Andy Ruiz Jr remains a serious player in the Heavyweight division, but was given a stark reminder of the challenges that lie ahead to regain the position he was once in.
Ruiz Jr (34-2, 22 KOs) ended an almost 18-month lay-off to beat Chris Arreola on a unanimous decision earlier this month, but not before he was forced to climb off the canvas a little over four minutes into his comeback.
Arreola (38-7-1, 33 KOs) detonated a powerful right hand which saw the 31-year-old lose balance and drop his knee and hand onto the canvas before rising quickly.
The ‘Destroyer’ experienced further adversity in the third round as the pair traded, caught with hard left hooks to the head, yet Ruiz Jr displayed his attributes, primarily his razor-sharp hand speed to command control, the kind that saw him dethrone Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in June 2019 to become Heavyweight world champion.
Arreola, a three-time former Heavyweight title challenger provided the perfect, stiff test that Ruiz Jr needed and came to capitalise on his inactivity, though falling short in what turned out to be an all-action affair in Carson.
Ruiz Jr came in 27lbs lighter than in his last outing – a rematch defeat to Joshua in Saudi Arabia last December, which he admitted in the build-up was a “devastating” defeat.
However, the Californian appears to have renewed hunger under new trainer Eddy Reynoso, training alongside unified Super Middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez who successfully defeated Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday and will now look to continue the momentum, although he did admit in his post-fight interview that he felt rusty.
Due to his shock win over Joshua, which will go down as one of the greatest Heavyweight upsets of all-time, Ruiz Jr has strong commercial value in the division, but a world title shot does not appear imminent despite holding top five rankings in three of the four governing bodies.
Unified WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO champion, Joshua and WBC titlist, Tyson Fury remain on course for an undisputed showdown, on either August 7 or August 14 in Saudi Arabia.
So, who could the former world Heavyweight champion face next?
Chris Arreola rematch
Arreola was left disgusted by scorecards of 117-110 and 118-109 x2, which he did not feel merited his efforts and made his feelings known in an expletive post-fight interview.
The 40-year-old suffered a seventh professional defeat, but was competitive throughout and Ruiz Jr admitted he’d be open to a rematch next.
For the ‘Destroyer’ it would provide him with an opportunity to shed off more ring rust and refine his display against an experienced operator, before fighting one of the consensus top Heavyweights.
Arreola certainly pushed him hard, particularly in the early going and could arguably warrant a second shot, although it seems like it would be Ruiz Jr that would make the necessary alterations to secure a second win, particularly with youth on his side.
Veteran contender Luis Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) seems like the most likely option for Ruiz Jr should he not rematch Arreola.
The former two-time world title challenger attended the fight and said he would be open to a showdown afterwards.
“I’ll wait for his decision and Kong is right here,” Ortiz told FightHype.com.
“I came to watch him [Ruiz], wished him good luck in the fight. He knows I want to fight.”
The awkward Cuban has only two losses to then WBC champion, Deontay Wilder and is under the same promotional team, PBC and network as his rival.
The 42-year-old is ranked at #3 by the WBC, just above Ruiz Jr who is rated at #4 by the governing body and a fight could feasibly be sanctioned as an eliminator with Dillian Whyte holding the WBC interim crown.
‘King Kong’ is a tricky and awkward southpaw and remains a threat to the elite of the division despite his advanced age. It could be an intriguing style match-up to see if he’s able to nullify Ruiz’s fast hands.
Joseph Parker rematch
After a close first fight in 2016, a rematch with Joseph Parker could be another option for Ruiz Jr.
Parker (29-2, 21 KOs) secured a majority decision win in Auckland to win the WBO Heavyweight title, although some felt the Mexican had done enough to edge it with one judge returning a score of 114-114.
The New Zealander edged out Derek Chisora on a split decision earlier this month and could be set for a second meeting with the Brit after stating post-fight he would be open to facing him again, following a closely-fought affair in Manchester.
The pair both have new trainers, with Parker adjusting to the methods of former WBO Middleweight world champion, Andy Lee after splitting with Kevin Barry and Ruiz Jr is just behind his rival in the WBO rankings at #5, with the 29-year-old rated at #3.
Parker was sitting on his shots well, especially in the second half of his contest with Chisora and a rematch with Ruiz Jr could be even more explosive than their compelling first bout.
Parker’s promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing came to an end, with manager David Higgins confirming to Pro Boxing Fans that talks have been held with promoters over his future, but for now without any ties to a promotional team and network the fight could feasibly take place on FOX.
A fight with fellow former world champion and promotional stablemate, Deontay Wilder has gained increased interest over recent months.
The pair were both relieved of their belts by British opposition in Joshua and Fury respectively within the space of a few months and both appear eager to reign again.
Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), who was dropped twice and stopped in seven rounds in Las Vegas in February 2020, sacked co-trainer Mark Breland who threw in the towel at the MGM Grand, following seven, one-sided sessions in Sin City in which he lost his WBC title and unbeaten record.
The ‘Bronze Bomber’ was looking to secure a trilogy with Fury, although the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to a summer fight and Fury’s team then said the timeframe for a third bout had run out.
Wilder’s team took their case to meditation, followed by binding arbitration, yet there has been no update on the situation, with Fury seemingly closing in on an all-British clash with Joshua in the summer.
The 35-year-old appears to have resumed training with former foe Malik Scott and is looking sharp, ahead of a potential return.
A showdown with Ruiz Jr would generate huge anticipation and would be a certain pay-per-view attraction in the USA, with questions over whether the Alabama man could deal with Ruiz Jr’s speed and skill and vice versa whether the ‘Destroyer’ could stand up to Wilder’s fearsome power, which has seen all but one of his 41 wins end by knockout.
View this post on Instagram
Ruiz’s trainer Eddy Reynoso suggested that a fight with Wilder was dangerous for his charge, so whether he’ll need another fight beforehand remains to be seen and with the the ‘Bronze Bomber’ having been out of the ring for over a year, he may desire a bout against slighter lesser opposition to shed off his own ring rust.
Dillian Whyte is another fight that has been mooted and would be a lucrative prospect.
Whyte (28-2, 19 KOs) was less than impressed with his victory over Arreola even believing that the latter had done enough to edge Ruiz Jr on a split decision.
The pair have traded verbals over social media in the past and ‘The Body Snatcher’ even suggested he would fight Arreola and stop him to send out a statement to Ruiz Jr.
The Brit, who avenged his defeat to Alexander Povetkin with a fourth round knockout in Gibraltar in March, is set to return in the summer in the USA against an unnamed opponent to boost his market value stateside.
The 33-year-old will have to again bide his time for a long-awaited, maiden world title opportunity, despite holding the WBC interim crown and could be enticed into a clash with his rival, in what would be an enthralling collision.