Andy Ruiz Jr. etched his name in boxing history on Saturday alongside the likes of Buster Douglas and James J. Braddock when he shockingly defeated British boxing sensation Anthony Joshua on a seventh-round TKO to become IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight champion of the world.
You didn’t need to look at the betting odds, or even each fighter’s respective record and opponent history to figure out who the underdog was in this fight. Judging a book by its cover would have done you just fine with that. Anthony Joshua is the charming, handsome Brit whose body looks like the result of someone who calculates the nutritional value of every vegetable he consumes and enjoys participating in grueling workouts because of some sadistic high he gets from it. Ruiz, on the other hand, looks like he decided to become a heavyweight boxer so he didn’t have to cut complex carbs out of his diet.
The fight might not have started with the one-sided domination many expected Joshua to give Ruiz, but he soon showed why he was the defending champion in this fight. Early in the third round, Joshua knocked the Mexican Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to the canvas with a powerful three-punch combo that got the New York crowd on its feet. After taking a moment to catch his breath, Ruiz got up, absorbed a few more powerful strikes from his opponent, and then returned the knockdown favor to Joshua.
What that clip doesn’t show is that Ruiz was able to knock Joshua down again later in the round as the muffin-topped Mexican backed his opponent into a corner. Joshua was able to beat the count again, but the bell rang before Ruiz got a chance to knock him on his ass a third time.
In most, if not all, sporting upsets, the surprise win doesn’t exactly come out of nowhere in the moment, it’s just something that gets built to. This fight was no exception. Once Ruiz knocked Joshua on his ass, the Mexican fighter started to fight with more confidence against the unified champ, and even seemed to steal a round on his technique. But that ended up not mattering a whole lot as in the seventh round, the challenger overwhelmed Joshua with a barrage of punches that knocked the champion down two more times. The referee decided it was two times too many, and called the match when Joshua clearly looked like he just didn’t want to fight any more.
It’s worth noting that when famed ring announcer Michael Buffer introduced the fight’s judges before the match, the crowd at Madison Square Garden let out a hearty laugh when he ended with the standard “should this fight go the distance.” It turned out that the fans were right to mock the idea of this fight ending in anything other than a knockout, it just didn’t end in the way they likely expected it to.
This loss also did some serious damage to the predicted storylines in this division. Had the fight gone the way it was expected to, Joshua would have used this fight to springboard his way to a big money match against either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder. The latter opponent has been anticipated for quite some time, but the only jabs either fighter has thrown have been through press tours and tweets. Boxing fans will now have to wait a while before getting the long-awaited heavyweight bout because there’s a good chance of a Joshua-Ruiz II being in store soon. Still, Wilder was understandably unsympathetic to the loss, even with what it meant for future fights.
(I should point out that Joshua did kind of start this “not a real champ” talk earlier this week when he said neither Fury nor Wilder had beaten anyone other than “cab drivers and bin men.”)
But Ruiz could obviously care less about any of that storyline nonsense. The fighter made his dreams come true on Saturday when he became the first Mexican fighter to become heavyweight champ despite looking like a throwaway opponent from a boxing movie. He was able to celebrate at the post-fight press conference with the flag of his country behind him and a Knicks jersey on top of a blue t-shirt—a peak fat guy fashion choice. Best of all, he was aware of the opportunities this victory would mean for his career and life moving forward, and started making some important promises.
“Mom, I love you,” he said at his news conference. “Our lives are going to change, we don’t have to struggle no more.”
If Ruiz is smart, though, he’ll also find some time this week to thank perhaps the person most responsible for his win on Saturday: Drake.