By Anthony "Zute" George
When Andy Ruiz Jr. watched Joseph Parker take undefeated heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua the distance, the first fighter to do so, he must have thought, ‘that could have been me.’ After all, Parker’s win over Ruiz Jr. was razor thin. One judge called the contest a draw, while the other two judges had Parker winning 115-113. Throw in the fact that the fight took place in Parker’s territory, well…
When I asked Ruiz Jr. about the Parker fight, he was as honest as any boxer could be “It was a great opportunity, I learned a lot from that fight. It was for the world title, I could have made history in that fight. Things happen for a reason. I can’t take nothing away from Parker. There is going to be plenty more. He was one of the toughest fights I had, there was a lot of things I could have done differently to get that victory. With a little bit more training I think I could have got the victory.”
Regardless of who you thought won that fight, Ruiz Jr.’s stock rose. It was a high energy fight. Both fighters showcased good inside fighting with impressive hand speed. It was also considered a major step up in class for Ruiz Jr. and he performed well.
It was the kind of performance that warranted a rematch, or, land Ruiz Jr. another fight against a top ten fighter. Instead, he decided to take time off.
According to Ruiz Jr., the reason for the break was because “I took some time off, I started doing investments with my dad, we have a construction company, and spent some time with the family.’
At the tender age of 27, Ruiz Jr. opted to put his ducks in a row for the future, instead of testing his skills in his prime. An interesting decision that most young fighters who came so close to winning a world title would not make (the fight against Parker was for the WBO heavyweight title).
Of course, the break was temporary, and he returned to action earlier this year. He took out Devin Vargas in one round in his comeback fight.
When I asked Ruiz Jr. how he felt getting back in the ring after a year, he stated “It felt great. I have not been in the ring for a full year. We thought it was going to last four or five rounds, but I got a good punch on and he did not want to continue. It was a good victory, on to the next.”
Andy’s path to another title fight continues in 2018. As he faces the veteran Kevin Johnson on July 7th. With a record of 32-9-1 (16 KO’s) Johnson is a veteran who has faced them all. He is one of the few men to go the distance with Vitali Klitschko and has also taken Tyson Fury 12 rounds.
As far as Andy Ruiz Jr. is concerned, Kevin Johnson is just what the doctor ordered. “Kevin Johnson is a good, slick fighter and it is going to be an interesting fight compared to my last fight, which only lasted one round, hopefully we get a few more rounds in for this fight. I am excited to go on July 7th. He has a lot of experience, fought Klitschko, Joshua, Tyson Fury… hopefully there are a lot of good fireworks. May the best man win.”
Assuming Ruiz Jr. gets passed Kevin Johnson, and he is going to have to if he ever wants to challenge for a title, it can become very interesting as to who he faces next.
Ruiz Jr. has mentioned Jarrell Big Baby Miller as a potential opponent later in the year.
Since it appears that Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder cannot make a fight with each other, the possibilities are endless for potential challenges for both champions.
Ruiz Jr. will probably have to have at least one more impressive win before he can be in a position to face Joshua or Wilder.
When I asked if he had a preference as to which champion he would like to fight, Joshua or Wilder, he said, “I think Wilder has the upper hand (over Anthony Joshua). In my opinion Wilder is the faster, stronger guy. I would love to fight Joshua. I think he is a straight coming guy he doesn’t move as much, he doesn’t seem like he has too much skills. Out of both of them, I think I would love to fight Joshua. I would go to his hometown and fight him over there. I know if I fight him (Joshua) I would give him so much trouble. I would be pretty excited if I can get in the ring with him (Joshua).”
The bottom line is that Ruiz Jr. did not lose much ground by taking a year off. We still do not have a definitive top dog, if you will, in the heavyweight division.
By staying active and impressive, he can leapfrog himself into a title eliminator, and may even get to face Joseph Parker again in the process.
A showdown with a wily veteran such as Kevin Johnson is a good way for Andy Ruiz Jr. to jumpstart his campaign towards another title fight. Indeed, 2018 could be a great year for Andy Ruiz Jr.
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