It’s the return of Andy Ruiz Jr this Saturday night, and the former unified Heavyweight champion of the world has a Californian derby for his comeback, as he faces three-time world title challenger, Chris Arreola over a scheduled twelve rounds.
The contest tops a bill full of familiar faces at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, where UK fans can see Ruiz Jr and Arreola clash on Premier Sports and BoxNation, while FOX host in the USA on pay-per-view.
Ruiz Jr (33-2, 22 KOs) scaled the pinnacle of boxing’s mountain in June 2019, but six months later, he had enjoyed the fruits of his labour too much, and lost it all.
He returns this weekend having re-dedicated himself to the sport, and is looking in great shape. He will have his eyes firmly set on regaining the richest prizes in the blue riband division.
The 31-year-old went to New Zealand in December 2016 to contest the WBO title against Joseph Parker, and gave a good account of himself in a majority decision loss.
He went back to the back of the queue, but after three straight wins, the ‘Destroyer’ received a late-notice chance of a lifetime in June 2019. With Anthony Joshua preparing for a defence of his WBA (Super), IBF and WBO belts against Jarrell Miller, ‘Big Baby’ disgraced himself, testing positive for a multitude of performance enhancing drugs.
In stepped Ruiz Jr, and when he hit the deck inside Madison Square Garden, New York, in the third round, it looked like he would be the usual overwhelmed replacement.
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Instead, Ruiz Jr rallied to knock ‘AJ’ down twice in the same session, and he stunningly finished the job in the seventh to become the unlikeliest of Heavyweight world champions.
A rematch was always going to be occur, and it would take place six months later in Saudi Arabia, but by this time, the ‘Destroyer’ had fully enjoyed himself as world champion, and arrived in Diriyah not in the best of shape, and it showed as Joshua regained the gold via a wide points win.
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Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KOs) has had a long, hard career, and he will hope for one last hurrah, and to catapult himself back into the mix.
‘The Nightmare’ has failed each time he has stepped up to elite class, and first challenged for world honours in 2009, where he took a one-sided beating at the hands of Vitali Klitschko for the WBC belt.
April 2013 saw him widely outpointed by Bermane Stiverne for the WBC Silver title, and when the two met again in May 2014 for the vacant WBC crown, Arreola was stopped in six by the Haitian.
Somehow, two years later, Arreola was back in WBC title action, promptly hammered by Deontay Wilder, retiring after eight rounds.
Two wins followed, and he was last seen in August 2019, losing clearly on the cards against Adam Kownacki in a contest where the pair broke the CompuBox record for most punches thrown combined in a 12 round Heavyweight fight at 2172.
The 40-year-old has never been one to be in tip-top shape, and it remains to be seen just how much ambition he has left.
Prediction: Arreola represents the perfect comeback opponent for Ruiz to look good against, and I expect him to do just that. Chris takes a lot of punishment, and after a fun first few rounds, Ruiz should be able to dominate, and stop Arreola before the second half of the fight.
Slick Cuban, Erislandy Lara moves up in weight and contests the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ Middleweight title against New Jersey’s Thomas LaManna.
Lara (27-3-3, 15 KOs) is too slick for his own good at times, and he can often stink the joint out with his safety first performances.
The 38-year-old still reigns as WBA ‘Regular’ and IBO champion at Super Welterweight, but he tests the 160 pound waters here.
LaManna (30-4-1, 12 KOs) comes into this contest as the WBA Fedecentro champion, winning the vacant belt in his last outing against 22-14 Mexican, Juan de Jesus Angulo Gonzalez, stopping the Mexican in five.
Prediction: The 29-year-old has never operated anywhere near Lara’s level, and ‘The American Dream’ can stop ‘Cornflake’ in the championship rounds.
An interim WBA Featherweight title is at stake, as Mexicans Eduardo Ramirez and Isaac Avelar do battle.
Ramirez (24-2-3, 11 KOs) lost to Lee Selby in December 2017, but couldn’t win the Welshman’s IBF title as he weighed in too heavy, and lost on the cards.
The 28-year-old is on a two-fight winning streak, the last a fifth round stoppage of Miguel Flores in December 2020 on the undercard of Errol Spence Jr’s win over Danny Garcia in Texas.
Avelar (17-2, 10 KOs) has two losses in his last three outings, including an August 2019 sixth round knockout loss to the now WBO Super Bantamweight champion, Stephen Fulton.
His last contest also came in December 2020, a points win over the 23-0 Sakaria Lukas on the same bill as his opponent.
Prediction: Ramirez should be able to take this one on the scorecards.
Former WBC Lightweight champion, Omar Figueroa (28-1-1, 19 KOs), is a forgotten man since losing to Yordenis Ugas on points in July 2019.
He has been campaigning at Welterweight for some time now, and here he returns against Abel Ramos (26-4-2, 20 KOs), who also lost to Ugas in his last contest, a split decision for the WBA ‘Regular’ title, with the Cuban now elevated to full ‘Super’ titlist after Manny Pacquiao was stripped in January.
Prediction: Figueroa should be refreshed, and can take a points win in this one.
The final twelve rounder comes at Super Welterweight, where Sebastian Fundora (16-0-1, 11 KOs), meets Mexican dangerman, Jorge Cota (30-4, 27 KOs), a man whose last fight saw him stop the aforementioned Thomas LaManna in five rounds in January 2020.
Prediction: Fundora can hold off an early Cota onslaught to take a clear points win.
Ten round action comes at Welterweight, where Jesus Alejandro Ramos (15-0, 14 KOs) may have to go the distance against Javier Molina (22-3, 9 KOs), who has never been stopped and went the distance with Jose Pedraza last time out.
Also at Welterweight, this time over eight, Adrian Granados (21-8-2, 15 KOs) may slip to an early defeat against the young, hungry Jose Luis Sanchez (11-1, 4 KOs).