LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andy Ruiz had one transcendent night in the ring three years ago, and he insists he's determined to have more.
His showdown with Luis Ortiz on Sunday night would be a good time to do something impressive. It also might be Ruiz's last, best chance to get back on track to reclaim the championship belts he took from Anthony Joshua and then lost back to the British star.
“I’m trying to make a big statement, and not just for the fans or my family,” Ruiz said. “I’m trying to make a statement for myself, because losing all those titles broke my heart. To have the chance to get in position to be a champion again, I can’t miss that opportunity.”
Two veteran heavyweights meet in downtown Los Angeles as the main event of a pay-per-view show, but the spotlight is trained firmly on the younger Mexican-American star who reigned atop the division with three major championship belts for six months in 2019.
Ruiz (34-2, 22 KOs) stopped Joshua at Madison Square Garden, using his hand speed and ring smarts to put together one of the bigger upsets in heavyweight title history. But Ruiz showed up slower and heavier for the rematch in Saudi Arabia, and Joshua roundly outboxed him to reclaim his belts.
Since that setback, Ruiz had right knee surgery, changed trainers and lost a significant amount of weight. He also claims he rediscovered the mental focus necessary to train effectively and to execute his strategy on fight night — and if he's correct, that will be the biggest change of all.
“I just needed to find my focus,” Ruiz said. “One you make a decision in your mind that you’re going to accomplish something and you commit to doing whatever you need to do to get that, that’s the toughest part. Everything else is just doing what you said you’d do.”
Ruiz's comeback started last year with a win over Chris Arreola, another Los Angeles-area veteran heavyweight whose formidable talents never quite overcame his lapses in training discipline. While Ruiz wasn't overwhelming, he got the job done and then had the knee surgery that delayed his next bout.
His next opponent is the 43-year-old Ortiz (33-2-2, 28 KOs), who unsuccessfully challenged Deontay Wilder twice for the WBC heavyweight title. Ortiz has enough punching power to end any heavyweight's night abruptly, but the Cuban didn't look sharp in his most recent victory over former champ Charles Martin last New Year's Day.
“This one is especially important, because the winner of this one hopefully gets to fight to be the champion of the world,” Ortiz said through a translator. “This is a steppingstone, so it’s the most important fight in our lifetime. We both know what’s at stake.”
The show is expected to attract a healthy crowd of the Los Angeles area's hungry fight fans, who will be able to stream the live play-by-play commentary on the show from their phones' web browsers on the arena's wireless network.
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