventh-round knockout in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs), 29, of England, quickly exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch, which wound up in Saudi Arabia, where the government is backing the fight with a site fee worth tens of millions of dollars. Ruiz had to be persuaded to go there but eventually relented when Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn sweetened his deal.
“It’s time to turn the page,” Manny Robles, Ruiz’s trainer, said. “Dreams do come true, but now it’s a reality. So now it’s time to go to work. I can promise the fans here and across the world that Andy will be ready for the challenge. We know Anthony Joshua is going to bring it, so that’s the reason we need to be at our best come Dec. 7.
“It’s part two. It’s a continuation of part one, but both fighters know each other. They know what to expect from one another, so there will be changes. Obviously, we’ll have more time to prepare this time around. We have begun our preparation. You can expect a better Andy Ruiz — faster, leaner, stronger than the first time around.”
Ruiz took the fight in June on only about a month’s notice after New York contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was dropped because he failed four drug tests.
The rematch was supposed to be at either Madison Square Garden or Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, but Hearn said representatives from a dozen other venues showed interest in hosting the fight. The Saudi Arabian contingent he said was the most convincing and offered the most money.
Although there has been heavy criticism for putting the fight in a country amid human rights violations, Hearn said going there could be big for boxing.
“Sometimes our sport is very narrow-minded. There’s Las Vegas, there’s New York, there’s London,” he said. “No, there’s a whole world out there, and now there’s Saudi Arabia for boxing. This is such a monumental opportunity for our sport. You’re not just bringing a fight to the kingdom. You are bringing the biggest fight in world boxing, the biggest prize in boxing, the world heavyweight championship. Not a one-off fight — a rematch of one of the fights of the year.
“You will witness an event that will go down in history, and some people looking in from the outside may think this was a strange destination. They also said that for the ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ for the ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ and this is an event that will go down in history just like those iconic moments in our sport.”
Joshua did not make any bold predictions on how the rematch would go, just that it would be another excellent fight.
“I feel I was up against a good challenger at the time. I was only champion until June 1,” Joshua said. “Andy is champion right now, and that will last until Dec. 7 when he has to put his titles in the air and two warriors go to war and the best man will walk out victorious. I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and I’m glad people here are supporting boxing.
“Some may support me, some may support Andy, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a really good night of boxing, and that’s what we’re all here for.”
As low-key as Joshua appeared, trainer Robert McCracken said his charge was enthusiastic for his opportunity to reclaim the belts.
“Andy Ruiz is a very good fighter. He’s the world heavyweight champion. Anthony is now challenging for them titles, so it’s turned around completely on its head,” McCracken said. “But AJ is driven now and he’s determined to get them titles back. So it’s going to be really interesting.
“It’s going to be challenging for both fighters [fighting outdoors in Saudi Arabia], but I think it’s a challenge both look forward to. Anthony will be prepared, and he’ll be in tip-top shape. He knows Ruiz is a tremendous champion, but he’s a tremendous challenger.”
Ruiz vowed that he would not be a one-hit wonder. He said he would retain the belts and reiterated how motivated he is for the rematch to prove his doubters wrong.
“The hunger still remains,” Ruiz said. “I don’t want to have 15 minutes of fame. I want it to last. I want it to be a generation. I want to be a champion for more years. I have a good fighter here next to me. He’s gonna try to take these belts but God’s with me and we’re going to be training really hard for Dec. 7. [Joshua is] more hungry. He wants his belts back, so I think that’s what’s giving me more motivation. I want to train even harder just because he’s training even harder, too.
“I only had a month, month and a half to train for the first fight. This time we have a whole camp, so it benefits me. It’s gonna be an exciting fight, a helluva fight. Two big heavyweights punching each other in the face.”