by: Adam Kilgore
The heavyweight champion of the world earns the unofficial designation of Baddest Man on the Planet, a title no one at first glance would confer to Andy Ruiz Jr. He carries, in his own words, “extra flab.” His muscles are undefined, and his belly jiggles. His opponents evoke statues of Greek gods. He evokes a man ordering an extra gyro.
“A lot of people can relate to me,” Ruiz said Tuesday in a phone conversation. “It doesn’t matter how you look. As long as you train hard, you focus and you’re hungry and that drive is in you to follow your dreams, everything is possible.”
Ruiz has been overlooked, mocked and doubted his entire boxing career, judged on his appearance rather than his quick hands and iron fortitude. No more. Ruiz gained instant fame and long-sought validation Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, where in the seventh round he knocked out previously undefeated champion Anthony Joshua, a Brit four inches taller than Ruiz and built like Adonis. Ruiz was an 11-1 long shot, and the victory entered the pantheon of biggest surprises in boxing history.
Ruiz received his title shot only one month before the fight, a late replacement after Jarrell Miller, a Brooklyn fighter chosen to provide a hometown crowd favorite, failed a third performance-enhancing drug test. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, first considered Ruiz as a fill-in after Ruiz sent Hearn an Instagram direct message pleading for the chance, insisting he was the best contender available.
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