Andy Ruiz: ‘My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys’

Andy Ruiz Jr during the work out. (Reuters)
Updated 06 December 2019

Andy Ruiz: ‘My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys’

  • The heavyweight champion opens up about a life as boxing’s misfit ahead of his rematch against Anthony Joshua

RIYADH: Andy Ruiz has spent his entire life in boxing as an outsider. “Six years old,” the Mexican-American fighter replied when asked about his first time stepping into the ring.

“My first amateur fight I was 7 years old. That was in San Diego, California. And I lost, too. I was 7 years old weighing more than all the other 7-year-olds, so my dad had brought this other guy who was 12 years old because he was bigger. It was a hell of a fight, and I actually still have that videotape,” said Ruiz, now 30.

“My whole life I’ve been fighting big guys. I feel that’s where I got the experience, and I just thank my dad for always pushing me,” he said.

“Even when I didn’t want to box anymore, he’d drag me out of my room to train, saying, ‘you’re going to do something.’ That’s exactly what has happened,” he said.

“My dad had confidence in me since I was a little kid. He’d always tell me, ‘You know what? You’re going to beat him’,” Ruiz added.

“The main thing he’d tell me was not to be scared … because we’re all the same, all flesh and blood. Just go in there fearless, do what I do best, and let my hands go.”

To say Ruiz was considered the underdog going into June’s heavyweight world title fight against the poster-boy of modern boxing, Anthony Joshua, would be a fair assessment.

Ruiz had had a month’s notice, had fought less than a month and a half earlier, and was viewed by many as unfit and out of shape.

As the world would later find out, such narrow-eyed judgment of his shape and build was flawed.

While the great and good of the boxing world questioned what errors had led to the ripped, 1.98-meter-tall Joshua being beaten in the seventh round by a “tubby” fighter almost 20 cm shorter, Ruiz was celebrating a job incredibly well done.

“I think those were the doubters wondering, ‘what has happened to Anthony Joshua? There’s something wrong with him’,” said Ruiz.

“But truly I think it was my style, the way I handled him, and that I took his punches. He gave me the hardest punches he has and I ate them,” he added.

“We watched it a lot (since) to correct the mistakes I did and see the things I needed to do more,” Ruiz said.

“I think I lacked the pressure. The fight could’ve been over sooner, but I think I let it slide a little bit,” he added.

“They (people) look at me now and are like, ‘man, if Andy Ruiz did it, I could do it.’ I’ve got to motivate people and let them know that everything is possible, but you’ve got to train hard, you’ve got to work hard.”

This weekend, the two men go toe-to-toe again in the eagerly awaited “Clash On The Dunes,” presented by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and taking place in Diriyah near Riyadh.

Fan demand is huge, forcing fight organizers to release this week another phase of tickets, starting at SR999 ($266).

Fight week usually pops and crackles with insults traded and rising tensions between the fighters.

But the buildup to the jewel in the crown of the first-ever Diriyah Season festival has again proven how this boxing maverick moves differently than many of the biggest names in the sport, past and present.

“I don’t think there’s a reason to be trash-talking each other. I know that’s what the fans and everybody else want to see, but that’s not how my mum raised me,” said Ruiz.

“I think I’m a different fighter from everybody else. I have respect for all the fighters. If I saw AJ (Joshua) right now I’d shake his hand and tell him, ‘How you doing? Good luck for Dec. 7 — best man wins’.”

Many hearing Ruiz say that might wonder how a boxer preparing to, in his own words, “go to war” with his opponent in only a few days’ time can be so jovial and warm toward his rival ahead of the biggest fight of his career. It is certainly a unique stance, but so is Ruiz.

June’s fight earned him a rumored $7 million. For Saturday’s rematch he will earn a lot more. Do the niceties toward Joshua derive from the fact that the big-reaching Brit changed Ruiz’s life, making him an overnight multimillionaire when they first met?

“Exactly,” was Ruiz’s quick response. “I respect the guy. I respect any fighter who jumps in the ring because we all risk our lives to feed our families. This is our job. Of course I respect the man.”

Since that night in New York’s Madison Square Garden, everything has changed for Ruiz. He has vast wealth, and is having to adapt to his newfound global celebrity.

Asked how life has been treating him since then, he said: “Really well, a bit overwhelming at times but this is what I dreamed for, this is what I’ve been working hard for, this is what I’ve been training for since I was 6 years old.”

He added: “It’s not just great for me but it’s great for my family, my kids. Our whole lives have changed after June 1.”

His craziest big-money buys since then? “Probably all the cars I’ve bought. Four cars already. Two different (Mercedes) G-Wagons, the brand-new Rolls Royce, the Lamborghini truck. I bought my mum and dad a truck. Just having fun.”

Fun is fun, and even so close to such an epic boxing occasion, Ruiz manages to laugh and share a joke with those around him.

He and Joshua both arrived in Saudi Arabia last week, with the American’s 8,000-mile trip definitely the more arduous of the two.

Asked how he plans to beat Joshua for the second time in seven months, Ruiz said: “I know he’s going to try and be boxing me around. I think that’s why he lost some weight, trying to keep me out with the jab, and that’s exactly what we’ve been practicing.”

He added: “That’s how we’re planning and exactly how we’ve been training: Being small, being more slick, owning the pressure, throwing the combinations, me being first.”

Ruiz said: “I think he’s still going to be boxing around four or five rounds until I bring the pressure and start working the body.”

Jewel in Kingdom’s sporting crown Juddmonte Farms eyeing Saudi Cup glory

Updated 6 min 43 sec ago

Jewel in Kingdom’s sporting crown Juddmonte Farms eyeing Saudi Cup glory

  • Prince Khalid bin Abdullah’s horse ‘Tacitus’ to race at the Saudi Cup on Saturday
  • Saudi-owned Juddmonte Farms has bred some of the most successful horses in recent racing history

When the gates open and the runners and riders get underway in Riyadh on Saturday in the world’s richest horse race, one man will be watching the action with more pride than most.

Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, owner of the hugely successful Juddmonte Farms breeding operation, will not only be closely monitoring the performance of his own horse, Tacitus, in the $20 million Saudi Cup, but will also be celebrating the fact that such a prestigious international race meeting is taking place in the Kingdom for the first time.

Simon Mockridge, director of the stable’s UK stud operation, described the Saudi Cup as a “momentous moment” and said that victory in the inaugural event would be “vitally important” to the prince and the entire Juddmonte team.

“I think what we have to remember (is that the Saudi Cup has) an extremely strong field and Tacitus will have to step up to the plate; we’re hoping very much that he can achieve that,” Mockridge told Arab News at Juddmonte’s Newmarket headquarters.

“Prince Khalid’s breeding operation is probably one of the jewels of Saudi Arabian history. It would be very nice if he was able to win the race and I’m sure he and the family would be over the moon. I think being a Saudi he will be very excited to think that they have a race of this magnitude now in Saudi Arabia, and it’s going to create some great waves,” he said.

The Saudi Cup, a two-day meet that begins on Friday at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack, is the latest high-profile event added to the Kingdom’s growing sporting calendar. But while the country only recently embarked on its ambitious program of attracting a host of top-class international sporting events as part of its Vision 2030 development program, over the past four decades Juddmonte Farms has become one of the most recognizable global names in horse breeding and racing.

Founded in 1977 and located a world away from the desert sand of Riyadh in the rolling countryside of Suffolk in England, with further operations and bases in Ireland and Kentucky, Juddmonte Farms has quietly become one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest sporting success stories.

The inexorable rise of Juddmonte, and Prince Khalid, began when Known Fact won the 2000 Guineas Stakes in 1980, a victory that earned the prince a place in the history books as the first Arab owner of the winner of a Classic, the name given to a handful of the most prestigious, elite races in England, Ireland and France.

It marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career for the prince that includes more than 100 Group 1 winners and dozens of Classics winners. According to Mockridge, the secret to that sustained success is down to the building of a highly professional team at Juddmonte and some astute early decisions by the prince.

Frankel is led to his paddock by Juddmonte attendant Rob Bowley. (Darren Tindale, Bronwen Healy)

“I think we have to think back to when Prince Khalid was very active in the market, in the early 1980s,” he said. “He purchased very well, he was advised extremely well and he made very sound decisions. He purchased a lot of good mares and that was his primary focus at the time.

“They were wise decisions, calculated purchases at the time, which he then masterfully guided through wonderful breeding careers. I think globally, if you look at the impact he has had in the 40 years he has been in operation, he’s managed to win every English Classic and every French Classic.

“And to top it all off, he has had in excess of 500 stakes (the most prestigious, and valuable, races, contested by the best horses) winners. So you have to look at him and say that for a medium-sized breeding operation, he has certainly taken the racing and breeding operations to a very high level,” Mockridge said.

Amanda Prior is the general manager of Great British Racing International, which facilitates global investment in British racing and breeding. “It is brilliant to see Prince Khalid Abdullah’s long-serving investment in British racing and breeding continuing to reap rewards,” she said.

“Juddmonte has never had a better stallion roster, attracting world-class mares from all over the world, and will ultimately shape the breed for many years to come.”

It is hard to disagree with her prediction. Juddmonte has bred some of the most successful horses in recent racing history, including the likes of Frankel — the legendary unbeaten horse now standing at stud at the farm’s Banstead Manor base — Kingman, and Danehill, a thoroughbred Mockridge said is “arguably the most important stallion that has stood in the northern and southern hemisphere.”

And yet despite such consistent global success in the sport, the achievements of Juddmonte Farms and Prince Khalid are still more celebrated outside the Kingdom than within. This is something Mockridge hopes will change when the two-day Saudi Cup meet grabs the racing world’s attention and puts Saudi racing on the map.

He was also full of praise for event organizer Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, and the work that has gone in to bring an elite racing event to the Kingdom.

“We have to look at the race itself and say this is one of the strongest races that has been run for a great many years, so this is a phenomenal achievement by Prince Bandar and his team,” said Mockridge.

“I think the difficulty for them going forward is how they can maintain the momentum …but there is no doubt they have positioned this race incredibly well and there has been a lot of foresight here.

“I think if you imagine there is now an opportunity for a single horse to win the Breeder’s Cup and the Pegasus, then the Saudi Cup and to go on and win the Dubai World Cup, races that are worth nearly $50 million in total prize money, then I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Douglas Erskine Crum, Juddmonte’s CEO, echoed Mockridge’s thoughts about the bright future for horse racing in Saudi Arabia.

“There will always be many challenges in establishing racing and breeding but I have every confidence that it will be achieved successfully in the Kingdom,” he said. “The team that has put the Saudi Cup together is very impressive.”

Mockridge conceded that some were skeptical early on about whether it was feasible for Saudi Arabia to host top-class horse racing, but he said the work done by Prince Bandar’s team has silenced the doubters.

“The wonderful thing for Saudi Arabia is that they have been able to attract such a strong field at the first time of asking,” he said. “There was a little bit of skepticism right at the beginning, but Prince Bandar and his team have been very progressive with it.

“The fact they have been able to build a turf course in such a short space of time — and apparently it’s riding very well — that’s extraordinary to me that they have been able to do that. For most of us, it would take generations to get a track up and running.

“So, I hope it’s a wonderful success for them and I would like to see lots of young Saudi people coming out of that and coming in to invest in European and American bloodstock. I think it’s important for the future of racing.”

Regardless of which horse is first past the post on Saturday, the Saudi Cup marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for racing in the Kingdom. And given the expertise of Prince Khalid, Mockridge and the entire Juddmonte team, their own success story is likely to run and run.